By Catherine Graue on Pacific BeatShare
Thousands of people are continuing to demonstrate across Indonesia’s most eastern provinces of West Papua and Papua, in what has become the largest protests in the restive region in years.
The Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman says what began on August 17, as a protest over perceived ethnic discrimination and racism, has clearly become a rallying call for a new referendum on independence for the region of West Papua.
She says that for the first time, Indonesians too are throwing their support behind the demands, and that pressure is mounting on the Indonesian Government to respond.
It has responded by deploying more than 1000 police officers to the region that already has a heavy military presence.
The Government says its block on the internet will remain in place for another week because it argues the measure aims to protect people from ‘fake news’.
Benny Wenda, the Chairman of the umbrella group, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, told the ABC that he fears the internet has been blocked because Indonesia has something to hide.
“We know there’s a lot of military [being] deployed and I’m worried, I don’t want that this happen like East Timor, 25 years ago and the Santa Cruz massacre, and that is a little bit worried”.
At least 250 East Timorese pro-indepdnence demonstrators died in November 1991, when Indonesian soldiers fired into a crowd of independence protesters holding a memorial procession for Sebastio Gomez, a young East Timorese man.
The Santa Cruz massacre was a turning point in the history of Timor Leste, as it put the occupation of the former Portuguese colony into world attention, prompting more international support for the cause — and this Friday marks 20 years since the people there voted in a referendum on independence.
Despite the government blocking the internet in large parts of the two Papua provinces, some videos and photos are getting out.
Lawyer Veronica Koman has been sharing some on Twitter, which show thousands of Papuans, some in traditional clothes, marching through the streets and performing the traditional Papuan ‘waita’ dance.
In some of the videos, protesters are flying West Papua Morning Star flags, which are banned.Duration: 5min 50secBroadcast: Wed 28 Aug 2019, 6:00am