Police break up rally by Papua activists at US embassy in Jakarta – 17 arrested

Papuan US Embassy protest in Jakarta 30092021
Police arrest Papuan activists protesting in front of the US Embassy in Jakarta on 30 September 2021. Image: Ambrosius Mulait/Kompas/IndoLeft News

By Ihsanuddin in Jakarta

Indonesian police forcibly broke up a protest marking the 1962 Rome Agreement in front of the US Embassy in Central Jakarta this week and arrested 17 Papuan activists.

One of the demonstrators, former political prisoner Ambrosius Mulait, said the 17 arrested protesters were forcibly taken away by police as soon as they arrived at the US Embassy.

“We hadn’t even started the action and were forced to get into crowd control vehicles,” said Mulait about the protest on Thursday.

Mulait also said that police were “repressive” when they were arresting the protesters by firing teargas until a physical clash broke out between demonstrators and police.

“Some of our comrades were assaulted by the police,” he said.

Central Jakarta district police chief Senior Commissioner Hengki Hariyadi confirmed that 17 Papuan activists were arrested.

Hariyadi said that they did not allow the protest action because Jakarta was currently under a level 3 Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM) in order to prevent the spread of the covid-19 pandemic.

“During a Level 3 PPKM all activities which have the potential to create crowds are prohibited, in this case they did not have a permit to express an opinion in pubic, so it was without a recommendation from the security forces,” said Hariyadi.

The protest by the Papuan activists made six demands:

  • [The right to hold] an action in the context of marking the 59th anniversary of the Rome Agreement [that led to Jakarta’s colonisation of Papua];
  • President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to withdraw all TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (Indonesian police) from Papua because they were making the situation for the Papuan people “uncomfortable”;
  • Release political prisoner Victor Yeimo who is currently in ill health and is being detained at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) command headquarters in Jayapura;
  • Reject the extension of Special Autonomy for Papua which had failed to bring prosperity to the Papuan people;
  • Give Papuans the right to self-determination (through a referendum);and
  • Reject racism and fully resolve human rights violations in Papua.

IndoLeft News backgrounds the crisis:
The 1962 Rome Agreement was signed by Indonesia, the Netherlands and the United States in Rome on September 30, 1962.

The agreement provided for a postponement of a referendum on West Papua’s status which had been scheduled to be held in 1969 under the New York Agreement signed on August 15, 1962, that the referendum would use a consultative process, that the UN’s report on the implementation of the referendum would be accepted without open debate and on US commitments to invest in resource exploration and provide funds for development programmes in West Papua.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Polisi Tangkap 17 Aktivis Papua yang Akan Demo di Depan Kedubes AS”.

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