Surabaya counterprotest, 300 arrested in West Papua flag demonstrations

An unnamed Papuan student beaten during the December 1 West Papuan flag demonstration in Surabaya, Indonesia. Human rights sources report more than 300 arrests by Indonesian authorities. Image: Humam rights sources

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Hundreds of Papuan students faced off with counterprotesters in Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya today in a rally calling for the Melanesian region’s independence while pro-independence sources reported more than 300 people arrested in West Papua.

The Surabaya rally was organised by the Papua Students Alliance. The demonstrators chanted “Freedom Papua” in Surabaya city to mark December 1, which many West Papuans consider as the 57th anniversary of what should have been their independence, report news agencies.

The crowd, many of whom wearing headbands of the Morning Star flag – banned by Indonesian authorities, was blocked from marching to the city center by scores of counterprotesters from several youth organisations waving the Indonesian flag.

READ MORE: Mass arrests over West Papua demos in Indonesian cities

A screenshot from a secret video report of the mobilised Indonesian police about to raid the Papuan dormitories in Surabaya tonight. Image: Human rights sources

They confronted the pro-independence protesters with sharpened bamboos.

Several hundred members of anti-riot police prevented the two rival groups from clashing.


The protest ended after about two hours.

However, human rights sources reported tonight that Indonesian police and military had  surrounded Papuan student dormitories in Surabaya and arrested 223 people. They were being detained at the Surabaya City sector police station.

The Free West Papuan Campaign reports that more than 300 people have been arrested across West Papua.

Peaceful demonstrations
In several regions of West Papua, peaceful demonstrations took place. Protests were reported in Jakarta, Surabaya, Palu, Kupang, Ternate, Makassar, Manado, Ambon, Poso, Sula, Timika, Meruake, Waropen, and Tobelo.

In addition to police intervention during public gatherings, the London-based campaign’s website said it had received reports that Indonesian security forces had also raided several student dormitories, and the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) headquarters was vandalised.

From the monitoring team, below is the interim report of arrests throughout West Papua and other parts of Indonesia:

Philipus Robaha is among students still detained in Polsek KP3, Naval Base, Jayapura. Image: FWPC

1. Kupang – 18 people arrested.
2. Ambon – 43 arrested.
3. Ternate – 99 arrested. One of the activists was rushed to hospital due to suffocation
4. Jayapura around 85 people from 4 different locations: Dok IX, Abe, Jayapura and Sentani.
5. Jakarta – 140 arrested
6. Surabaya – hundreds involved in a long march towards Kamasan III student dormitary were confronted by tni-polri and some students were bruised from confrontation.
7. Manado – 29 arrested
8 Waropen – 7 arrested. Names: Jhon Wenggi, Yulianus Kowela, Monika Imbiri and Fiktor Daimboa
9. Sorong and Merauke, including KNPB HQ in Waena, Perumnas III: in lock down and an urgent need for advocacy at these places.

RNZ Pacific also reports mass arrests over West Papuan demonstrations in several Indonesian cities.

Today marks the 57th anniversary of the first time West Papua’s flag of independence, the Morning Star, was raised.

The banned West Papuan Morning Star flag on display at Auckland’s Pacific Media Centre today. Image: PMC

In commemoration of the historic event numerous non-violent peaceful demonstrations and prayer vigils were organised around the country.

Worldwide flag raisings of international solidarity increase each year as the support for West Papuan independence gains momentum. In New Zealand, flagraising events were held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

This protests comes at a time of increased violence in West Papua, including suspected extrajudicial killings in the region.

Urgent issues of concern also include increased military presence, the killing of civilians caught in crossfire in the mountain regions, and armed civilian movements of Papuans protecting their villages.

