West Papuan Leaders Forced Underground


West Papuan independence organisation, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), continues to defy the Indonesian security after a series of arrests and attacks on the group in Wamena, Timika and Jayapura.

Speaking from a safe house KNPB Chairman, Viktor Yeimo told New Matilda that the police were vigorously repressing the group’s right to freedom to organise and right to nonviolently express their political opinion:

"I am in hiding but I have to try and keep organizing. KNPB have plans for peaceful demonstrations in Sorong, Manokwari and Jayapura. The police won’t allow us to make a peaceful action but we will still have a peaceful action."

Early on Friday morning officers from the Indonesian police and Australian and US-aided counter-terrorist group Detachment 88 raided KNPB’s Timika headquarters. Four Papuans, Steven Itlay, Chairman of the Timika region, Romario Yatipai, vice-president of KNPB’s parallel parliamentary structure the West Papua National Parliament, Marten Kalolik, and Denias Tekege were arrested.

Laptops and cameras were also seized. The arrests in Timika follow raids and arrests of 10 activists in Wamena, raids on villages and an attack on a student dormitory in Jayapura last Tuesday. Some of those arrested are teenagers. Others like Simson, a student activist from Jayapura were beaten by the police to extract information.

Virtually the entire KNPB leadership has now gone underground. In addition to Viktor Yeimo, Fanny Kogoya, ex-member of the KNPB central committee who resigned from the KNPB after being elected Director of the Papua Desk of Friends of the Earth Indonesia, and Simeon Dabbi chairman of the Wamena branch of KNPB are all on the run.

Their faces are pasted in the streets of Wamena and Jaypura under the ominous heading, "Daftar Pencarian Orang", the list of wanted persons. In Fanny Kogoya’s case her only "crime" is that she was a close friend of Mako Tabuni, the KNPB activist killed by Detachment 88 in June.

Indonesian police accuse KNPB of being behind a series of shootings and bombings in West Papua that have rocked the country in recent months. It is an allegation that Yeimo vigorously denies.

"All this evidence is planted so they can justify their attacks. We never had any plan or any program to make acts of terror. We are not a military movement. If we were a military movement we would be the TPN (West Papua National Army) but we are a civilian movement. The Indonesians fear our movement, they want to make a public opinion that we are terrorists so they can kill us."

Yeimo pauses.

"But they won’t succeed," he says quietly. "Indonesia won’t success to stop our movements for the right. Indonesia cannot kill our spirit for freedom."

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.