Papua Police Shut Down KNPB Protest in Manokwari

By webadmin on 06:49 pm Oct 23, 2012
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Camelia Pasandaran & Oktovianus Pogau

Papua Police opened fire on protestors in Manokwari, shooting two and injuring three others — including a Jakarta Globe contributor — in the latest crackdown on pro-independence groups in this restive province.

Tuesday morning’s West Papua National Committee-sponsored (KNPB) rally began near the State University of Papua (Unipa) in Manokwari, said human rights activist Markus Haluk. Some 300 protestors attempted to march to nearby Borarsi field when police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) blocked their path.

Police demanded the protestors remain at the university and began taking photographs of those involved. The protestors responded by throwing stones at the officers.

Two officers were injured by the protestors, Papua Police spokesman Adj. Comr. Gede Sumerta said.

Police opened fire, shooting two of the protestors and injuring three others, Markus said. Eleven were arrested including KNPB head Alex Nekenem, according to activists and Antara News Agency reports.

Both brass and rubber bullet casing were found at the scene, Ferry Marisan, director of the human rights group Elsham, said.

Police attempted to shut the rally down because the organizers failed to apply for the proper permits, Markus said.

But pro-independence groups are never granted a permit to hold a demonstration in Papua, he explained.

“Any kind of rally linked to human rights violations in Papua could never get a permit from the police,” he said. “They conducted a peaceful demonstration, but police were fully armed.”

Gede was unaware Papua Police shot two people at the protest.

Ferry said the police’s reaction was unwarranted.

“[The] Indonesian government in every campaign said they would not use violence,” said Ferry, who characterized the protest as peaceful and organized. “None of [the protestors] even brought the Morning Star flag.”

Other protests were held in Waena, Sentani and Jayapura.

Jakarta Globe stringer and SuaraPapua.com reporter Oktovianus Pogau was choked and beaten by police as he attempted to report on the protest.

Oktovianus was videotaping the scene when he was approached by a plainclothes officer and told to leave. When he refused a second officer attacked him from behind.

“[A] policeman in a uniform came and choked my neck while he threatened me and told me to leave the location,” Oktovianus said. “I tried to escape and told him that I’m a journalist… but [another] policeman punched me in the face.”

Oktovianus was pulled from the scene by fellow journalists. He showed the officers his press credentials before the second attack took place.

It was the second assault on journalists in Indonesia in the past week. On Oct. 16, members of the TNI attacked five journalists reporting on a downed military aircraft in Penkanbaru, Riau.

Riau Pos photographer Didik Herwanto was beaten and choked by an officer with the Indonesian Air Force in a widely spread video.

The attack garnered widespread condemnation in Indonesia. Lt. Col. Robert Simanjuntak later apologized.

Oktovianus is the second Jakarta Globe contributor to be injured on the job while reporting in Papua. Last year, long-time writer Banjir Ambarita was stabbed in Jayapura after reporting on allegations of sexual abuse of female inmates by officers in a Jayapura Police detention center.

Banjir survived the attack but said the stabbing left him “deeply traumatized” and wary of reporting on government abuse.

In 2011, two journalists working in Papua were killed, according to the Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Eight were kidnapped and 18 others attacked during the course of their work.

Foreign media is banned for reporting in Papua without a special permit. In 2011, only three foreign media outlets were granted approval, the press organization said.