Four West Papuan community leaders were arrested on Wednesday the 18th of September, 2013 after sending a letter to the Biak police station informing them of a procession planned to welcome the sacred water and ashes delivered by the Freedom Flotilla, as well as to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Biak Massacre. The four remain in custody and may be charged with treason.
The four arrested are Piet Hein Manggaprouw, 56, Klemens Rumsarwir, 68, Yoris Berotabui, 36, and Yan Piet Mandibodibo, 30.
The men were held in separate cells and interrogated without being given food from 9am Wednesday the 18th until midnight Thursday the 19th of September, 2013. They have been threatened with charges of treason, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Federated Republic of West Papua (FRWP) Deputy Prime Minister, Frans Kapisa and Minister of Defence, Elieser Awom attended the recent cultural exchange with the Freedom Flotilla in which they received the sacred water and ashes as part of a ceremony of symbolic re-unification of the cultures and struggles of Indigenous Australians and West Papuan peoples. Kapisa and Awom intended to travel to Biak carrying the sacred offerings and the four men arrested were planning the welcoming on their arrival.
Hundreds of people held a welcoming for the sacred water and ashes in Manokwari on the 13th of September 2013 in a peaceful and jubilant celebration of Papuan culture.
Unlike in Manokwari, the Biak event was planned to have a more sombre tone, as it commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Biak Massacre. During the Biak Massacre hundreds of West Papuans were murdered and their bodies dumped at sea by the Indonesian military.
Sources suspected that police planned to capture Kapisa and Awom on their arrival in Biak airport for the event, and the two senior Papuan leaders were forced to cancel their planned travel to evade arrest.
Amos Wainggai, a West Papuan refugee who travelled with the Freedom Flotilla and participated in the ceremonial handover of the sacred water and ashes said, “This action in Biak was to celebrate our Papuan identity and commemorate our history. On paper Indonesia claims to be a democracy and allow for Papuan identity to be expressed, but in practice, they arrest us and kill us even though we are a peaceful movement.”
Australian Federal MP Warren Entsch said on the 17th of August 2013 at the launch of the Freedom Flotilla to West Papua in Cairns that he strongly supported the Flotilla’s mission to help in “regaining the identity of the West Papuan people, I think they have been oppressed for far too long.”
Freedom Flotilla organiser Ronny Kareni said, “Indonesia is mistaken to think they can hide the history of their oppression of West Papuan people. The evidence has already been presented to a Citizen’s Tribunal in Sydney in July 2013. They cannot deny their history, and they will not succeed in exterminating the truth by perpetrating further abuses.”
Media Contacts: Ronny Kareni +61401222177; Ruben Blake +61414091706