The International Coalition for Papua (ICP) compiles data on political arrests and violence in West Papua. This information has been made public through quarterly reports. The latest ICP reports are at

A scene from the Surabaya rally today with the crowd chanting “Freedom Papua”. The men in the front of the image appear to be undercover police filming and recording events. A short distance away there was a counterprotest with Indonesian flags. Police kept the two groups apart. Image: Still from a West Papuan sourced video

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Ben Bohane: A tribute to the ‘grand old man’ of the OPM Bernard Mawen

OPM Southern Commander Bernard Mawen (right) with Commander John Koknak (left) and the Morning Star flag at the time of being interviewed by Vanuatu-based journalist Ben Bohane in 1998. Image: © Ben Bohane

OBITUARY: By Ben Bohane

The Free Papua Movement (OPM) Southern Commander Bernard Mawen has died. He was the “grand old man” of the OPM, one of the first to begin the armed struggle for independence in West Papua in the 1960s and he will be missed by his people.

I interviewed him in 1998 in his camp along the Fly river on the border where he lived among the thousands of West Papuan refugees forgotten on the PNG border, who live on little more than sago and bananas.

Indirectly, his OPM guerrillas remain a protective buffer for both PNG and Australia against Indonesian aggression but it’s unlikely you’ll hear any eulogies from Canberra or Moresby and certainly not from Jakarta.

He lived for his people, in the bush, and that’s all you can ask of a leader. RIP.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Green co-leader slams human rights ‘obscenity’ over West Papua

Green Party co-leader … “We are standing in solidarity with women leaders of indigenous movements around the world and around the Pacific.” Image: Rahul Bhattarai/PMC

By Rahul Bhattarai in Auckland

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson last night condemned the “obscenity” of jailing West Papuans by Indonesian authorities for raising their Morning Star flag of independence.

Speaking at the launch of the West Papua solidarity “desk” at the First Union community office in Onehunga, Davidson said she was upholding the party’s long standing solidarity for the indigenous Melanesians in their search for self-determination and independence.

About 25 people supporting the cause of West Papua gathered at the event in a bid to raise awareness in New Zealand over the ongoing issue of human rights violations in West Papua by the Indonesian government.

“It’s a privilege to launch the desk because we need to continue to do the work to raise awareness and to stand in solidarity with the people of West Papua,” Davidson said.

Davidson, along with the cultural group Oceania Interrupted, are creating an activist action of performance to “disturb” public places to help raise awareness as Maori and Pacific women of the Pacific.

“We are standing in solidarity with women leaders of indigenous movements around the world and around the Pacific,” she said.


Davidson has also asked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to call on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to account and to raise the human rights issues.

Indonesia has just been elected to the UN Security Council for a two-year term.

Facing imperialism
Green MP Golriz Ghahraman said that this was a “solidarity movement for both the people of Pacific and across the world – it’s part of the imperialism that people are experiencing”.

She added that the people of West Papua were facing militarised oppression by the Indonesian government in order to seize their resources.

“West Papuan culture and heritage is violently suppressed for access to their natural minerals,” she said.

Human rights and peace activist Marie Leadbeater, author of the forthcoming book See No Evil, said that West Papua was a close Melanesian neighbour which had been under Indonesian control since 1963 against the will of Papuan people.

She said: “They were promised self-determination and an opportunity to become an independent nation, the same as other independent nations in the Pacific.”

That promise had not yet been fulfilled and as a result the West Papuan people had been resisting or campaigning, which came at a huge price, including the loss of thousands of lives due to the conflict with the Indonesian government.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

West Papuans launch quake appeal for survivors in PNG Highlands

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: West Papuans launch quake appeal for survivors in PNG Highlands

A 100 candles vigil was held in the Papuan capital city of Port Numbay (Jayapura) this week and people gathered to raise funds and donations following Papua New Guinea’s devastating earthquake. Video: Free West Papua Campaign

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

West Papuans have set up their own Papua New Guinea Earthquake Appeal in solidarity with their fellow Melanesians across the border following last month’s devastating Highlands earthquake with more than 100 deaths.

On Tuesday, a candlelit vigil was held in the Papuan capital city of Jayapura, raising awareness and financial support for the people of Papua New Guinea.

