West Papua-wide anti-racism protests accompanied by violence – eight protesters killed, 50 injured during crackdown in Waghete

Last week, anti-racism rallies in West Papua were accompanied by riots, chaos and violent crackdowns by security forces. The protests occurred in response to acts of racial discrimination and assault by security forces and nationalist mass organisations against Papuan students in the Javanese cities of Malang, Surabaya and Semarang in mid-August. The protesters also expressed their aspirations for political self-determination, arguing that Papuans are treated as ‘second-class’ citizens in Indonesia. The government deployed additional security forces in various Papuan regions and has blocked the internet across in the Provinces of Papua and Papua Barat since 19 August 2019 to prevent the spreading of information through social media and hamper media coverage on the current situation in West Papua. The worst outbreak of violence was reported from the regency of Deiyai, where the forceful dispersal of demonstrations resulted in the deaths of eight protesters. Fifty protesters were injured during the crackdown.

Peaceful anti-racism protests without major incidents took place in the Papuan towns of Merauke (19.08), Sorong (19/20/21.08), Nabire (20&22.08), Serui (20.08), Biak (20/21.08), Wamena (20.08), Enarotali (26.08), Moanemani (26.08), Dekai (26.08) and Wamena (26.08.)

Waghete, Deiyai Regency

On 28.08.2019 around 10.30 am, several thousand protesters gathered at the soccer field in the town of Waghete. At 11.30 am, the protesters walked to the Deiyai regent’s office, where several activists made orations, condemning the racist acts against Papuan students in multiple cities in Java. The protesters intended to share their aspirations with local Government officials. Meanwhile, a large number of security force members in full attire and full armament gathered at the regent’s office

At 1.50 pm, a black vehicle (Type: Toyota Inova) crashed a protester named Yustinus Takimai. Yustinus sustained a lethal wound and instantly died on the spot. The incident triggered an outbreak of violence. Angry protesters who witnessed the incident allegedly shot arrows at military members inside the vehicle. One military member was killed during the attack. The protesters began to throw rocks, after the soldiers released shots at the attackers. The joint security forces responded by shooting tear gas grenades and firing with live ammunition into the crowd.

Around 3.00pm, joint security forces prevented an ambulance from Deiyai General Hospital from providing medical first aid to injured protesters lying in the yard in front of the regent’s office. At 4.30, the Deiyai General Hospital temporarily closed because the medical staff feared reprisals from the security forces, hence the injured protesters had to be brought to the Madi General Hospital in the neighbouring Paniai Regency. According to information received, at least eight protesters were killed and 50 injured (see image & table below) – the vast majority of them sustained bullet wounds. One army member was killed and seven mobile brigade police officers injured during the incident.

bodies fatalities Deiyai riot editHuman rights defenders reported that at least eight protesters were killed  and 50 injured Many indigenous peoples in the areas around the towns Enarotali, Moanemani and Waghete have fled into the surrounding forest due to the heavy police and military presence in the regencies Deiyai, Paniai and Dogiyai. Schools, offices and shops were closed because people feared further reprisals by security forces. It was reported that security force members lost ten fire arms during the riot, which were later returned.

Table with fatalities during violent crack down on anti-racism demonstration in Waghete,  Deiyai Regency

No

Name

Age

Date of death

Additional information

1

Yulstinus Takimai

24 years

20.08.2019

was crashed by military vehicle and died on the spot

2

Alpius Pigai

20 years

28.08.2019

Sustained bullet wound on the chest causing instant death

3

Marinus Ikomou

37 years

28.08.2019

Escaped to Yaba Village and later died in a different village

4

Hans Ukago

26 years

28.08.2019

Sustained bullet wound in the back. The bullet remained in his chest. He died in front of the entrance gate to regent’s office

5

Derikson Adii

21 years

28.08.2019

Escaped to Mogouda Village where he died

6

Pilemon Waine

28 years

28.08.2019

Sustained bullet wound in the chest causing instant death

7

Aminadap Kotouki

35 years

28.08.2019

Sustained bullet wound in the abdomen. The bullet exited on the back. Amindap died on the spot

8

Yemi Douw

29 years

30.08.2019

Sustained bullet wound in the abdomen. He died later in the village of Puyai

Jayapura
On 19.08.2019 and 29.08.2019, thousands of protesters participated in anti-racism demonstrations in the city of Jayapura. The demonstration on 29.08.2019 was accompanied by outbreaks of violence. The protesters set several office buildings and shops on fire (see intro image) – among them the Papuan Peoples Council (Majelis Rakyat Papua, MRP). According to the Papuan news outlet tabloid Jubi, 15 protesters were injured by rubber bullets. A protester named Maxi Kamesrar (24 years) was allegedly beaten by police members with a rifle butt and sustained a bleeding injury on the right temple.

Police officers arrested 64 persons during and after the riots. Twenty-eight of them have been charged with article 170 of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) on mass violence against persons or property, which is punishable with a maximum sentence of twelve years imprisonment.

Manokwari
Outbreaks of violence occurred during the ant-racism demonstration in the town of Manokwari on 19.08.2019. Angry protesters set the local parliament building on fire and burned tires on the roads. A second peaceful anti-racism demonstration took place on 26.08.2019.

Fak-Fak
On 20.08.2019, an anti-racism demonstration was launched in Fak-Fak. The demonstration continued the following day. Observers stated that pro-Indonesian mass organisations organised a counter demonstration on 21.08.2019. The pro-Government protesters allegedly attacked Papuan protesters and set the local branch office of the Papuan customary council on fire. In response, angry protesters torched a traditional market as well as small shops and destroyed roads. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Several protesters were allegedly injured.

Timika
On 21.08.2019, several thousand protesters participated in an anti-racism demonstration in the town of Timika. The protesters gathered in front of Mimika local parliament building, where activists made orations and demanded to meet with the parliament chairperson and the regent of Mimika. The situation escalated as the government officials did not meet the protesters. The protesters allegedly threw rocks at the joint security force members who dispersed the crowd with tear gas. Angry protesters vandalized security force vehicles, civil cars, a large hotel and burnt down road construction equipment. The police arrested 45 protesters during the riots and pressed criminal charges against 34 of them.   

Related developments
The police carried out arrests and pressed charges against 97 persons in multiple places, which are believed to be related to the riots in West Papua. Police officers took three students in Jakarta into custody. The police pressed charges against 28 persons in Jayapura, 34 persons in Timika, 10 persons in the regency of Deiyai and four persons in the town of Manokwari.

Human rights defenders reported that pro Government groups mainly consisting of migrants have mobilised in the cities of Jayapura and Fak-Fak. The presence of such groups is expected to raise the potentials for outbreaks of horizontal violence. Many indigenous Papuans in Jayapura are hesitant to leave their houses fearing arbitrary attacks and assaults by members of such groups.  

The Pacific Conference of Churches published a statement on 22.08.2019, in which PCC General Secretary, Rev. James, called “… on Indonesia to immediately allow access to Papua by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN mandate holders. We call on those Pacific Island countries with relations with Indonesia to leverage their relationships to make this happen now.” Following the deterioration of the security situation in West Papua, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General called for urgent action to end increasing levels of violence in West Papua, together with a human rights investigation.