Pacific Media Watch

12 March 2014

WEST PAPUA: Armed riot police blockade Papuan student rally

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Scenes from Gempar rally rejecting Otsus Plus in Jayapura. Image: West Papua Media

JAYAPURA (West Papua Media Alerts / Pacific Media Watch): Several hundred students and civil society members led by the Papuan Student Movement (GEMPAR, or “Uproar”) holding a peaceful demonstration in Jayapura on March 11 were again blockaded by about 200 armed riot police.

The police imposed a ban on the gathering, after a similar gathering on March 4 drew world attention.

The demonstration was called to show the extent of public opposition to the proposed new Special Autonomy “Plus” (Otsus Plus) legislation due to be imposed on Papua and West Papua provinces later in 2014.

Despite having the right of freedom of expression guaranteed under Special Autonomy legislation, large numbers of  Indonesian occupation force police banned the gathering and prevented students from leaving the Cenderawasih Universtiy (UNCEN) grounds. 

Scores of police were also on hand at other GEMPAR rallying points, at the new UNCEN gate, the old archway entrance to UNCEN, campus dormitories, and also outside the main post office in Abepura.

Police prevented unarmed civil society participants from joining the rally, according to witnesses, and blockaded several groups of Papuan civilians across Abepura and Jayapura.

Scores of riot police in full armour, several ranks of heavily armed Brimob commandos from the Sabhara Perintis and Gegana anti-terror units, including several members of the Australian-funded Detachment 88 counter-terror unit, backed up by more than 100 plain clothes armed intelligence agents were dispersed throughout the town.

Rally banned
The Jayapura Police Chief, Alfred Papare, had banned the rally due to a highly restrictive set of conditions and threatened to use for against the protesters. However, negotiation ensured that the day remained without violence, despite intelligence agents menacing violence. 

West Papua Media (WPM) stringers reported and photographed several instances where media workers were being filmed and identified by intelligence officers and police.

Jayapura Police chief Papare demonstrated his opposition to democratic rights in Papua by providing a letter that outlined ten reasons for the rally ban, saying:

-  that GEMPAR is not an approved organisation in the eyes of police;

-  it did not pre-approve all pamphlets and banners with police beforehand

-  it refused to name individual organisers and speakers at the action;

-  did not provide Police with crowd numbers, nor get traffic clearance;

-  police would not recognise the local time zone of WPB, as it considers observance of local time as an act of separatism.  Indonesia only recognises time zones as WIB ( Western Indonesian Time), CET/WITA ( Central Indonesian Time ) and WIT/EST ( Eastern Indonesia Time);

-  previous rallies caused traffic jams;

-  Gempar Chairman Yason Ngelia had previous shouted slogans and made speeches against government policy and the state, and was therefore allegedly “spreading hatred against Indonesia”;

-  That all acts of free expression, collective action, mass rallies and peaceful protest were banned “To maintain the internal security situation conducive to smotth implementation of the democratic  legislative elections and the 2014 presidential election in the city of Jayapura” as that “could destabilise internal security.”

Peaceful gathering
West Papua Media journalist Nare Yare (a pseudonym) reported that despite these bans, students were undeterred and began a several peaceful gathering at the old arch gates of the university at 8.30am, also gathering outside the student dormitories at Perumnas 3 Housing Complex in Waena. 

Other participants in the days events began a traditional cultural long march around 0920 to the UNCEN office of Lukas Enembe, Indonesia’s appointed Governor in Papua province.

However, police began to confront  and blockade the peaceful protesters at 1040am outside Perumnas 3 to prevent the marches from joining up, and about 15 minutes of shield charges, flying wedge attacks, physical pushing and shoving occurred between students and riot police. 

There were no arrests reported, nor significant injuries at his time.

Later, protesters regrouped and attempted to read out statements at the Governor’s office, but police again moved in to prevent the statement criticising Otsus Plus being read. 

Protesters then finished the  rally outside Perumnas 3, a site of martyrdom for West Papua youth, after several human rights abuses took place there, including the broad daylight extrajudicial assassination of former KNPB leader Mako Tabuni in 2012 by Detachment 88 officers.

At the archway entrance to UNCEN, Gempar coordinators conducted speeches and street theatre, with a creative theatre of West Papuan students, one by one, stamping into the dust and asphalt a copy of the draft Otsus Plus legislation, shouting “Tolak Otsus Gagal!” (“Reject Special Autonomy Plus!”). 

Symbolic fire
This was then symbolically set on fire to finalise its rejection.

Protest coordinator Yason Ngelia said in a speech at Perumnas 3:

We reject Autonomy Plus.  Special autonomy has failed , we must determine our own fate.  The Special Autonomy Plus draft is prepared not from the desire of the people of Papua , but for the Governor and the interests of bureaucrats.  We will keep demonstrating until there is a solution for the fate of Papuans.

The GEMPAR demonstration in its rejection of Otsus Plus demanded three points:

-  that the government of Jakarta, the government of Papua and West Papua stop discussion of implementation Special Autonomy Plus;

-  The government of Papua and West Papua, along with the DPRP and MRP, begin facilitating Public Hearings of the support or rejection of Otsus Plus for all components of Papuan society;

-  A referendum to be held on whether Papuans want Special Autonomy Plus.

Even during this peaceful reading of the opposition of Papua people to legislation seen as imposed by Jakarta on West Papua,  police still blockaded the road with large numbers growing to more than 300 police.

Due to this intimidation and threats of further violence from security forces, organisers cancelled the rally and dispersed just before 2pm local time.

Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators. (cc) Creative Commons