More Anti-Racism Protests Turn Violent in Papua, Indonesia - Internet Restriction Still in Effect

A riot happened in the city of Jayapura, Papua Province, after an anti-racism protest turned violent on Thursday, 29th August, 2019.
A riot happened in the city of Jayapura, Papua Province, after an anti-racism protest turned violent on Thursday, 29th August, 2019.

Thousands of residents in the city originally held a demonstration in order to address the alleged racism acts against Papuan students in several cities all around Indonesia between 15th and 18th August, 2019. However, before the protesters made proper orations, the situation was heating up.

According to Papua Police Chief Inspector General Rudolf Albert Rodja, on Friday, 30th August 2019, the riot happened after there was an alleged provocation. The police is still investigating the parties who are responsible inciting the riot.

The rioters burned the Office of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP) along with several shops, offices and cars in Jayapura. The mob also broke into Abepura prison and 4 prisoners are reported missing. There were at least 20 fires all around Jayapura on last Thursday's night.

The communication, including internet and telephone lines in Jayapura is still disturbed last night after the mob burned Base Transceiver Station (BTS) which caused the cellular network cease to function. There were 313 BTS which belong to Telkomsel that were affected.

The police was using water canon to dispere the angry crowds when they were trying to enter the Governor office. There are 30 people that are being detained for questionings. Five hundred joint TNI-Polri personnels were deployed to secure the protest.

This morning, 31st August, 2019, the situation in Jayapura is slowly melting and the economic activities are being resumed.

Similar riot also happened in Manokwari Regency, West Papua Province on Monday, 19th August 2019 and in Deiyai Regency, Papua Province on 28th August 2019. The clashes in Deiyai Regency claimed the lives of four civilians (updated on 4th September, 2019) and one Indonesian Armed Force (TNI). The riot in Deiyai also caused numerous injuries on civilians and security forces.

Big riots in three cities in Papua and West Papua Province. Courtesy of Google Maps.
According to Head of the Public Information Bureau of the Police Public Relations Division Brigadier General (Pol) Dedi Prasetyo, the armed criminal group in Deiyai was suspected attacking the security forces first with arrows and guns. The criminals provoke the police and military personnel with war dance before commencing the attack. It is possible that the group is related to the Free Papua Movement, an armed separatist group that wants independence for Papua.

Events Which Lead to Riots in Papua

  • August 15th , 2019. Papuan students and Malang residents clashed. Papuan Student Alliance and the Indonesian People Front for West Papua held a peaceful protest condemning the signing of the New York Agreement between Indonesia and Netherlands on August 15, 1962. As a result, 23 Papuan students were injured.

  • August 16th, 2019. A number of non-governmental organizations visited the Papuan student dormitory on Kalasan street, Surabaya, East Java. The students was accused of breaking Indonesian flagpole and throwing it into a ditch. Student representative was trying to explain that the news was not true. The dormitory was besiged. Racial slurs and rocks were thrown.

  • August 17th, 2019. Police fired tear gas and stromed the Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya after the students refuse to come out when the police asked them for statements. The police loaded 43 students and brought them in for questenings. The police denied that the student were arrested,and said that they only wanted to protect the students for angry mobs.

  • August 18th, 2019. The students are sent back to dormitory since there was no evidence of flag pole being damaged. Separately in Semarang, a banner which stated that the citizen of Candi district refuse the presence of West Papuan students raised tension in the area.

  • August 19th, 2019. Riot in Manokwari, West Papua. The Papuan citizen protest against racist treatments to Papuan students turned violent. Shops were being looted and Regional People's Representative Assembly was burned down. Internet in Papua was being thortled. In Bandung, students held a peaceful rally in solidarity of Papua. More peaceful rallies were being held in the coming days in various city in Indonesia to support Papua and protesting racism.

  • August 28th, 2019. Bloody riot in Deiyai Regency, Papua. Four civilians (updated on 4th September, 2019) and one Indonesian Armed Force personnel were fatally wounded. Armed criminal group attacked the security forces with arrows, guns, and other projectile weapons.

  • August 29th, 2019. The Jayapura Riot happened.

Government Responses on Jayapura Riot

Reported in Kompas, on the night of the Jayapura Riot, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) immediately gave instructions on how to deal with the situation. He instructed the security and intelligence agencies to crack down the anarchism perpetrators. Jokowi sent a message to citizen of Papua to remain calm and he also promised to schedule a meeting with the Papauan leaders. Furthermore he said that he will evaluate the handling of the riot. Despite knowing that the tension has been increasing for the last two weeks, the government failed to prevent Jayapura Riot from happening.

Riot in Jayapura, Papua Province, Indonesia
Riot in Jayapura, Papua Province, Indonesia

The mayor of Jayapura, Benhur Tommy Mano, condemned the protest which turned violent. According to the mayor, the demonstration carried out by the Jayapura citizen was no longer a venue for expressing opinions. Benhur said that the action was purely anarchic because it caused destructions and disturbed the innocents. Benhur stated that the protests related to the alleged racism against Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, should be only be done once. He also asserted that as the mayor, he is responsible for the security of Jayapura city.

The governement also sent 129 Marines from Indonesian Navy and 250 Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) to strengthen the security of Jayapura post-riot situation. Reported in Kompas, more than a thousand personnel are planned to participate to secure the situation.

Internet Access is Still Being Restricted in Papua

Internet access in Papua is stilll being limited. It has been going on since the riot in Manokwari Regency, West Papua Province on Monday, 19th August 2019. The decision to limit internet access is done in order to suppress the spread of hoax news which is feared could worsen the atmosphere in Papua.

Acting Head of the Public Relations Bureau of the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kominfo) Ferdinandus Setu, reported by on Friday 30th August 2019, said that more than 300 thousand hoaxes and provocative contents are still scattered in social media.

Ferdinandus added that the internet restriction in Papua was a joint decision between the National Police Chief, the Indonesia Armed Force Commander and the Coordinator Ministry for Politics and Security.

The cell phone black out in Jayapura however is not related to the internet restriction. The cellular coomunication is being disturbed due to damaged BTS cables owned by Telkomsel after the riot.

The internet blockade in Papua has come under fire from various parties, one of which is from the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet).

There is no certain date on when the internet restriction in Papua will be lifted.

Indonesia is about to move its capital city to East Kalimantan from Jakarta, read the full news here.