Violent Repression of Papuans marks the eve of Indonesia’s Independence Day

Over 168 Papuan protesters in the Papuan capital Jayapura along with other cities have been detained by the police, and over three dozen activists and students were injured in police violence

August 18, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch

This year, the eve of the Indonesian Independence Day was marked by violent repression of West Papuan activists in the Papuan capital of Jayapura, along with the cities of Malang, Surabaya, Ternate, and Ambon. This comes a day after a major Papuan rally was carried out in Jakarta, commemorating the 56th anniversary of the New York Agreement that handed over sovereignty over West Papua which was under the Netherlands to Indonesia.

According to a lawyer based in Indonesia, Veronica Koman, over 168 people have been detained by the police, of which most are activists that have organized around the cause of West Papuan self-determination. In a Twitter post that has been making the rounds in social media, Koman has posted pictures of several injured activists and have called for the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to take note of the human rights abuse.

Activists on the ground have denounced that the police used repressive tactics, especially on Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java. They reported that hostel rooms and dormitories of students were surrounded and attacked by police personnel yesterday, with dozens of students arrested. To add to that the local governments in Java have turned hostile against West Papuan students, with rumors of plans to evict them.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, Koman said that at least 65 people were arrested in Jayapura, including several belonging to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which advocates Papuan independence. She also added that many who participated in a rally demanding self-determination, were attacked by pro-government militias and the police.

Earlier this week, the PIF held a meeting in Tuvalu to discuss the situation in West Papua and hosted West Papuan independence movement leader Benny Wenda to attend, drawing protest from the Indonesian government.

In a joint communique, even though the leaders of PIF “reaffirmed (their) recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua”, they urged Indonesian government to fix a date for the visit of United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, for an independent investigation on reports of human rights abuses.

Since the Nduga massacre in December 2018, of 19 workers at the Trans-Papua Road by pro-independence militia, violence has escalated very rapidly in the West Papuan provinces. According to independent reports, since then, anywhere between 150 to 190 civilians have been killed in clashes between separatists and security officials, of which more than half were children and a sizable minority included migrant workers from other parts of Indonesia.