Protesters arrested and beaten at Papuan pro-independence rally in Jakarta

BBC News Indonesia – December 2, 2016
Police use water cannon to disperse Papuan demonstrators in Jakarta - December 1, 2016 (Rima News)
Police use water cannon to disperse Papuan demonstrators in Jakarta - December 1, 2016 (Rima News)

Mehulika Sitepu, Indonesia – Police used water cannons to disperse a rally by Papuan near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Thursday December 1.

According to police the protesters did not have a permit to demonstrate although protesters insist that they had already submitted a notification with police in accordance with procedures.

“In fact we had already submitted [the notification] three days earlier in accordance with procedures. Police said they refused a permit. [So] We had already informed them”, said Veronica Koman from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) who accompanied the protesters.

Tensions rose resulting in a scuffle between police and activists with police arresting 10 people. Veronica said that they claimed to have been assaulted after being arrested.

“(They) were gathered together in an open area, their IDs were recorded and they were photographed. Some even had their ID cards and mobile phones confiscated but they haven’t been returned. Then they were beaten, kicked to point that one suffered head injuries. When they were in the police truck they were abused yet again”, said Veronica.

The 10 arrested activists are Surya Anta (Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua, FRI-WP spokesperson), Yohanes Damian (Social Movement for Democracy, Gema Demokrasi), Markus Medlama (Papua Student Alliance, AMP), Anka Thomas, Jefri Wanda, Frans Nawipa, Iriantibus Murib, Frans Douw, Pyan Pagawak and Minus Gibian.

After calling on police to release their comrades, around 200 other demonstrators then surrendered themselves to police for arrest.

“They voluntarily got into the [police] trucks. We facilitated it, we took them away in trucks that transported them to the regional police [headquarters]”, said Metro Jaya (Central Jakarta) district police chief Senior Commissioner Dwiyono.

Actions in other cities

December 1 actions were not just restricted to Jakarta but also took place in Makassar (South Sulawesi), Yogyakarta (Central Java), Palu (Central Sulawesi), Poso (Central Sulawesi), Ternate (North Maluku) and Jayapura, Manokwari, Merauke, Sorong, Timika and Wamena in West Papua.

In Yogyakarta, 14 FRI-WP activists were arrested by police, although in other cities the rallies proceeded peacefully. In Jakarta meanwhile, the 200 Papuan activists who surrendered to police to be arrested were eventually released.

Demanding a referendum

“Papua is not red-and-white! [the colours of the Indonesian national flag]” and “Papua! Independence!” shouted protesters in Jakarta, who took to the streets to demand a referendum to determine the future of West Papua.

“It’s not a question of prosperity or anything else, but they feel that they were deceived by Pepera (the so-called 1979 ‘Act of Free Choice). They want the Indonesian government to acknowledge that it was a ‘sham referendum’”, said Veronica.

Veronica explained, “At the time of the Pepera the Papuan population was 800,000 and in accordance with the New York agreement it was promised that everyone would have a vote (one man-one vote). However only 1,022 people were selected to appear [and vote]. They cast their vote under intimidation.

Veronica admits that it will still be a long road towards the referendum that they want because President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem in Papua.

“Jokowi says that there isn’t a problem in Papua. So how can [the government] acknowledge the roots of the problem in Papua if Jokowi himself refuses to acknowledge there is a problem?”.

“However the reality is that there has been a systematic media blackout in Papua. Since April 2016 more than 4,700 Papuans have been arrested and this is not being heard in Jakarta”.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was Polisi gunakan meriam air untuk bubarkan aksi pegiat Papua di Jakarta.]