11 Jul 2018

Solomons police defend removing Morning Star Flag

10:25 am on 11 July 2018

Solomon Islands police have defended removing a West Papuan flag from outside the Indonesian stall at the Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival in Honiara.

Solomon Islands police

Photo: RNZ/ Koroi Hawkins

Last Saturday, a local man, Ben Didiomea, was questioned by police after holding the West Papuan Morning Star Flag as a protest outside Indonesia's festival stall.

Mr Didiomea said he was standing in solidarity with fellow Melanesian people of Indonesia's Papua region, where the Morning Star is banned.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force's Supervising Assistant Commissioner National Capital and Crime Prevention, Solomon Sisimia, said police advised Mr Didiomea and his fellow demonstrators that the flag was being removed because the festival was not a political event.

"In fact before that incident, police had confronted a group of young people the other day who had come in and threatened to burn down the same stall, and said that they were from the West Papuan freedom movement," he explained.

"And so the flag was taken away from that location to stop any further provocation against the Indonesian delegation that day."

Mr Sisimia denied that Solomons police had provided special service to the Indonesian delegation.

"There was no special arrangement for the visiting Indonesian arrangement. The (overall Festival) police operation was for everyone taking part in this festival," he said.

Over the past ten days Honiara hosted thousands of performers from various Melanesian countries for the four-yearly event.

Mr Sisimia said the force had limited manpower with which to patrol the event, but that the Festival largely ran smoothly.

According to him, police deployed extra officers to monitor last night's closing ceremony.