There were no sightings of the Morning Star separatist flag on Saturday in Papua on the 51st anniversary of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM), which has been marked every Dec. 1 since 1991.
“Reports from the regions say there was not a single Morning Star flag hoisted today,” Papua Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta Jaya said in Jayapura on Saturday.
Even though there were no flag sightings, several protesters were captured by the police to prevent tensions escalating, Sumerta said.
Three protesters — Viktor Yeimo, 29, Humum Kiman, 20, and Ebel Sala, 19, were arrested in front of Dian Harapan Hospital in Jayapura at 10:30 a.m. local time after holding a free speech forum and preparing to go on a long march.
“The three were detained to prevent things getting out of control. While they were agitating in a free speech forum and when they were about to go their march, there was someone in the middle of the crowd who threw a stone and wounded a passerby,” Sumerta explained.
The crowd was forcefully dispersed by the police, which fired tear gas twice. “Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfred Papare had ordered the crowd to use vehicles, but because the order was turned down he decided to disperse them,” Sumerta said.
The three were briefly detained at Abepura police station but were released later in the evening.
In Manokwari, a Ukrainian national named Wapinenko Shapirenko, 36, was detained by the police after attending a religious service on the commemoration of the anniversary at the Papua Customary Council.
“He was questioned about his documents as he is a foreigner, but he was immediately freed,” Sumerta said, adding that Wapinenko had entered Indonesia using a tourism visa.
Ahead of Dec. 1, security officers in Papua had intensified security.
At least 700 security personnel, comprising military and police, were deployed on Friday afternoon to safeguard the city of Timika over the weekend. They patrolled the city at night and monitored US mining giant PT Freeport Indonesia’s security post at checkpoint 28 on Saturday morning.
Mimika Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Jeremias Routini said on Friday afternoon that there were no indications of suspicious activity.
“Intelligence reports indicated that there were no threatening activities. We have also warned public figures to tone down the commemoration of the day,” Jeremias said as quoted by tempo.co.
The police will also intensify security measures on Dec. 14 — marked as Militia Day — and on Dec. 16 — the anniversary of the death of prominent OPM figure Kelly Kwalik.
Armed rebels — grouped under the OPM — call for the separation of the Papua region from Indonesia.
Despite lacking scientific evidence, there is strong support for the development of herbal medicines.
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