JAYAPURA (Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): The United Liberation Movement if West Papua (ULMWP) has accused the Indonesian government of imposing martial law on the Melanesian region of West Papua and brutally supressing protests in a crackdown.
“Students have been shot with live rounds, tear gassed and beaten with bamboo sticks by police in Jayapura – just for staging a peaceful sit-in. How can people be shot and beaten for sitting in a public space?” said ULMWP chair Benny Wenda.
RNZ Pacific reports that the university students were forced to flee from the gunshots as the police dispersed the protesters yesterday.
The students were demonstrating against the government’s plans for a new Special Autonomy law in Papua region when members of both police and military forces came to disperse them.
Footage from Jayapura shows armed security forces personnel pursuing students through their dormitory precinct in Waena sub-district, accompanied by the sound of gunfire.
At least one student was wounded and has reportedly been taken to hospital.
A police spokesman has denied that the students were isolated in their dormitories, saying the demonstrators were disrupting public order.
Public gatherings not allowed
He said that during the covid-19 pandemic mass public gatherings were not allowed.
According to the Papua Legal Aid Institute, 13 people involved in the demonstration were arrested.
Armed police were “stalking every corner of West Papua”, and troops awere forcing thousands of people from their homes across huge swathes of our land, the ULMWP’s website said today.
Forty-five thousand people have been displaced from Nduga Regency alone, and more are fleeing Intan Jaya every day.
“This is martial law in all but name,” said Wenda.
Urban military checkoints
“You cannot walk through an urban centre in West Papua today without being stopped by police, without meeting a military checkpoint.
Wenda said Indonesia was “panicking” because Tuvalu Prome Minister Kausea Natano, chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, had raised concerns over West Papua this month.
Indonesia was “haunted” by the words of Vanuatu, issued at the UN General Assembly in September.
“Indonesia is terrified of our Black resistance, our fight against racism and our struggle for self-determination.
“A normal democratic country does not deploy thousands of military troops against peaceful resistance – martial law dictatorship does that.”
“My people are screaming for the world’s help. There is a double pandemic in West Papua: a pandemic of covid-19 and a pandemic of racism.”