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Arrests in Papua capital seen as diversion tactic
Radio New Zealand International - April 5, 2018
Yesterday, police raided the office of the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, in Waena, a sub-district of Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-ruled Papua province.
Police claimed pro-independence advocates were planning to declare independence for Papua at an event today in Waena.
Following the raid, police confirmed that 45 people were arrested. These include KNPB members and students from the adjacent University of Cenderawasih.
The chairman of the KNPB, Victor Yeimo, said it was not involved in the alleged plan.
"My organisation already clarified to the public that we're not involved, and we never had that event," he said. "But I think the police already know about this. I think this is black propaganda to move the people's opinion from Timika to Jayapura."
According to Mr Yeimo, Indonesian security forces were trying to divert attention from their ongoing confrontation with the Papua Liberation Army around Timika in remote Mimika regency.
"There's a very, very brutal operation still going on in Tembagapura (district of Mimika regency) now," he said.
He said Indonesian security forces had also increased their targeting of the KNPB since it committed to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as the main representative body advancing independence aims.
The KNPB chairman said neither his organisation nor the wider Liberation Movement were involved in the purported declaration plan.
"That is why there are other people used by Indonesia to make black propaganda where they can blame the event (on) KNPB so they can easily criminalise our activities," Mr Yeimo said.
Earlier, Indonesian military personnel assisted the police in their raid of the KNPB office. Items seized included the Papuan nationalist Morning Star flag.
Mr Yeimo said the raid caused significant damage to the KNPB's offices and property. The KNPB's secretary-general, Ones Suhuniap, was among those arrested.
Initially, police linked their raid of the KNPB office to the reported distribution of leaflets and messages on social media about a planned independence declaration.
Before the arrests, the KNPB released a statement distancing itself from the planned declaration. However, subsequent to the arrests, police said the majority of the arrests were related to allegations of motorcycle theft.
In February, Mr Suhuniap met the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in Jakarta during the UN representative's official visit to Indonesia.
Mr Al Hussein said he was concerned about "reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua".
He said that Jakarta had invited him to visit West Papua, although it's not known when a team from the commissioner's office would be taking up the invitation.
Meanwhile, as of early Thursday morning, most of those arrested had been released, but police were reportedly holding on to around twenty of those affiliated with the KNPB.
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