PNG Capital to Host Peaceful Demonstration to Show Solidarity to West Papua Campaign


Taking the cue from the resolution of PACIFIC Islands Forum on West Papua Issue last week and the increasing riot in Papua Province, PNG capital is planning to host a peaceful rally on Saturday August 24, 2019 to show solidarity to our fellow Melanesians, West Papuans and present a petition to the Indonesian Embassy in the country to resolve the issues of human rights violation, genocide and other related problems.

Everyone in the city is cordially invited to join NCD Governor Honourable Powes Parkop’s NCD Regional Electoral Office and PNG Union for Free West Papua for the worthy cause.

Refer to the graphics below for further information;

Free West Papua Campaign, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Free West Papua Campaign, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Riots in West Papua: why Indonesia needs to answer for its broken promises

Last weekend, the Indonesian police took 43 West Papuan students into custody for allegedly disrespecting the Indonesian flag during an independence day celebration (an allegation the students deny).

Police stormed the students’ dorm and used teargas to force them out, while bystanders and officers called them “monkeys”, a derogatory term for ethnically Melanesian Papuans.

West Papuans have long been cast by Indonesians as primitive people from the Stone Age, and this racist treatment continues to this day. West Papuan author Filep Karma described the extent of racism against West Papuans in his 2014 book, As If We Are Half-Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land, saying he often heard Indonesians call West Papuans monkeys.

This latest episode of discrimination builds on more than five decades of racism, torture, summary executions, land dispossession and cultural denigration of West Papuans by Indonesian security forces.

After the students were detained last weekend, riots erupted in the cities of Manokwari and Jayapura. Thousands of people turned out to protest against the mistreatment of the students and, more broadly, the mistreatment of West Papuans by the Indonesian authorities. Many protesters waved the nationalist Morning Star flag, an act punishable by a 15-year jail sentence (Indonesia is not just sensitive about how West Papuans treat the Indonesian flag – the state prohibits them from flying their own.)

In response to the deteriorating security situation, Indonesia has deployed more troops to the region.

Detailed Story HERE

Indonesian racism towards Papuans and its implications for a Free West Papua Movement

Yamin Kogoya examines years of racism by Indonesians toward Melanesian Papuans and their Pacific culture and identity. He asks whether Pacific countries will ‘sell their souls’ in the face of Indonesian bribes rather than back Papuan independence.

Escalating violence and attacks on Papuan students saw thousands of young people march on the streets this week and set fire to the Parliament building in West Papua. This was in response to Papuan students being attacked in their dormitory in Surabaya last weekend after they had allegedly bent a flagpole during the Indonesian Independence Day celebrations on August 17.

Surabaya police chief, Senior Commissioner Sandi Nugroho, said the attack on the Papuan student dormitory was carried out by Indonesian nationalist community groups who were angered by the treatment of their national flag.

In an effort to restore calm, the Papua Governor, Lukas Enembe called on all Indonesian citizens to respect their  national value of “unity in diversity” (Bhineka Tunggal Ika), and for the security forces to act professionally and in accordance with Indonesian laws and to not let activist groups take the law in their own hands.

He reiterated that Papuans studying in Indonesian cities and towns must be treated with dignity and respect and this is how Papuans treat Indonesians studying in West Papua.

The timing of last weeks’ attacks, retaliations and protests could not be more significant for both the Papuans and Indonesians. On 16 August 2019, the leaders of Pacific Island nations passed several resolutions regarding the Papuan genocide at the Pacific Island Forums, while 17 August 2019 was the 74th anniversary of Indonesia’s Independence Day.

Papuans have endured years of racism and violence

Papuans are no stranger to Indonesia’s cruel and violent racism and which they have endured since the 1960s. Papuans have died, been marginalised, and had their rights denied because of racism.

Filep Karma, a West Papuan political activist experienced firsthand racism by Indonesians during his university years, and in 2014 said: “As If We Are Half Animal: Indonesia’s Racism in Papua Land”.

