Update on situation in Wamena and Jayapura after the riots

The recent outbreaks of violence in relation to anti-racism protests in the Papuan cities of Jayapura and Wamena have resulted in the largest number of fatalities in single incidents since the beginning of the ‘Reformasi Period’ in 1998. Statements regarding the death toll in Wamena have varied between Government officials. According to the Head of the Papuan Regional Police Public Relations Desk, Ahmad Mustafa Kamal, the police documented 29 civilian fatalities and 76 injured persons in Wamena. Moreover, 80 cars, 30 motorcycles, 150 shops and houses, a power plant and four government offices were set on fire or severely damaged. The Indonesian Police Chief, Tito Karnavian, mentioned a total number of 26 fatalities and 66 injured persons in a public interview one day later. The fatalities consist of 22 Non-Papuans and four ethnic Papuans, said Karnavian.

The situation in Wamena is still tense (see intro image: situation during riot in Wamena). Two thousand residents were estimated to seek refuge in military bases, the district police office, the local parliament and churches. The electricity in Wamena is still down, which has particularly affected the health services at the Jayawijaya general hospital and other health facilities. The local police in Wamena arrested 17 students after the riots. Twelve students have been released five students remain in custody. The police has pressed charges against three of them.

In Jayapura, the police reportedly arrested 733 students and subsequently detained them at the Police Mobile Brigade headquarters in Kotaraja, Jayapura. While 727 students have been released, six students remain in custody pending further investigation. The police pressed criminal charges against six of them. One student may be charged with the article 106 and/or article 110 regarding treason. According to the head of the Bhayangkara police hospital in Jayapura, Dr. Heri Budiono, five bodies were brought to the hospital, among them one military member. Budiono stated that 24 injured students had been hospitalized in the Bhayangkara hospital. Twenty-one of them sustained only minor injuries and were able to leave the hospital within two days. Three students sustained sever injuries and continue to receive medical treatment at the police hospital. 

The situation in West Papua remains tense. Since the first outbreaks of violence in mid-August, the police and military have deployed additional units in West Papua, 1,500 security force members to Wamena alone. The additional deployment is likely to result in a further escalation of conflict, as emotions among ethnic Papuans regarding racial discrimination in Indonesia are still boiling. Civil society representatives have demanded to reduce the security force presence, calling on President Jokowi to enter into political dialogue. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to immediately launch an urgent visit to West Papua.

It is likely that the civil society demands will remain unaddressed. A leaked police document with guidelines for police anticipation in response to the riots in Wamena and Jayapura indicates that any further protests will be cracked down violently. The document suggests that the intelligence network in West Papua shall be strengthened and surveillance of Papuan students be increased. Migrants shall be instructed to be alert and stay in secure places. The guidelines mention the preparation of weapons and ammunition in all strategic locations in order to quickly respond to new riots.