At least 20 injured, scores arrested in Friday's protests against Papua carve up

Source – June 3, 2022
Merauke police prepare to break up rally against DOB in Kuda Mati area – June 3, 2022 (Kompas)

Vitorio Mantalean, Jakarta – The Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) says that as of Friday evening, June 3, at least 20 people had been injured as a result of police violence in dealing with protest actions against the creation of new autonomous regions (DOB) in Papua and West Papua provinces.

Protest actions began on Friday morning but demonstrators later clashed with police. "In Sorong there were 10 people who were injured. In Jayapura 10 people were [also] injured", LBH Papua Chairperson Emanuel Gobay told on Friday evening.

This data was obtained through monitoring and assistance provided by LBH Papua.

The actions themselves involved more than 2,000 people including students and indigenous Papuans (OAP) who took to the streets. "The injuries were a consequence the repressive approach by police against demonstrators when they broke up the rallies", added Gobay.

Police also arrested several people during the protests. "In Nabire there were 23 who were arrested then released later in the afternoon, in Jayapura meanwhile there were two people who were arrested then released later", explained Gobay.

As of this article being published however, local police were still denying that any protesters were injured.

Jayapura city municipal police chief Assistant Superintendent Victor Makbon said that the protest actions opposing the creation of new autonomous regions were forcibly broken up because they did not have a permit.

"Initially, earlier, there were some who resisted police, so the police had to take [firm] measures", he said in a written release on Friday.

Police however said that there were also several demonstrations which were facilitated so the protesters were able to convey their aspirations without problems. This included rallies on Jalan Biak and at the State Housing Company (Perumnas) III.

According to Makbon, police gave Papua People's Petition (PRP) leaders an opportunity to organise a permit in accordance with regulations. This however was not done so police deemed the protests to be illegal.

"[Earlier] we communicated with [PRP spokesperson] Jefry Wenda as the person responsible for the actions and we conveyed the conditions but he wasn't able to fulfill these conditions, such as the PRP as an organisation being registered with Kesbang [the National Unity and Social Protection Agency] and the [rally] method and how many protesters", he said.

"[So] we told them it was not allowed but we would facilitate them if they wanted to go to the DPRD [Regional House of Representatives], we asked how many representatives wanted to go there, but [these conditions] were not met", he continued.

Following the breakup of the demonstrations, photographs of several injured people were posted on social media accompanied by an explanation that they were injured due to repressive actions by police when they broke up the rallies.

Makbon insisted that this information is untrue or a hoax.

"We checked the postings and will conduct a follow up investigation on the account which spread this information or hoaxes on the social media Facebook", he exclaimed.

He also explained that the information accompanying the photographs were not in accordance with the facts so the person who uploaded them will be held liable for their actions.

"In the postings it said that the protesters were injured in the Expo area but in fact there were no protesters holding an action in the Expo area and [we] did not forcibly break up [any rallies] at Expo while in the Uncen [the Cenderawasih University] area we took a [measured] approach because the demonstrators closed off the road so measured actions were taken, but no one was hurt", said Makbon.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "LBH Papua: Sedikitnya 20 Orang Terluka dalam Demo Tolak DOB".]