Fifty-six years later, and these cruel racial slurs are alive and thriving as Papuans continue to be called monkeys, insinuating that they are primitive. This insult cuts deep in the hearts of Papuans.

Just last week, Indonesian Human Rights Lawyer, Veronica Koman posted videos on her Twitter feed of Indonesian demonstrators holding up picture monkeys and chanted “kick out, kick out the transmigrants, kick out transmigrants now”.

While the world’s media is focusing on the violence involved in the demonstrations, they are ignoring what is at the heart of the demonstrations, that being racism. It is not acceptable to call Papuans monkeys, effectively denying them their fundamental intrinsic value of being human.

And while President Joko Widodo called on his brothers and sisters in Papua and West Papua to forgive and forget, the racial harassment and discriminations against Papuan students has been ongoing.

Governor Enembe said: “Papuans students throughout Indonesia always get called Monkey and are not safe”.

During an interview on Indonesian TV ONE, he condemned the way Papuan students are treated in other parts of Indonesia.

“It has been 74 years since Indonesia gained its independence from the Dutch and this country still treats my people inhumanly. If the situation doesn’t improve, I will bring my Papuan students back home,” he said.

Racism is a weapon deployed by the colonial power to break down the Papuan human spirit.  This is the same weapon Indonesia is using that was used on them by the Europeans, and who killed millions of the first nation people around the world over 500 years.

A case of money-see-monkey-do for Indonesia?

As The Jakarta Post reported, “racism” is at the heart of the Surabaya -West Papua conflict, and highlighted Indonesia’s own experience of racism under the Dutch colonial rule.

It appears that after 74 years of independence from the Dutch, and despite Indonesia’s national ideology of “Pancasila” and “Bhineka Tunggal Ika” (Five constitutional Pillars and Unity in Diversity”, it is still suffering from the decades of racial abuse under Dutch rule.

Indonesian treatment of Papuans is like a revenge towards unexamined grievances they suffered. Papuans’ genocide at the hands of Indonesia in West Papua and unprecedented destruction of their ancestral homeland originated in the minds of racist Europeans. 

But they are projecting their anger onto the wrong people. They should direct their anger onto the Dutch and Western governments.

The Dutch used guns and the Bible to tame the Indigenous Indonesian over 300 years. They broke their human spirit and imagination through racial discrimination. They were dehumanized and used as a lethal weapon against all other non-Dutch Europeans.

The Dutch implemented a class system whereby the Indonesians were third class citizens, well beneath the first-class Europeans, and the second-class Chinese and Arabs.

And so, the cycle continues, with Indonesia trying to dehumanise and break the Papuan spirit so they can rebuild them to identity with Indonesian colonial ideas.

Indonesia wants to love Papuans and accept them as part of Indonesia. However, they cannot because, just like their former European colonialists, Indonesia has wrong and distorted information about Papuans.

As articulated by sociologist Thomas Scheff in The Jakarta Post on Friday, May 31, 2013:

“There is no love between Papuans and Indonesians. It is infatuation. Genuine love requires detailed knowledge of the other”.

Another tragic learned behaviour from the Dutch is Indonesia taking the role of “definer”. Essentially, Indonesia sees itself as the tape measure that other people and cultures have to measure up to or ‘be defined’.

Papuans are subjected to racism everywhere they go, from university dormitories, the marketplace and on the streets. The Papuan values, feelings, emotions and psychology are under constant attack by the colonial racist system. This is the institutionalised racism to poison the soul of Papuans.

