Indonesian authorities are deporting four Australian tourists for participating in a demonstration that called for the independence of the country’s restive Papua province, an immigration official said yesterday.
Cun Sudiharto, who heads the intelligence and law enforcement division at the Sorong Immigration office, said police detained the tourists for having joined the protest near the mayor’s office in Sorong city last Tuesday by riding bikes and waving small morning star flags that are a separatist symbol.
He identified the tourists as Tom Baxter, Danielle Joy Hellyer, Ruth Irene Cobbold and Cheryl Melinda Davidson. He said the first three would be deported from Bali later yesterday and the fourth on Thursday for ticketing reasons.
Sudiharto said that under Indonesia’s immigration laws, foreigners are not allowed to join protests without permits.
He said the four tourists had been sailing from Australia to Indonesia’s Mollucas island chain and planned to go to Raja Ampat, a famous diving spot in West Papua province, before their boat had engine trouble. They had been waiting for its repair in Sorong city since Aug. 10, he said.
Thousands of Papuans have demonstrated in the past week for the region’s independence and against racist remarks by security forces. The protests were triggered by videos circulated on the internet showing security forces calling Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs” in East Java’s Surabaya city.
Protests in several cities in Papua and West Papua provinces turned violent, resulting in the deaths of at least one soldier and two civilians. The angry mobs also burned several government buildings, offices, shops, cars and a gas station.
The government has blocked internet access in the region.
National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said at least 46 people have been arrested during the protests, including eight Papuan students who were detained in Jakarta over the weekend.
Indonesia maintains a significant police and military presence in the volatile provinces of Papua and West Papua, a mineral-rich region where a decades-long separatist movement simmers.
It was formally incorporated into the country in 1969 after a U.N.-sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many.
In recent years, some Papua students, including some who study in other provinces, have become vocal in calling for self-determination for their region. AP