West Papua-wide anti-racism protests accompanied by violence – eight protesters killed, 31 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. Thirty-one 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 towards the Deiyai regent’s office, where the several activists made orations, condemning the racist acts against Papuan students in Java. Around 1.50 pm, a military vehicle reportedly crashed a protester named Yustinus Takimai causing his instant death. The incident triggered an outbreak of violence. Protesters allegedly shot arrows at the military members steering the vehicle. As the soldiers released shots at the attackers, the protesters began to throw rocks against the security forces. The joint security forces responded using teargas grenades and firing with live ammunition into the crowd.

bodies fatalities Deiyai riot editHuman rights defenders reported that at least eight protesters were killed (see image on the right & table below) and 31 injured – twelve of them sustained bullet wounds. According to information received, joint security forces prevented an ambulance of Deiyai General Hospital from providing medical first aid to injured protesters, who were lying on the yard in front of the regent’s office. Since the incident, the Deiyai regency continues to be in state of emergency. 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 are closed because people fear further reprisals by security forces. It was reported that security force members lost ten fore arms during the riot, which have not been returned, yet.

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.