Pacific Media Centre
OPINION: By Rev Benny Giay
LAST MONDAY, Indonesian police arrested more than 1600 people in Jayapura, Papua. They were rallying in support of a coalition of groups representing West Papuans’ aspirations for independence. The police stopped the protesters, who were heading to the local parliament, forced them to board military trucks, and took them to the Mobile Brigade compound. The protesters were demonstrating their support for the United Liberation Movement of West Papua’s (ULMWP) bid to gain full membership in the grouping of Melanesian countries, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). The ULMWP holds observer status in the group, which consists of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. Last year, Indonesia was granted associate membership. To prevent further violent mistreatment of protesters, together with several Papuan councillors and church leaders, that day I [May 2] went to the Mobile Brigade’s compound to negotiate with the security forces to release the detainees peacefully. Monday’s arrests were the largest in the West Papua independence movement’s history.