Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Hundreds of Cendrawasih University (Uncen) students took to the streets last week to hold actions opposing the creation of new provinces in Papua, says Papua Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) director Emanuel Gobay.
He said that the actions were held at several places as well as a long march to the Papua Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) offices on Tuesday.
However, when the students wanted to hold the action, a joint unit of police was already on alert at each location with 20-30 officers on guard.
“During the action they planned to gather at several points, first at upper Uncen, lower Uncen, Expo and Abe. But since early morning police had already gathered at the places,” Gobay told CNN Indonesia.
Gobay explained that before the action was held, the students had already sent a notification to the district police that the action would be held peacefully.
But the police instead forcibly broke up the potests and sprayed the protesters with water cannon.
“When they used water cannon, the students ran into a boarding house located at Abepura,” he said.
“Then followed [the incident at] Uncen Abepura, where they were blocked by police. So the students couldn’t get out. In the end the Uncen Abepura [students] joined with those at Waena in Taruna Bakti. They gathered there, then those at Uncen also gathered at the Taruna Bakti senior high school,” he said.
Police ‘brutal’ with students
Gobay said the students tried to negotiate with police but were rebuffed. A joint unit of police kept forcing the protesters to disperse.
“What was most disappointing was that the head of the Jayapura district police intelligence unit was there and even he ordered them to disperse the protesters brutally,” he said.
“By brutal, I mean they didn’t heed one word from the students when they were invited to negotiate.”
According to Gobay, the police attitude showed that the democratic space for negotiating was not being heeded. Yet the right to negotiations was guaranteed under Law Number 19/1998 on the freedom to express an opinion in public.
Gobay said that the police should be “more human” and prioritise dialogue.
“There methods are excessive, as if they are dealing with a riot. This needs special attention from the Indonesian police chief to the Papua regional police chief, especially the Jayapura district police chief and the head of the intelligence unit.
“In particular, the use of firearms at peaceful actions.”
Papua regional police public relations chief Senior Commissioner Ahmad Musthofa Kamal said that the protests “proceeded normally”. He did not say how many police officers were deployed although the number “was sufficient”.
Papuans oppose provincial break-up plan
Earlier, Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian had said Papua would be split up into six provinces, although the plan was not yet final and was still being debated.
The six provinces proposed by the government are Southwest Papua, West Papua, Central Papua, the Central Highlands, South Papua and Papua Tabi Saireri.
The plan however has been strongly opposed by Papuans.
Papua People’s Council (MRP) member Minggus Madai said that the plan was being pushed through despite the Papua region not meeting the demographic and other criteria for being split up.
Minggus said that if the plan went ahead, it would only add new problems in Papua.
“The Papuan people refer to this as a ‘killing machine’ for the Papuan people. It’s not appropriate to force it through,” said Minggus.
Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was BLBH Sebut Demo Tolak Pemekaran di Papua Dibubarkan Secara rutal.