Medan/Bandung/Jakarta – Scores of student from Papua studying in the North Sumatra city of Medan have protested the persecution, intimidation and racism against fellow Papuan students in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya.
The students held a long-march from the North Sumatra University (USU) campus to the offices of the North Sumatra Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) on Monday August 19.
During the march, the students wore paraphernalia with symbols of the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) independence flag such as T-shirts, bracelets and bags. One of the banners carried by students from the Papuan Students Association (IPM) clearly displayed the Bintang Kejora flag.
They also sang parts of the Papuan song Not the Red-and-White during a rally in front of the DPRD.
“Papua is not the red-and-white [Indonesia’s national colours]. Papua is not the red-and-white. Papua is the Morning Star. Only recently do you call it red-and-white”, sang the students.
“You (Indonesia) oppress us, the Papuan Nation. This is a form of solidarity for our sisters and brothers in Surabaya who were called monkeys”, said action coordinator Damiel Wandik during a speech in front of the DPRD.
Security in front of the DPRD building was tight with security personnel and police officers on standby. The main gate into the parliamentary building was also tightly shut.
A similar action also took place in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.
Scores of students from the Land of Papua Student Solidarity Association (Imasepa) held a peaceful protest at the Gedung Sate building (the governor’s office) in Bandung city on Monday.
They held the action to condemn last week’s racial discrimination against the Papuan students in Surabaya and the East Java city of Malang.
The rally, which was held at 2 pm, was closely guarded by police. The students shouted slogans and held up posters containing their demands.
According to Imasepa Bandung coordinator Wek Kosay, the protest action was held to condemn and declare their position on the incidents which befell their colleagues in Malang and Surabaya.
“We strongly condemn the repressive actions carried out by the police against [Papuan] demonstrators. We believe that the Malang and Surabaya police have failed to uphold prevailing regulations, namely National Police Chief Regulation Number 16/2016”, said Kosay in reading out Imasepa’s demands.
Imasepa also demanded that the East Java police chief apologise to the Papuan students who fell victim to the attack.
“The Malang mayor must immediately sack [the police chief] and issue an apology and a statement of restitution to the Papuan students studying in Malang”, the group said.
In addition to this, the protesters also called for an immediate end to racism and repression against Papuan students and for the police to uncover the perpetrators behind the violence in Surabaya.
As reported earlier, a number of ormas (social or mass organisation) arrived at the Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya. They tried to force their way into the dormitory but were blocked by police on guard in front of the dormitory gates.
The incident was apparently triggered by the Papuan student’s reluctance to put up the national red-and-white flag on the dormitory grounds to mark Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17.
The ormas then pelted the student dormitory with rocks and shouted racist insults at the students inside. In response to the incident, protests have taken place in several parts of the country. (fnr/hyg)
[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The second part of the article covered the protests and riots in Manokwari and Sarong which have already been widely reported in the English language media. The original title of the article was “Gelombang Demo Mahasiswa Papua Menjalar ke Bandung dan Medan”.]