Papua a racism football kicked around for years

West Papua has been treated as a commodity for years, being passed around and sacrificed as world leaders saw fit. The USA, Australia, Dutch and Indonesia decided its fate during the negotiations in the 1960s. It was sacrificed for world peace on UN’s alter in 1963 and handed over to Indonesia in an attempt to halt the spread of communism in Indonesia (by way of providing an army).  Remarkably, West Papuans was never considered nor were they invited to participate in this meeting

US President Kennedy referred to West Papuans as “The 700,000 living in the Stone Age…a few thousand square miles of cannibals land.” Papuans was used to secure the interest of Western governments and the Soviet Bloc. They had no value and rights. The result of these negotiations cost millions of Papuan lives.

Western policy makers were more concerned with teaching Papuans how to eat with knife and fork rather than their rights for political independence.

Unfortunately forPapuans, their relationship with Europeans has always been tainted by racism. The Western governments, Chinese, Indonesian and industrialised countries always assume that natural state of being Papuan is not desirable which is why they always attempt to dehumanise the Papuans.

According to Dr Tarcisius Kabutaulaka, associate professor at the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai’i, Europeans have always placed Melanesian people at the bottom of human hierarchy because of their darker skin colours and cultural traits that led to them being viewed as primitive.

They bear the internal stigma of “Oceanic Negroes”.  The crimes Melanesian committed to be boxed at the bottom of the Europeans’ category was simply the fact.

Is this the path to independence?

The intriguing aspect about this recent demonstration is how seriously Papuan students and young people are taking the issue of “racism”. They are using the ongoing racism to voice their deep aspiration for independence from Indonesia.

Recently, Indonesia has been focusing on building diplomatic relationships with the Pacific island countries but, how can a genuine relationship be built and sustained when one party approaches the other with a paternalistic colonial mental outlook? This was evident during the 2019 Pacific Exposition in Auckland whereby the Indonesian government did not disclose the real issues faced by Papuans. What Indonesia did display was misconstrued image of the Papuan.

If Indonesia continues to see Papuans through the lens of racism (monkey), why would they treat any other black race in the Oceania with love and respect. To build a sense of brotherhood among all men across all our cultural and religious prejudices, we need a new interconnectedness worldview, not racially fragmented one.

If President Jokowi was sincere about calling Papuans “brothers and sisters” then it is time for Indonesian to treat Papuans with dignity and respect, including the overwhelming desire by Papuans for “Independence”. Otherwise these words are meaningless.

Despite the Indonesian effort to truncate the growing support for an independent West Papua, the Pacific island leaders did pass a few resolutions in during last week PIF’s meeting in Tuvalu.

What do these resolutions really mean to Papuans? Whether it was a mere Orwellian exercise concocting the final communique -a pure fiasco or it is one of the steps that will enable the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to enter UN General Assembly, one thing is clear that support for the West Papuans plight is growing.

This support from Pacific island communities will likely grow in the future if Indonesia continues to mistreat their fellow Papuans.

Calling Papuans a monkey can and will ignite the fire of resistance (as seen by thousands of Papuans protesting and setting fire to parliament house). The issue of racism is serious and failure to recognise this will end up costing Indonesia the very thing they are trying to hold on to.

As Evi Mariani warned Jakarta in her paper published yesterday by The Jakarta Post:

“Racism in the love story in Bumi Manusia is the prequel to Indonesia’s budding nationalism against the occupation of the Dutch before our independence in 1945. Surely, we would not want the racism befalling Papuans to pave the way for their struggle for independence from ‘Indonesian occupation’ on their land.”

The outspoken Free West Papua advocate, the governor of PNG Oro Province, Gary Juffa has warned through his official Facebook page that:

“In case any of you have any misconception about your future fate at the hands of expanding Indonesian influence…here is a grim remainder…if they call our brothers and sisters monkeys…on their own land…that is exactly what they are calling us now”

The leaders of “Blue Pacific” cannot be naïve like a rabbit by inviting the wolves from Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra to discuss about what they are going to have for dinner. Dangerous and yet virtues rabbit is better than harmless and virtue less creature that lives only to be eaten by predators.

