Indonesian police shoot Papuans fundraising for Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam

West Papuans fundraising after Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu.

This statement was released by Benny Wenda, Spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, on March 21.

***

It brings me much sadness and grief to report that 2 days ago on March 19, 4 more of my people were shot by the Indonesian police. One was killed and at least 3 more were arrested, all simply for attending a peaceful fundraiser in Yahukimo, West Papua.

The Indonesian police opened fire on a peaceful gathering of Papuans who were fundraising money for humanitarian aid after Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu and many other nations in the Pacific. This fundraising was coordinated across West Papua by church groups in West Papua and the umbrella organisation, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. The entire gathering was forcibly dispersed by armed Indonesian police who can be seen on a photo from the day, opening fire upon my people.

My people were just mourning and trying to raise funds for their brothers and sisters in the Pacific but were gunned down mercilessly.

My people are still mourning for our brothers and sisters in Vanuatu who have died during Cyclone Pam. What threat are we posing by holding a peaceful gathering to raise funds for humanitarian aid? Now we mourn also for the West Papuans who have been so brutally shot and arrested in the last few days. by the Indonesian police. We want the world to see that we West Papuans are suffering under such a brutal system that it kills us just for raising funds for aid after natural disasters.

We are always so grateful for all the incredible support for our freedom shown to us by our brothers and sisters in Vanuatu and the rest of the Pacific and we want to show that we give them our full support too during their suffering from Cyclone Pam.

Just for offering sympathy and what little funds we can raise for relief to our Pacific brothers and sisters, we continue to be shot like animals by the Indonesian state. Earlier this month a 17-year-old West Papuan activist, Deni Bahabol, was also tortured and murdered by suspected members of the Indonesian Special Forces in the same region of Yahukimo.

Does Indonesia have no mercy or sympathy for Melanesian people at all?

No matter how brutal the Indonesian response, we West Papuans will continue to mourn and raise funds and support for our people in Vanuatu and other Cyclone affected areas. No-one can stop us struggling for freedom and no-one can stop us from supporting our Pacific brothers and sisters.

My message to the people of Vanuatu and the Pacific remains that we will always continue to stand with you, no matter how many of us are locked up and no matter how many bullets the Indonesian police shoot at us. We will always stand up for our suffering brothers and sisters.

I hope that people all around the world will continue to show support for the people of Vanuatu and everyone who was affected by Cyclone Pam and I would like to thank everyone who has donated to my Pacific Disaster Appeal, helping to raise funds internationally for providing aid directly to those affected by Cyclone Pam.

I am sure that one day West Papua will be free and we will be able to gather and show support for all our brothers and sisters across the Pacific in peace and freedom.

[You can donate to the appeal for Vanuatu launched by Wenda.]

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Comments

Dear Sir,

In reference to your article "Indonesian police shoot Papuans fundraising for Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam", I would like to highlight a number of errors and inaccurate allegations.

The article said that "4 more of my people were shot by the Indonesian police. 1 was killed and at least 3 more were arrested, all simply for attending a peaceful fundraiser in Yahukimo, West Papua". The article also contains a number of claims that is not based on the actual events taking place.

The facts are that no person was killed during the incident in Yahukimo District, Papua on Thursday, 19 March 2015. The organizers of the fundraising activity did not properly notify the authorities and the activity turned out also to be a demonstration. Because the crowd were out of control, the Yahukimo Police were forced to disperse the crowd. In the course of persuading the crowd to disperse, a police officer was beaten by members of the crowd and had his side arm stolen from him.

Police reports and witness accounts recorded that members of the mob hit and punched four people including mothers and airport staff. The mob barricaded the access to the airport and set a motorcycle belonging to a Yahukimo resident on fire.

To control the crowd, on Saturday and Sunday (21 and 22 March), the Yahukimo Police members dispersed the crowd and apprehended three individuals suspected of assault, damage to property, and other unlawful activities. Four people injured during the incident were evacuated to Jayawijaya for medical treatment.

The Yahukimo Police have met with representatives from the fundraising group, the provincial government, religious groups, and community groups. Currently, the situation in Yahukimo District is calm and back to normal.

Peaceful rallies, demonstrations, fundraisings, and other community activities are common events across all corners of democratic Indonesia, including Papua. Most have happened peacefully and without any significant incident. However, when there are cases when laws were broken, the police act to control the crowd and disperse the crowd: normal steps to keep our communities safe.

The police take necessary measures consistent with its strict standard procedure for crowd control. However, the police and the Indonesian government take any allegations and reports of police abuse of force very seriously. Reports of police abuse can be directed to the complaints department of the local, district, provincial or national police office.

As long as it is peaceful and lawful, the initiative to raise funds by residents of Yahukimo is commendable and would certainly complement the overall plan of the government of Indonesia. Activities to raise funds for humanitarian aid for the Cyclone Pam struck-Vanuatu are also conducted in a number of Indonesian cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Medan, Denpasar and so on. The Government of Indonesia is currently organizing a humanitarian assistance package for Vanuatu. Indonesia is sending about two million US dollar worth of food, medical and emergency supplies as well as initial materials for rehabilitation and reconstruction for the people of Vanuatu.

Yours sincerely,

Sade Bimantara
Spokesperson
Indonesian Embassy in Canberra

As someone who partly lives and works in Yahukimo I would like to confirm the account of Benny Wenda that is presented in this newspaper and add some more information. First - The fundraising activity had permission from the local police in Dekai, Yahukimo. Second - The Police mobile brigade did fire into the air to scatter the event. Third - One person was shot and killed by the police and at least four more received gun shot wounds and at latest news are in serious condition. Third - there was at least 30 to 40 people rounded up by police including women and at least one child under 10 years of age. Most were later released after negotiation by church and local NGOs. Fourth - those injured were left abandoned in the hospital and were looked after by local health workers while all the doctors sheltered in the police station. The local people expect the police to come and help control a situation and not shoot at people.Yes - there were some people making trouble in the crowd but this was after the BRIMOB arrived and shot and pushed everyone around and not before. A gun was stolen and later returned. Finally, after the crowd at the fundraising had dispersed for the next few days BRIMOB rampaged houses and destroyed property as well as terrifying people. There were also several cases of rape which have been reported to church leaders.
Reports provided to media by the police have not been truthful. Fortunately people in Yahukimo now have phone access and internet access and are quite able to report on what actually happened themselves. Why would they lie about this? What is the point? Dekai, Yahukimo is normally a peaceful place and the situation was created by police intervening in a situation which was perfectly peaceful and legitimate.

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