12/21/2016, 13.16
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Papua, mass arrests of pro-independence activists

by Mathias Hariyadi

The detentions came on the 55th anniversary of the military campaign that led to the annexation of the province to Indonesia. Hundreds of people have been accused of "separatism" because they were demonstrating peacefully and calling for a new referendum.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mass arrests marked the 55th anniversary of the military campaign that led to the annexation of Papua to Indonesia.

On Monday, police detained hundreds of people across the country on charges of "separatism” for participating in protests against the government.

Veronica Koman, who represents Papua pro-independence movement known as Filep Karma, said that most arrests were made in Jakarta, on Sulawesi and in Papua.

Police raided the offices of the Papua pro-independence movement in the provincial capital of Jayapura in Papua. Some 50 activists who were demonstrating peacefully were arrested in Jakarta.

For a long time, Papua (the western part of New Guinea) was the only province that remained under Dutch control.

In 1969, through the so-called ‘Act of free choice’, the population opted for annexation to Indonesia, followed by an Indonesian military campaign. However, many believe that the "referendum" was orchestrated by Jakarta.

Existing separatist movements have called for Papua’s independence. These groups argue that the province is the scene of a "slow-motion genocide" against ethnic minorities and Christians.

Locals complains about bad governance in one of Indonesia’s least developed province in terms of communications and transportation. Local villages speak different dialects and remain isolated from the rest of the province.

Separatist activists are calling for a new referendum to allow Papua’s indigenous population to vote. Jakarta has always rejected this demand, claiming that it is the result of pressures from foreign powers interested in Papua’s immense underground wealth (oil, gas, gold, etc.).

Last October, Indonesian President Joko Widodo decided to introduce price controls for petrol in Papua where, for logistical reasons, costs are 14 times higher than the rest of the country.

The decision has angered Pertamina, Indonesia’s state oil and gas company, but was greeted with joy by locals.

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