Archipelago

Freedom of expression
stifled in Papua: Activists

The Papuan Coalition of Civil Society Upholding Law and Human Rights has accused the authorities of stifling freedom of expression in Papua.

"Demonstration as an expression of opinion in Papua has been muzzled. People assembling in a place are even arrested let alone staging a demonstration. That is what has happened in the past several months in Sorong, West Papua, and now in Jayapura," Ferry Marisan, a member of the coalition, told reporters in Jayapura on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

Ferry was referring to the arrest last week of a number of students demonstrating to reject a draft law on special autonomy at the complex of the Papuan People Assembly (Majelis Rakyat Papua) and at the campus of Cenderawasih University.

Ferry, a director from NGO Elsham Papua noted that the arrests of local people, including students and youth grouped in the Papuan People, Students and Youths Movement (Gempar), had increased.

The old dictatorial New Order regime policy had apparently been adopted in Papua and West Papua, he said.

Olga Helena Hamadi from Papua Kontras, an NGO concerned mainly on the disappearance of activists, said lately police in Papua had become more repressive instead of persuasive.

"Police, who are expected to keep order, have been quick to arrest people. Police should not let themselves be served as a tool for those in power," Olga said.

She said Kontras was ready to provide legal defense for the students.

Last week police arrested tens of students demonstrating against the special autonomy law to be implemented in Papua.

"Five students are still in police detention. One of them, Yason Ngelia, is alleged to have been involved in a criminal case and the other four, Alfares Kapisa, Abraham Pasik Demetau, Beny Hisage and Daniel Kosamah, have been charged with causing inconvenience. Three of them have asked us for legal aid ," she said.

Papua police spokesman Adj. Sr Comr. Pudjo said Yason Ngelia was not involved in the demonstration but was arrested for mistreating a man identified as Stenly Salamahu .

Meanwhile, chairman of the Papua Churches Oikumenis Working Forum (FKOGP) Priest Benny Giay has asked the police to immediately release the students.

The priest said that the students had done nothing wrong and were only exercising their human rights, the right to publicly express their opinions.

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