Jakarta. Police have arrested 500 demonstrators during a rally in support for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, or ULM, and its effort to reach full member status of the regional Melanesian Spearhead Group in Jayapura on Monday (02/05).
Similar rallies in Merauke and Sorong also netted over 100 arrests, according to the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.
Solidarity rallies across the country also ended in arrests, with 48 Papuan students arrested in Semarang, Central Java, and 42 in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
Leaders of other MSG members have reaffirmed their support for the full admission of West Papua to the regional organisation. Most recently, Vanuatu’s council of chiefs president Seni Mao Tirsupe called for the admission following a rally in Port Vila on Friday.
ULM, which represents a number of pro-independence groups in Indonesia's two easternmost provinces, had sought full membership in a bid to push for self determination and to air human rights grievances.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said in a statement last year that the ULM was given observer status as a "development partner representing the welfare of Melanesian people living outside," Radio New Zealand International reported at the time.
Indonesia — which was granted observer status in 2011 — is represented by leaders from its ethnic Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, according to AFP.
The ULM bid is the second time West Papua's pro-independence movement has attempted to gain membership to the MSG. A similar bid in October 2013 by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) was rejected.