Arrests following protests by Papua-activists

50th Anniversary of the annexation of West Papua by Indonesia (May 1st)

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) calls for a release of six Papua natives who had been arrested on Wednesday during protests against the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the annexation of West Papua by Indonesia. "The protests of the indigenous Papuan people clearly show that the Papua issue is still unresolved," said Ulrich Delius, the STP's Asia-expert, in Göttingen on Thursday. The Papuans accuse Indonesia of taking the part of the island illegally – and have been demanding the creation of an independent Papua-state or extensive autonomy for the past decades.

"Recently, the Indonesian government announced plans to allow more self-administration in the resource-rich region, but raids on Papuan student dormitories and arrests contradict these promises," criticized Delius. On April 30, before the Memorial Day, several student residences in the cities of Jayapura and Manokwari had been searched by the police. Hundreds of security officials patrolled the streets of Jayapura to intimidate the civilian population and to enforce a ban on demonstrations. Despite the ban, the Papuans protested in numerous towns and villages, hoisting the banned Morning Star flag which stands for an independent State of Papua. In previous years, several Papuans had been sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years for showing the Papuan flag – and those who were arrested now are also threatened with long prison sentences.

On May 1, 1963, the former Dutch colony in the west of the island of New Guinea was officially handed over to the Indonesian administration by the United Nations. The government of the south-east Asian island state had achieved this by keeping up military pressure on the Netherlands. In 1962, the New York Agreement settled the Netherlands' consent to pass on the administration first to the United Nations and later to Indonesia. Since then, army and police forces have been controlling the troubled region by means of arbitrariness, repression and human rights violations.

During the last few weeks however, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has promised a change of policy concerning Papua. The government is planning to present a new approach to autonomy for Papua before August 2013. However, NGOs and Papua politicians criticize that they are not involved in the drafting of a new self-governing statute. They also warn not to put too much hope towards self-government, because an attempt towards autonomy for West Papua had already failed miserably in 2001.