Nearly 2000 people were arrested on 2 May 2016, in mass unarmed civilian based uprisings across West Papua. 'The Indonesian police were completely overwhelmed by the size, scale and disciplined defiance of the activists who came from a range of groups organised by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.'
Interview with Dr Jason MacLeod
Dr Jason MacLeod is the author of the recently published Merdeka & the Morning Star: Civil Resistance in West Papua (UQP). He works as an organiser, educator and researcher. He has been active in the West Papua solidarity movement since 1991.
How many people were arrested on 2 May? Why were they arrested?
Nearly 2000 people were arrested 2 May 2016, in mass unarmed civilian based uprisings across the country: in Jayapura, Wamena, Merauke, Manokwari, Timika, Sorong and Fak Fak.
The Indonesian police were completely overwhelmed by the size, scale and disciplined defiance of the activists who came from a range of groups organised by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
In Jayapura, for instance, activists were detained on the oval inside the mobile police brigade's headquarters. Most people arrested were released by last night. At the time of writing 45, including 19 children aged 8-18, remain in detention in Fak Fak.
The Indonesian police routinely use torture against Papuan dissenters so we are concerned about their welfare. I expect the organisers will be charged with treason and rebellion later this week.
At the same time we are noticing that Jakarta is becoming constrained, or at least uncertain of what to do, in the face of rising international support for a free West Papua, especially in the Pacific.
What does this video clip above show?
The video shows activists being transported by an Indonesian police truck from Waena, a suburb in Jayapura, to the Mobile Police Brigade's headquarters in Kotaraja, about 15-20mins away, where they were detained on a sports oval.
You can see fists being raised in defiance and hear them yelling 'merdeka' (freedom). This is the 5th truck with activists that went past in minutes. The film was shot by a local organiser hidden behind a fence.
What are the demands of the West Papuans?
Since November last year the ULMWP has been campaigning to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a sub regional forum comprised of Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and the pro-independence coalition from Kanaky (New Caledonia), the FLNKS (the National Liberation Socialist Front of Kanaky).
In June last year the ULMWP gained Observer Status. At the same time Indonesia was accepted as an Associate Member. Through the MSG the ULMWP has an opportunity to take their concerns to the 16 member country Pacific Island Forum and the United Nations.
That is why activists in West Papua are calling for the ULMWP to get full membership of the MSG. This will legitimise and internationalise the struggle in a major way. Of course that move challenges Indonesia's legitimacy and the economic and political interests of other countries - notably Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand/Aotearoa and is being resisted.
Consequently, the ULMWP are taking to the streets inside West Papua to raise the political costs of the occupation for Indonesia and that same time try to compel Pacific Island countries to take a position on West Papua.
It's a strategy that is working. Last month for instance the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat agreed to put West Papua on the agenda of the forthcoming leaders meeting in September as a result of grassroots pressure from across the region.
Why is it so difficult to see videos about what’s going on in West Papua?
Foreign journalists are effectively banned from traveling to West Papua. In recent years, particularly since 2011, social media has been the quickest and most reliable way to get information out. It has only really been in the last six months that we have been able to send video out quickly.
Given the Indonesian government's media blockade citizen media activism is vital. The movement is seeking to strengthen its capacity to use video and various digital platforms to extend it reach into new audiences and to deepen its impacts on those audiences, mobilising them in support of movement led goals.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
The ULMWP together with their allies invite film makers to come to West Papua to tell the story of Papua resistance to the Indonesian government occupation. But we are also looking for other industry people who can work with movement leaders to develop short 90 sec films that we can integrate into various campaign strategies like the campaign to end foreign support for the Indonesian police in West Papua, to secure full membership of the MSG and other campaigns. Here is one example of a 30sec animation we used as part of the MSG campaign last year.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What would it take for film and creative industry people to work with movement leaders and solidarity groups to mobilise resources in support of West Papuans' aspirations for self determination and independence?
West Papua is a nation in waiting, one half of the island of New Guinea, currently occupied by Indonesia. Like East Timor, West Papuans want to be free, to determine their own political future. At least 100,000 people have been killed by the Indonesian military since they took control in 1963 but the West Papuans continue to struggle, determined to be independent.
interview: May 2016
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