Darmadi Sasongko – A protest action on Thursday August 15 by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) in the East Java city of Malang has ended in a riot with protesters and a rival group pelted each other with stones near the Rajabali intersection on Jl Kahuripan.
The Papuan protesters numbering around 70 people initially wanted to hold a march from the Malang City square to the city hall via Jl Basuki Rahmad and Jl Kahuripan.
But throughout the demonstration the police contained the demonstrators to an area on Jl Kahuripan next to the BCA Bank. Despite this they continued giving speeches.
The protesters were kept to one area because a counter action by another group who appeared to disagree with the aims of the protest. Meanwhile demonstrators held negotiations with police so that they could continue the action.
The counter protest came from the direction of the city hall on Jl Kahuripan. Numbering around the same as the protesters the crowd began shouting their opposition to the protest saying that the Papuan students were disturbing public order. “Hey, go home, you’re just disturbing public order in Malang”, shouted the group.
The two groups eventually clashed, pelting each other with stones and chasing each other. The clash occurred along Jl. Basuki Rahmad with the two groups using whatever stones and rocks they could find on the side of the road.
“Until they were pelting each other with stones, chasing each other, rocks were flying. Until a light on a traffic signal was smashed”, said Andik Dwi Bactiar, a local person who was in the vicinity of the incident Thursday.
The atmosphere in and around the location quickly became tense due to the incident, which continued for around 20 minutes. The clash also resulted in a traffic jam until police succeeded in bringing the situation under control. “It also managed to disrupt the flow of traffic”, said Bactiar.
A number of AMP protesters were also detained by police and forced into a police truck then removed from the location. Several appeared to be suffering injures as a result of being hit by stones.
“I went straight inside, because the Papuan kids had already arrived here”, said parking attendant Abdullah.
Malang City municipal police chief Assistant Superintendent Asfuri said that although the two groups pelted each other with stones the clash only lasted a short while before being brought under control.
The police had already been on alert because the AMP demands are prohibited under the stipulations on demonstrations.
“One of the conditions in holding a protest action, is it’s not allowed to disrupt [national] unity, in speeches they kept articulating Free Papua, wanting to separate from Indonesia. We took action to disburse them, based on this regulation”, asserted Asfuri at the location of the clash.
The protesters, who came from several different areas, were then taken back to their respective homes. No arrests were made.
“We returned them to their homes. We didn’t make any arrests, we managed to maintain security in front of UMM [the Muhammadiyah University in Malang]”, he said.
The situation following the incident, which occurred at around 9 am, has now returned to normal. All that can be seen are the stones left over from the clash and a slightly damage traffic light.
The Papuan student’s protest was in commemoration of the New York Agreement which was signed on August 15, 1962 at the UN headquarters in New York, ending the territorial dispute between the Netherlands and Indonesia over West Papua. The treaty led to the so-call 1969 “Act of Free Choice” – a deeply flawed UN sponsored plebiscite that resulted in West Papuan agreeing to remain part of Indonesia. Similar protest were held in several other parts of the country.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Demo Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua di Malang Berujung Rusuh”.]