Indonesia deports 4 Aussies over Papua protests

A photo taken and released by the Indonesian military on Sept 1 shows a group of Papuans, who took part in recent mass protests and currently seeking military's help to return to their homes, in Jayapura, Papua province.
A photo taken and released by the Indonesian military on Sept 1 shows a group of Papuans, who took part in recent mass protests and currently seeking military's help to return to their homes, in Jayapura, Papua province.PHOTO: INDONESIAN MILITARY VIA AFP

JAKARTA • Four Australians were deported from Indonesia's Papua region yesterday, the immigration department said, after they allegedly took part in demonstrations demanding independence for the restive province.

Impoverished Papua, where a low-level insurgency against Indonesian control has simmered for decades, has seen two weeks of mass protests and deadly riots sparked by anger over racism and fresh calls for self-rule.

The four foreigners entered the island region on a yacht via the port of Sorong on Aug 10, Indonesian immigration official Erlangga Dwi Saputra said.

They were "suspected of taking part in demonstrations demanding Papua's independence in front of the Sorong mayor's office", the local immigration department said in a statement.

This incident came as police in Papua - Indonesia's eastern-most territory which shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea - banned demonstrations that could lead to "anarchist acts".

On Sunday, police said dozens had been arrested in connection with rioting in the region's capital, while Indonesia said it would deploy around 2,500 more police and troops to the province.

The Australians - identified as Tom Baxter, 37, Danielle Hellyer, 31, Ruth Irene Cobbold, 25, and Cheryl Melinda Davidson, 36 - were flown out of Papua to Bali yesterday, Mr Erlangga said.

Three were due to fly to Australia last night, while Ms Davidson will be sent there tomorrow.

According to Mr Erlangga, three of the four had participated in a demonstration in Sorong and raised the forbidden "Morning Star" Papuan flag on Aug 27. Police found the fourth on the group's yacht, he added.

 
 
 

The unrest across Papua appears to have been triggered by the arrest last month of dozens of Papuan students in Java, who were also racially abused.

Jakarta took control of the former Dutch colony in the 1960s after an independence referendum widely viewed as a sham.

The Indonesian authorities are deeply sensitive about Papua. In May, a Polish man was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting with rebels to overthrow the government in the province.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 03, 2019, with the headline 'Indonesia deports 4 Aussies over Papua protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe