Police break up protest against Papua special autonomy, 140 arrested

Manokwari protest
The Manokwari demonstration against special autonomy in Papua moments before security forces broke it up and arrested scores of people. Image: Suara Papua

By Charles Maniani in Manokwari, West Papua

A joint unit of Indonesian military and police have broken up a West Papuan rally against the extension of special autonomy and at least 140 demonstrators were arrested – but later released.

The detainees were taken to the West Papua regional police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) command headquarters after the rally by the Papuan People’s Solidarity (SRP) was disbanded on Tuesday.

Action coordinator Arnold Halitopo said that the arrests took place about 7.15 am when the demonstrators were forced into police tactical vehicles under tight security.

“Our action was held at five points in Manokwari, first in front of the University of Papua campus, second at the AMD Amban, third at Reremi Puncak, fourth at Fanindi and fifth at the Wosi traffic light intersection,” he said.

“This is our second demonstration to deliver our demands to the West Papua People’s Council (MRPB). The protest was broken up by police.

“Hundreds of fully armed soldiers and police were closely guarding all points. One hundred and forty six of us were taken to the Mako Brimob. [We were] held there all day then released at 5 pm,” he told Suara Papua newspaper.

The demands of the follow up action, said Halitopo, were expressing their opposition to special autonomy (Otsus) and for the right to self-determination to be given to the Papuan nation.

Several people injured
Halitopo said that several people were reportedly injured when police forced them into the vehicles.

“Comrades were injured when getting into the vehicles. Several people had bruised faces because of the police violence,” he said.

Halitopo also claimed that when they arrived at the Mako Brimob, the police asked the demonstrators for their fingerprints.

“I asked, ‘why must we get our fingerprints taken?’ What we were doing is in accordance with the prevailing regulations on demonstrations.

“But we were asked for our identities, full name, parents and employment. I don’t know what for,” said Halitopo.

According to Halitopo, the action was a follow up to an earlier protest on Friday, May 21. They already had a permit for the demonstration and calls for a peaceful action had been circulated.

But Halitopo said he was surprised that the police had blocked them from protesting for reasons which were unclear. It was said that they did not comply with covid-19 health protocols.

Police intimidation
Runi Seleng, one of the speakers at the action, said that after being transported to the Mako Brimob they were intimidated by police.

“We were intimidated, including being interrogated about the field coordinator and who was responsible for the action, then they asked us to testify about Papuan activists who were said to be the key actors.

“But we said that it was purely an action by the Papuan People’s Solidarity who are aware that Otsus has failed”, explained Seleng.

After negotiations with police, four MRPB members met with the detained demonstrators. They wanted to hear their demands at the Mako Brimob, but the protesters insisted that it must be at the MRPB offices in accordance with an agreement with the MRPB speaker and demonstrators on Friday (May 21).

“In addition to this, the protesters were determined to hold a follow up demonstration.

“The people’s aspirations have not yet been received [by the MRPB]. Despite being intimidated and terrorised, we will come back again until our aspirations are heard,” said Seleng.

Following the arrest a number of sympathisers occupied the MRPB offices until late afternoon asking the MRPB to immediately secure the detainees’ release. At 5.30 pm, the MRPB confirmed that they had been released and had returned home.

Speaking separately, Manokwari regional police chief Assistant Superintendent Dadang Kurniawan confirmed that a group of people holding a demonstration without following covid-19 health protocols had been arrested and later released.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Ratusan Pendemo di Manokwari Ditahan 10 Jam di Markas Brimob”.

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