Papuan students in Yogyakarta endure racist insults, multiple arrests in two day siege

CNN Indonesia – July 17, 2016
Papuan student assulted by police in Yogyakarta - July 17, 2016 (Abbi Douw)
Papuan student assulted by police in Yogyakarta - July 17, 2016 (Abbi Douw)

Anggi Kusumadewi, Jakarta – Animal names and racist insults could be heard shouted at midday on Friday July 15. The shouts originated from members of social organisations besieging the Kamasan I Papua student dormitory on Jalan Kusumanegara in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

Four social organisations arrived at the Papuan dormitories, namely the Indonesian Veterans’ Children (FKPPI), the Pancasila Youth (PP), the Paksi Katon [which sees itself as a guardian of Javanese culture and the Yogyakarta sultanate – JB] and the Yogyakarta Militia (Laskar Jogja). In total they numbered around 100 or more people.

Upon hearing the sudden string of animal names and racist insults, the Papuan students inside the student dormitory were startled. One of the students said, “They really said that, the shouts from out front, I have eyes and ears, at us Papuan students, Papuan people”, they said angrily and with a sickened heart.

According to the Papuan students, the police officers on guard around the dormitory just ignored the racist behaviour. At the time there were just as many police officers. Yogyakarta resident Kindarto Boti said that police had deployed the officers in three or four trucks. Another resident said that the police arrive fully armed as if they were going to arrest terrorists.

And it was not just the police that were armed – members of the social organisations also carried weapons. “They brought wooden [clubs], crowbars and other sharp objects”, one Papuan student who did not wish to be named for security reasons told CNN Indonesia on Saturday July 16.

Papuan students in Yogyakarta had been receiving racist insults since Thursday July 14 through SMS messages which were sent to those who were members of the People’s Union for West Papua Freedom (PRPPB).

The PRPPB had earlier planned to hold a long-march from the Papuan student dormitories to the zero kilometre point on Jl. Panembahan Senopati. This location is a strategic intersection and a tourist attraction in Yogyakarta and often used for protest actions.

The Long march, which should have taken place at 9am on Friday morning, was part of a peaceful action supporting the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) becoming a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) – an inter-government organisation in the South Pacific comprising four Melanesian countries, namely Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

However before the scheduled 9am march could begin, police officers surrounded the Papuan student dormitory. Scuffles broke out between the students and police with the Papuan students being forced back inside the dormitories.

The main road in front of the dormitory was then closed, the front gate blockaded and the rear gate blocked with a police truck. All access in or out of the dormitories was prevented. “Our friends who arrived at the dormitories were intercepted and arrested by police”, said a Papuan student inside the dormitory.

They described how two Papuan colleagues who arrived on a motorcycle via the rear gate were stopped. The motorcycle was confiscated resulting in a scuffle with police who then fired warning shots and arrested the pair.

Another colleague from the group Student Struggle for Democracy who tried to enter the dormitory was also arrested. Seven others were likewise arrested as they returned home from buying sweet potatoes from the Giwangan market.

A local resident asked the police why all the Papuan students had been ordered back into the dormitory. The police replied that they had information that several social organisations would arrive and it would be extremely difficult to stop them if they decided to attack the students in an open location.

As the clock showed 9am it was clear that students from the PRPPB would not be able to realise their plans for a long-march. Around an hour later they began giving political speeches on the dormitory grounds.

In the hours that followed there was uproar when a number of social organisations arrived and began shouting insults. The siege continued until the 150 or so Papuan students inside the dormitory began to grow hungry. But the sweet potatoes they were to eat had being seized by police when they arrested the seven students.

Calls for solidarity actions and requests for logistical assistance were made to comrades outside. Yogyakarta residents responded by thronging to gather food for the Papuan students that was channeled through the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI). However the PMI ambulance carrying the food failed to drop of the logistics after it was intercepted by police.

Food was only able to be delivered to the dormitory at 9pm. “I sent it towards midnight because it wasn’t possible in the afternoon, the security was still tight because there were several members of social organisations there”, said Yogyakarta resident Darto.

Darto, who had been monitoring the dormitory over night, related how difficult it was to send food to the Papuan students. He had to be circumspect.

“I arrived at around 8pm wanting to send food in but wasn’t able to. A plastic bag filled with food was entrusted to a local resident whose house is near the dormitory. I wasn’t able to enter the dormitory, [I] waited until it was dark, changing location, intelligence agents arrived, asking a lot of questions, it gave me the creeps. So I moved away from the dormitory, they checked and approached again, moved away again. Finally I went home at 8am [the next morning] when the situation had calmed down”.

The Yogyakarta regional police say that that officers would continue to guard and monitor the Papuan student dormitories until the situation is considered secure.

“The police hope that the situation will become favourable. We’re on guard so as to prevent something undesirable happening. Because they (the Papuan students) were planning to hold a protest action supporting separatism, Papuan independence, and there were social organisations who didn’t agree”, said Yogyakarta regional police public relations chief Assistant Superintendent Any Pudjiastuti.

The Papuan students wanting to hold a separatist action, according to Pudjiastuti, were not just those studying in Yogyakarta. Protesters arrived from Semarang and Solo in Central Java and the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya. Yogyakarta was the centre for the action.

The arrested Papuan students have now been released with the exception of one who according to Pudjiastuti, “Was proven to have resisted [arrest] and assaulted an officer with a sharp weapon resulting a head injury and the harming of a police official”.

“So we are not detaining them. We secured six people for questioning. Of the six, five were found to be not guilty, one person committed a crime and is being processed”, said Pudjiastuti.

Currently there are still 30 people inside the dormitory while the others have returned to their respective boarding houses. Those from out of town have returned home.

One of the student who remained inside the dormitory said they felt traumatised. “The Papuan student dormitory is still under military siege, but we are now able to continue activities, unlike yesterday on Friday. On Friday, it was dangerous for us to even go out. We were hungry because we couldn’t leave the dormitory to get food”, they said.

The social organisations that wanted to attack the Papuan students, they said, were not just patrolling in front of the dormitory, but also on Jl. Timoho, Malioboro and Glagahsari. They conducted sweeps for Papuans. Not surprisingly, all of this has made Papuan residents in Yogyakarta feel threatened and intimidated (agk)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Kisah Mahasiswa Papua di Yogya Dua Hari Terkurung di Asrama.]