It is West Papua’s deepest hope that the Pacific Island leaders will not sacrifice West Papua by accepting a worldly materialistic offer by Jakarta, Beijing and Canberra. How remarkable it would be in this modern world for the racially abused and subjugated people are able to stand firm against the might and reject the gold in favour of their own souls. That would be the retelling of an old story written anew.

Yamin Kogoya is a West Papuan academic who has a Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development from the Australian National University who contributes to Asia Pacific Report. From the Lani tribe in the Papuan Highlands, he is currently living in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

Papuans continue protests against racism and hatred

By Asia Pacific Report – August 21, 2019, By Johnny Blades of RNZ Pacific

Protests are spreading in Indonesia-ruled West Papua in response to harassment of Papuans during explosive incidents in Javanese cities last week.

Indonesia’s president has urged calm after some of the protests turned violent, but he’s been criticised for not directly addressing a festering racism problem.

The unrest was triggered when dozens of Papuan university students in Surabaya were assaulted by a mob on Saturday and later arrested.

ne of the students had allegedly trashed an Indonesian flag on the country’s independence day anniversary.

The angry scene was echoed in an incident in the city of Semarang where a Papuan student dormitory was surrounded by civilian groups demanding the students fly the Indonesian flag.

Nationalist sentiment was running high at the weekend, as it always does on independence day.

Anti-Papua sentiment

An Indonesian researcher with Human Rights Watch, Andreas Harsono, said anti-Papuan sentiment was also on the rise in the country.

“Military-related militias are starting to increase their campaign against Papua by showing that the Papuans (are) refusing to raise the Indonesian flag, hoping that it will exasperate the situation on the island of Java, Indonesia’s most important island,” Harsono said.

The students were repeatedly called “monkeys” and other racist slurs, sparking thousands to march in the streets back in Papua.

In Manokwari, videos posted to social media showed the parliament building on fire and roads blocked by burning tires.

The unrest prompted Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, to appeal for calm.

“I know that there are hurt feelings but as fellow citizens the best thing is to forgive each other,” Widodo told a media conference.

Widodo urges forgiveness

“It is okay to be emotional but forgiving is better. Being patient is also better. And be confident that the government will continue to safeguard your dignity and prosperity.”

Indonesia’s police chief, Tito Karnavian, has focussed blame for the destruction in Manokwari on the people who posted about the Surabaya incident on social media. He described it as hoax news.

But US-based Papuan independence leader Octo Mote said this response, along with that of the president’s, was disappointing.

“Now the Indonesian President, he ignored what’s going on. Then he said, ‘ok guys just apologise to each other’. So West Papuans should apologise for what? He doesn’t condemn the racism. He doesn’t say racism is not right.”

According to Mote, harassment of Papuans is a long running problem in Indonesia.

Octo Mote … “From the beginning, this is an Asian (people) who invade Melanesian land, seeing us as sub-human beings with black and curly hair.” Image: Jamie Small/PMC
Octo Mote … “From the beginning, this is an Asian (people) who invade Melanesian land, seeing us as sub-human beings with black and curly hair.” Image: Jamie Small/PMC

“From the beginning, this is an Asian [people] who invade Melanesian land, seeing us as sub-human beings with black and curly hair.”

He said the allegation about Papuans disrespecting the Indonesian flag in Surabaya was simply used as a trigger by the mob, who laid siege to the students’ dorm.

Everyday racism

“Because of that hatred, they try to find a way. That’s what happens not only there but that same incident happens in so many cities outside of Papua. As a journalist who worked there so many years, we experienced this in our daily lives under Indonesian colonialism, the discrimination and racism we experience in everyday life,”

Mote said.

Monday’s peaceful protest in Jayapura was the biggest in Papua in years. There have been surprisingly few arrests, even where the protests turned violent such as in Manokwari.

On Tuesday a local resident, Ucu Sawaki, said the city’s streets had quickly returned to normal calm.

“Police is still everywhere and the security is also good this morning but still people are still afraid to go out from the house. So just couples, motorcycles and cars but it’s not like in the past.”