In a media release, the organisers appealed “to all Papuans from all walks of life to participate in solidarity with our Melanesian brothers in Papua New Guinea who are stricken by the disaster”.

This message came from Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), which initiated the appeal:

Dear friends,

Following my message of condolence earlier this month after the devastating earthquake in Papua New Guinea, the situation has tragically further deteriorated and now over 100 people have died and over 300,000 people have been left without shelter.

In response to this, we the people of West Papua are standing shoulder to shoulder with our wantoks and brothers and sisters across the border in Papua New Guinea in an act of Melanesian solidarity from Sorong to Samarai. Fundraising is taking place across West Papua and a 100 candle vigil will be held in support of the people of Papua New Guinea.

As fellow Melanesians, we the people of West Papua especially feel the pain and suffering of our people on the other side of the border but as fellow human beings we can all feel such pain and we all know that it is right to support people in need. Therefore, I am urging everyone around the world to please help support the ULMWP’s PNG Earthquake Appeal and in doing so, support the people of Papua New Guinea in their time of need.

Please do donate generously here to the ULMWP’s PNG Earthquake Appeal fund, the bank details of which can be found below:

BSB Number: 088943 ,
Account Name: Peter Yossi Kovempa
Acc No :007008699618
BSP Bank, Boroko Branch Port Moresby

All proceeds will go directly to the people of Papua New Guinea in their earthquake relief effort. The people of Papua New Guinea have consistently stood by their brothers and sisters in West Papua during our suffering and struggle for self-determination. It is only right that we stand by them in their time of need too, and we urge people around the world to do the same.

Thank you very much.

Natuman makes dig at US big business in historic West Papuan ‘home’ event

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Natuman makes dig at US big business in historic West Papuan ‘home’ event

A jubilant crowd marches to the historic Crow’s Nest on a summit topping Port Vila, the new home of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. Image: Screenshot/Vanuatu Daily Post

By Dan McGarry, media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post

“We are all Melanesian,” says Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman. “We are family. We regard it as an obligation to help one another.”

Natuman recounted the history of West Papua from post-World War II days at the Morning Star flag-raising ceremony in Port Vila on Friday, remarking at the end that the struggle for independence was not only a struggle against colonialism, but a struggle against corporate and commercial interests too.

Papua’s Morning Star and Vanuatu flags flying together at the Crow’s Nest in Port Vila. Image: Screenshot/AWPA

“It’s not just Sukarno and Suharto, it’s also American big business that’s involved,” Natuman said. “We’re not just fighting colonial powers. It’s big business too.”

This is the first time a senior figure in the Vanuatu government has publicly criticised the United States and its mining interests in relation to the issue of West Papuan independence.

The nation’s sense of duty in helping to make all of Melanesia free was made manifest when the government of Vanuatu on Friday officially transferred the historic Crow’s Nest building to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

Friday, December 1, marked the 56th year since the Morning Star flag of independence was flown for the first time in 1961 while Papua was still a Dutch colony.


The ULMWP building will be shared with local creative collective Further Arts.

Lifelong supporter
Natuman is a lifelong supporter of West Papuan independence.

He was the first speaker in the ceremony marking the official opening of the West Papuan mission in Vanuatu.

He was joined by Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu, Parliamentary Secretaries Johnny Koanapo and Andrew Napuat, as well as the President of the Malvatumauri, the head of the Vanuatu Christian Council and dozens of Vanuatu-based independence activists.

This week also marked the annual conclave of the ULMWP leadership, along with senior militants as well.

Internationally known figures Octovianus Mote, Benny Wenda and several other independence leaders were also present. Some declined to be identified or photographed due to fear of retaliation by Indonesian authorities or their proxies.

The day was nonetheless a happy one, and a few drops of rain were insufficient to quench the spirits of a movement that, for the first time in two generations, finally has a place to call home.

Asia Pacific Report has an arrangement with the Vanuatu Daily Post to republish articles.

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