Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
Indonesian police forcibly dispersed a student protest near the Cendrawasih University (Uncen) in Jayapura, Papua, yesterday and the police “denied any clash” even though video footage shows action by heavily armoured security forces.
The students were protesting against an extension of Special Autonomy (Otsus) for Papua.
“There wasn’t any clash, Polri [the police] forcibly broke it up after holding negotiations”, said Papua regional police public relations division head Senior Commissioner Ahmad Musthofa Kamal when contacted by CNN Indonesia.
Kamal declined to spell out in detail what happened at the rally or what situation existed so that security personnel had to forcibly disband the demonstration.
Uncen student representative Ayus Heluka said that they were calling for a study of the Special Autonomy policy which would involve local people which would then be handed over to the Papua provincial government.
Heluka cited the stipulations in the Special Autonomy law itself, specifically Article 7, which says that when the Special Autonomy period ends a decision on its extension shall be made by the Papuan people.
“For this reason we (the Uncen students) are demanding that Otsus be returned to the people. Listen to what the ordinary Papuan people want,” Heluka told CNN Indonesia.
Demand for a referendum
Initially, said Heluka, the students wanted to hold a protest action in front of the Papuan governor’s office. They were also demanding that a referendum be held so that the Papuan people could determine their own future.
However, he said, the protest action was forcibly broken up by police. He added that several students were also arrested.
“Before we [the students] got to the governor’s office, we were disbanded by police. Three people were injured after being hit by blunt instruments, and three people were arrested [but have since been released],” said Heluka.
In a video circulating on social media, scores of Indonesian police and TNI (Indonesian military) officers could be seen on guard in the vicinity of the Uncen front gate.
Several of them appeared to be wearing uniforms complete with body armour and helmets. Officers carrying teargas launchers could be seen and a police tactical vehicle was parked at the location.
Another video showed protesters scattering in disarray after hearing sounds resembling gunshots. Kamal however declined to respond to questions about alleged gunshots during the rally.
A wave of protests against the extension of Special Autonomy has taken place in Papua.
Thousands of demonstrators
Last Thursday, September 24, thousands of demonstrators from the Papua People’s Petition (PRP) protested in Nabire regency, Papua, opposing Special Autonomy.
Action spokesperson Jefry Wenda stated that they had planned to hold a protest against Special Autonomy in front of the Nabire governor’s office but before it could begin, protesters were blockaded then driven away by police.
After negotiations, in the end the action went ahead in front the Nabire district police (Polres) station.
“After negotiations with police, the demonstrators held a long-march from the Nabire River Bridge. Our action at Polres was also to visit our friends who are being detained”, he told CNN Indonesia.
Wenda explained that they opposed the extension of Special Autonomy because since its implementation there had been no positive impact felt by the Papuan people.
Translated by James Balowski for Indoleft News. The original title of the article was “Polisi Bubarkan Paksa Demo Mahasiswa Uncen Tolak Otsus Papua”.