Indonesia’s government said it had restricted internet access to Papua and West Papua provinces as the protests took place.

In a statement, the Ministry of Communication and Information said it had acted to throttle access in several areas because of the potential for disinformation to create social disorder.

‘Throttling social media’

“We can say that the purpose of throttling is to prevent the wide spread of hoax (fake news) that trigger action,” the ministry said.

But it is unlikely that such measures will stop Papuans protesting this week. Indeed, the monkey slurs directed at their students have provided a new impetus.

Yesterday, large mobilisations took place in other Papuan cities, including Merauke, Biak and Nabire. However in Sorong, as Papuans took to the streets, 250 prisoners escaped from the local jail amid the chaos. A manhunt by local police is underway.

Also, in signs of an impending crackdown, Indonesia has deployed more military forces to Papua to quell the unrest.

  • This article is published under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand

Vanuatu to host next Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific leaders have decided on the venues for the next three leaders summits.

At last week’s summit in Tuvalu it was announced that Vanuatu would host in 2020, Fiji in 2021 and Kiribati in 2022.

Waterfront at Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu Photo: RNZ/Sally Round
Waterfront at Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Pacific leaders push for UN rights commissioner visit to Papua

Leaders of Pacific Islands Forum countries and territories want Indonesia to allow a team from the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office to visit West Papua soon.

At their annual summit in Tuvalu, Pacific leaders acknowledged the reported escalation in violence and continued alleged human rights abuses in Papua.

Pacific leaders reaffirmed recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua but have re-emphasised and reinforced the Forum’s position of raising its concerns over violent conflict in the Melanesian region.

They agreed to maintain open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue of alleged human rights abuses in Papua, zeroing in on the issue of access for rights monitors.

But some Pacific governments are concerned that an invitation in-principle made in January by Jakarta to the UN Rights Commissioner’s office to visit Papua has not been honoured.

In the communique from their Tuvalu summit, Pacific leaders strongly encouraged both sides to finalise the timing of the visit and for an evidence-based, informed report on the situation to be provided before next year’s Forum Leaders summit.

The deadline is a new addition to what was otherwise similar wording on West Papua to previous Forum summits.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said that the resolution was a recognition by Pacific leaders that something more had to be done about what they see as a worsening human rights situation in Papua.

“We’re very happy that now the onus is on the secretariat and the member states of PIF, including the members that are on the UN Human Rights Council, that they need to make sure that the commisioner gets to go,” Mr Regenvanu said in Tuvalu.

“Indonesia should see that there is a very clear concern, and we hope that this statement will make them come to the table and work with the UN Human Rights Commissioner to make sure that visit does happen.”

Strong words

Earlier at the Tuvalu summit, while speaking to civil society organisations, Tonga’s Prime Minister said the West Papua issue had divided the Forum’s members for years.

‘Akilisi Pohiva attributed the Forum’s failure to date to resolve conflict over West Papua to the influence of Indonesia over some Pacific nations.

He said the Pacific countries should not let others control them, but should instead stand together in unity and in solidarity and support the people of West Papua.

Pacific Media Watch reports there was pindrop silence when the Tongan leader delivered his intervention in response to regional civil society’s call for a team from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office to visit West Papua.

No caption

Photo: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Meanwhile, Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama urged fellow Pacific leaders to approach the West Papua issue with caution.

Mr Bainimarama said he as concerned with reports of human rights violations in West Papua, and reaffirmed his country’s continuing support for the people of Papua.

According to FBC News, he said the Forum should tread boldly but thoughtfully as territorial disputes have fuelled war and chaos in the past.

He said Fiji is also committed to the protection of human rights for all and respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, including Indonesia

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s defense minister has called for a crackdown on West Papuan rebel fighters amid ongoing deaths from armed conflict in the Melanesian region.

no caption

Photo: AFP

Ryamizard Ryacudu was speaking amid ongoing violence between the West Papua National Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces in Papua’s highlands.

