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West Papuan students accuse Indonesia of ‘muzzling democracy’ after demo ban

WEST Papuan students accused Indonesia of “muzzling democracy” today after police banned a rally in the capital Jakarta on Monday on the dubious grounds that it was “a planned act of rebellion.”

The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) organised the demonstration to press its demand for a referendum on independence for West Papua. Despite the alliance giving written notification a week ahead of the event, police prevented participants from marching to the State Palace.

Regional officials cited a ban on students protesting against the extension of the province’s special autonomy status, which is due to expire next year.

Independence campaigners argue that a referendum is necessary for the liberation of West Papua from Indonesia, which annexed the former Dutch colony in 1969 after a handful of residents were coerced into ratifying the so-called Act of Free Choice.

The Papuan People’s Council (MRP) was also banned from holding a public meeting with students after regional officials declared that it too was a planned act of rebellion. 

Police erected barbed-wire blockades to prevent the march from proceeding.

AMP spokesman Ronald Levy said: “This is evidence of the muzzling of democracy. This is also happening in the land of Papua.”

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