Markus Haluk’s eyes are moist. We are standing inside a portside warehouse in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands. Haluk carefully unwraps the first of five large 60 pound packages encased in hessian. Inside each parcel are two large A4-sized books, parts of a massive paper petition. Each book is around 16 inches thick — they make a dictionary look like a comic book. Haluk was the lead organizer tasked with collating the hefty tomes and getting them safely out of West Papua. Yosepa Alomang, a 50-something-year-old stalwart of the West Papuan independence movement, worked alongside him and she is also now in the warehouse. Alomang reaches out and touches the books. Turning to me she says, “These are the blood and bones of our people.”
Alomang means what she says. During the signature-raising campaign which took place between March and May 2015, Indonesian security forces shot dead 32-year-old Obangma Giban, a village chief from Yahukimo. In the month of May, alone, 487 activists were arrested for participating in the campaign. Some of those were tortured. Officers from the Mobile Police Brigade in Manokwari, part of a national Indonesian paramilitary police force, stubbed out cigarettes on Alexander Nekenem’s body while the head of the Manokwari Regional Police, Tommy H. Pontororing, denied him and his compatriots access to lawyers. Police also demolished communication posts at places like Cendrawasih University, where people could go to sign the petitions. Countless scores were savagely beaten.
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