The Forum leaders have acknowledged the protracted nature of the conflict.

“Leaders called on all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents and to work to address the root causes of the conflict by peaceful means,” the Forum leaders’ said in their communique.

Indonesia is not a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, but rather a Forum partner, and has sent a delegation to attend the post-leaders summit dialogue partner sessions today.

Source: RNZ

Thousands riot in Papua, parliament building torched

Agence-France Presse19 August 2019< Source

Protesters in Manokwari, Papua, have set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and thrown rocks at government buildings
Protesters in Manokwari, Papua, have set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and thrown rocks at government buildings

Riots broke out and a local parliament building was torched in Indonesia’s restive Papua region on Monday, as thousands protested against the weekend detention of dozens of Papuan students.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Manokwari, the capital of West Papua province, bringing the city of some 130,000 to a standstill as its civic building was nearly reduced to ashes.

Some protesters set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and threw rocks at government buildings, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, who estimated several thousand demonstrators were present.

Indonesia’s security minister Wiranto, who goes by one name, appealed for calm and said there would be an investigation of the incident that triggered the unrest in Manokwari as well as protests in several other Papuan cities on Monday.

“This has clearly disrupted our unity as a nation,” he said.

The riots marked the latest flashpoint in a region hit by a decades-old insurgency against Indonesian rule and allegations that its security forces committed widespread rights abuses against its ethnic Melanesian population.

Papua shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea (PNG), just north of Australia.

A former Dutch colony, it declared itself independent in the early Sixties, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region following a UN-sponsored independence referendum that was widely viewed as a sham.

In Manokwari, three police officers were injured by rock-throwing protesters, authorities said. It was not immediately clear if any demonstrators were injured. Local schools were shut for the day.

Anger boiled over at reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students in the Southeast Asian nation’s second-biggest city Surabaya on Saturday — Indonesia’s independence day.

Local media and Papuan activists said police in riot gear stormed into a dormitory to force out students who allegedly destroyed an Indonesian flag.

Police said the students were briefly questioned and set free.

Television footage on Saturday also showed a different group of protesters demonstrating against the students and shouting racial slurs about Papuans.

The unrest comes after two Indonesian security personnel were killed over the past month in clashes with separatist rebels.

Last year, the National Liberation Army of West Papua, part of a grouping of rebels fighting for Papuan independence, killed at least 19 construction workers at a remote jungle camp in Papua.

The employees of a state-owned contractor had been building bridges and roads as part of efforts to boost infrastructure in the impoverished region.

Protesters in Manokwari, Papua, have set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and thrown rocks at government buildings

Riots in Papua were triggered by reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister on Australia’s Statements at PIF Retreat

“I thought the Australian labour scheme was determined on mutual respect, that Australia was also benefiting,” said Mr Sopoaga. “We are not crawling below that. If that’s the view of the government, then I would have no hesitation in pulling back the Tuvaluan people as from tomorrow.”

“I don’t think the Tuvaluan people are paupers to come crawling under that type of very abusive and offensive language,” he said. “If New Zealand is thinking the same way, we’ll have no other option but to do that [there too].”


West Papuan students barricaded, detained and tear-gassed by police on Indonesian ‘freedom’ day


Indonesian police have defended their decision to storm into a dormitory of West Papuan students alongside the nation’s military, over vigilante allegations that someone had committed slander on the national symbol.

Key points:

  • Police arrested 43 students but released them without charge over allegations of “committing slander on the national flag”
  • Earlier this week pro-West Papuan protesters were attacked and hundreds arrested
  • The acquisition of West Papua by Indonesia has long been a cause of controversy

Police and armed military personnel stormed through the gates of the dormitory in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, firing around 20 tear gas canisters into the building, causing injuries, last Saturday.

