Ghinan Salman, Surabaya – As many as 43 Papuan students were taken to the district police headquarters after police fired teargas and forced their way into a Papua student dormitory in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya on Saturday August 17.
The Papuan students were forcibly removed from their dormitory on Jl Kalasan and placed into trucks by police before being taken away.
Surabaya district police (Polrestabes) deputy police chief Assistant Superintendent Leonardus Simarmata said that the Papuan students were only taken in for questioning.
The police, he said, are investigating the vandalism of a national red-and-white flag which was then thrown into a sewer, which was allegedly committed by a “rogue” Papuan student.
“Currently (they), we’re taking statements at the Surabaya Polrestabes, in all there are 43 (Papuan student that were arrested)”, said Simarmata at the Papuan student dormitory on Saturday.
Simarmata said that the 43 students were made up of 40 men and three women. He also gave assurances that the students would be returned home after being questioned.
“After we’ve finished they’ll be returned home. We’re treating (them) very well, we gave them time to go to the toilet if they wanted, have a drink and so on, we still gave them this. We still gave them all their rights”, he said.
Earlier on Saturday afternoon, the situation at the Papuan student dormitory was again tense. Negotiations between the Papuan students and police, the sub-district head and social figures reached an impasse.
At around 2.45 pm local time police fired teargas into the dormitory at least 10 times. Armed with riot shields, police then forced their way into the dormitory by breaking down the front gate.
They then entered the dormitory and brought out a number of Papuan students who were then taken away in three trucks.
According to CNN Indonesia, the day before the arrests a photograph of a flag pole bearing the red-and-white national flag which had been vandalised and thrown into a sewer – allegedly by the Papuan students – was circulated on the NKRI Lovers Alliance WhatsApp group. Several hundred outraged Islamic and nationalist vigilante groups then rushed to the dormitory only to find the flag standing in place and undamaged. This did not however stop them from then besieging the dormitory, vandalising the front gates and pelting the dormitory with stones.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Polisi Angkut Paksa 43 Orang dari Asrama Mahasiswa Papua di Surabaya”.]