Jayapura, Jubi – The spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Ones Suhuniap, questioned why the police searched the house of KNPB activist Stevanus Itlay in Sentani, the capital of Jayapura Regency, on Sunday, October 23, 2022. Suhuniap considered the police’s reason for searching Steven Itlay’s house for a stolen motorcycle to be far-fetched.
Suhuniap said a group of plainclothes police came to Steven Itlay’s house in Ariau Village. “The police came in four cars. They were in plain clothes but carried weapons. During the search, they did not show a house search letter to the house owner,” Suhuniap said in a written press statement received by Jubi on Sunday.
The police eventually did not find any evidence in Steven Itlay’s house. “The police told the family at home that the purpose of their arrival was to look for a missing motorcycle around the Ariau Village area,” Suhuniap said.
Suhuniap believed that the police had other reasons to search Steven Itlay’s house. However, the police failed to find the thing that could be used as an excuse to arrest Steven Itlay. “During the search, there was no arrest of Steven Itlay,” Suhuniap said.
Steven Itlay is a KNPB activist who was once the chairman of KNPB Mimika. In 2019, he became one of the Papuan activists arrested following a wave of anti-racism protests that sprung up in various cities to protest racism against Papuan students at the Kamasan III Papuan Student Dormitory in Surabaya on August 16, 2019.
Steven Itlay along with six other Papuan activists were later charged with treason and tried at the Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan. On June 17, 2020, the panel of judges at the Balikpapan District Court found Steven Itlay guilty of treason and sentenced him to 11 months in prison. On August 7, 2020, Steven Itlay was released after completing his sentence.
Ones Suhuniap said the police had also previously accused Steven Itlay of being involved in motorcycle theft. On February 4, 2022, Steven Itlay was arrested in Sentani along with seven other people. At that time, the police also accused Steven Itlay of the same reason. However, Steven Itlay was released on the same day.
Suhuniap asked the Indonesian government and police not to arbitrarily use power to criminalize West Papuan activities for various reasons. Suhuniap warned that such repressive action would only add to the Papua problems. (*)