Forty three students were arrested and taken to a police station in the city, but released around nine hours after without charge, over claims that the Indonesian flag was found in the gutter by the building.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tensions, with his Chief Security Minister pledging a “complete and fair” investigation into the incidents.

Mr Widodo called for calm in Papua and urged people not to damage public facilities.

“It’s OK to be emotional, but it’s better to be forgiving,” he said.

“Patience is also better.”

Today, protesters torched a local parliament building and set fire to tyres and branches in the West Papua provincial capital, Manokwari.

A separate, peaceful protest of about 500 people was also underway in the town of Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

The protests appears to be in retaliation to the detention and treatment of West Papuan students in Surabaya between Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Nationalist vigilantes gathered outside the student’s dormitory building from Friday night — a day before Indonesia’s independence day —singing the Indonesian national anthem, cutting power to the building, and attacking good Samaritans delivering food and drinks to the trapped students.

Read Full Story HERE

Indonesia arrests dozens of West Papuans over claim flag was thrown in sewer

Officers shot tear gas canisters into student accommodation and took 43 people into custody after reports on social mediaHelen Davidson

Indonesian authorities raided a university dormitory in Surabaya on Saturday and arrested dozens of West Papuan students after a standoff over allegations the Indonesian flag was thrown into a sewer.

Officers broke down the gates of the Surabaya building and used teargas to clear the rooms, taking 43 people into custody on the Indonesian Independence Day weekend.

Surabaya police told Kompas news the students were brought in for questioning over the “destruction and disposal” of the Indonesian flag, which had been hanging outside the student hostel.

The students were released around midnight after questioning.

Surabaya city police chief, Senior Commissioner Sandi Nugroho, told the Jubi news outlet that witnesses claimed the individual who damaged the flag had gone inside the student accommodation.

Reports of the damaged flag had reportedly spread on social media, drawing a crowd of residents to the building to protest on Friday and Saturday, allegedly shouting anti-West Papuan slogans and threats, and singing the Indonesian national anthem.

On Friday night police urged the crowds outside the student accommodation to leave.

On Saturday afternoon police fired teargas into the building. CNN Indonesia reported at least 23 shots of teargas were fired.

The Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman accused the police of a “totally disproportionate” response, and alleged a number of students were injured during the raid.

“Fully armed police shot teargas into the dorm, charged into it, forced the students to squat and waddle along the ground, then arrested them,” Koman said.

“They were released at almost midnight. The students still could not go in because the teargas still smelt strong. Some of their stuff are still confiscated without any warrant.

“The arrest is totally disproportionate. The students were not even told why they were arrested. That violates the criminal procedural law.”

Guardian Australia has attempted to contact the East Java Regional Police for comment.

Koman said two Indonesian students who had attempted to bring food and water to the students on Saturday, prior to the raid, were beaten and arrested.

She said she had been speaking to the students on Friday night and could hear “racists chants” through the phone.

“People demanded the students to come out so they can kick them out from the city and kill them,” she said.

“They chanted ‘Out! Out! Papua out!’, ‘massacre Papua! massacre Papua’. The crowd sang Indonesian anthem until past midnight.”

CNN Indonesia also reported the chants from the crowd, which it said included people wearing clothing referencing the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the far-right Pancasila Youth organisation.

West Papua has been locked in a civil conflict for decades over its demands for independence from Indonesia, which annexed the territory on the western half of the island of Papua in the 1960s. In that time there have been claims of up to half a million people killed, and Indonesia has been accused of human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings.

Reports of growing support among non-Papuan Indonesians have bolstered the independence movement, and Koman said harassment and intimidation of West Papuans in Indonesia was worsening.

“Last year, mobs forced to fly Indonesian flag at the same location,” she said.

“This only happens towards the West Papuans.”

Last week Indonesian authorities broke up a number of protests across Indonesia – timed to coincide with consideration of the West Papuan independence claim at the Pacific Islands Forum – with mass arrests and some violence.

Source; The