March 2008 incidents which led to the arrest of 11 Papuans

3 and 13 March 2008 incidents in Manokwari

Yan Christian Warinussy, lawyer

On 8 January 2009, a court in Manokwari passed down verdicts of guilty against eleven Papuans, one of whom was sentenced to three and a half years while the others received sentences of three years each.

The incidents in which they were involved occurred on 3 and 13 March 2008 when the following took place.

1. Monday, 3 March 2008

At about 10.30 am, a demonstration took place near the Sports Stadium on Ciliwwung Street, Manokwari, organised by the West Papua National Authority, attended by around 200 people. One of the speakers was Jack Wanggai, the spokesperson of the WPNA in Manokwari.

The local chief of police, Drs Yakobus Marjuki came to the venue of the demonstration and told those attending not to display separatist attributes such as the Morning Star flag. But one person in the crowd was carrying a Morning Star flag which was tied to a pole that he was holding which he then placed in front of the policeman. Another demonstrator, Frans Kareth grabbed hold of the flag pole with the intention of handing it over to the police officer but he was immediately arrested by one of the policemen and taken to the police station for interrogation. On the following day, Frans Kareth was declared to be in the custody of the Manokwari police.

II. Thursday, 13 March 2008

At about 10am, a group of people most of whom were students from Gerakan Ekekutif Mahasiswa (BEM) in Manokwari gathered together. There were about 300 of them from state and private universities. They conducted a peaceful demonstration in front of the office of the local assembly (DPRD), having marched along Yos Sudarso Street and causing congestion so that the traffic was diverted to another road. The demonstration was heavily guarded by the Manokwari police under the command of the police chief, Drs Yakobus Marjuki.

In the beginning, the action proceeded peacefully until about 2pm when one of the students read out a statement entitled: OTSUS PAPUA SOLUSI ATAU MALAPETAKA? (Is Special Autonomy for Papua the Solution or a Disaster?)

Then Jack Wanggai, spokesperson of the WPNA, arrived. He gave a speech which was responded to with great enthusiasm by all those present. Then all of a sudden, nine young men held up Morning Star flags and started jumping up and down and they were immediately rounded up by some of the policemen present. Jack Wanggai was also arrested with the others because the police said that they had been watching his movements since the demonstration on 3 March. Altogether 13 people were arrested on this occasion.

Three were later released for lack of evidence, but ten were held in custody, including Jack Wanggai. The arrest of one of the persons, 16-year-old Silas Carlos Teves May was suspended.

In the following days, Elimelek Kaiway was arrested bringing the number of detainees to ten, plus Jack Wanggai, for a total of eleven people.

The police then said that the detainees would be charged under Articles 102, 106 and 110 of the Criminal Code, the articles which were used to convict Philip Karma and Yusak Pakage (who were sentenced to ten and fifteen years each in 2004).