Killing of West Papuan protesters condemned

March 16, 2022
Protest in Jayapura
A protest in Jayapura against the proposal to divide West Papua into new provinces. Source: @VeronicaKoman/Twitter

The Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) has condemned the killing of two West Papuan demonstrators in the Yahukimo Regency on March 15.

Indonesian security forces killed the two demonstrators and wounded several more when they fired into the crowd of peaceful protesters numbering in the hundreds. The demonstrators had been protesting against the proposal to create new provinces in the occupied territory.

According to the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), one of the shooting victims was 21-year-old Erson Weipa from the Mek tribe. Weipa was also involved in coordinating the demonstration. He died in Dekai hospital. The second shooting victim was 39-year-old Yakob Meklok. Three other protesters: Lucky Kobak (21), Anton Itlay (23) and Setti Kobak (22) are still in Dekai hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds. Another three protesters who were shot are still missing.

Indonesian home affairs minister Tito Karnavian has proposed dividing Papua into six provinces: Southwest Papua, West Papua, Central Papua, the Central Highlands, South Papua and Papua Tabi Saireri.

AWPA spokesperson Joe Collins said: “More provinces mean more security forces in each province, which will lead to more human rights abuses, more involvement of the security forces in resource extraction and — from Jakarta’s point of view — a case of divide and rule.”

West Papua is already one of the most militarised areas of the archipelago.

There have being ongoing protests against the proposal over the past week. On March 8, hundreds of Cendrawasih University students rallied in the streets of Jayapura.

On March 11, 90 Papuan students were arrested during a protest near the Presidential Palace complex in Central Jakarta. They were later released.

In Wamena, the capital of the Jayawijaya Regency, thousands took to the streets on March 10 protesting the proposed division.

It was also reported that a number of shops were burned during the protest in the Yahukimo regency.

According to the KNPB, at the time of writing, “thousands of masses of Yahukimo people still occupy the heart of Dekai, rejecting Otsus [enhanced special autonomy for Papua], the expansion of new autonomous regions in Papua, and demanding independence”.

Collins said "it is tragic that nearly 60 years after Indonesia took over administration of West Papua from the United Nations in 1963, West Papuans are still being killed in peaceful rallies protesting against the injustice they suffer under Indonesian rule.

“It is also tragic that Canberra continues to ignore the ongoing human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian security forces in West Papua".

Footage of the police attack on the protest can be viewed on Twitter.

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