Student activists have reported that Police officers arrested the chairman of the Cenderawasih University Executive Student Body (BEM UNCEN), Ferry Kombo. The arrest took place on 16 August 2018 at 04.00 pm in front of Dian Harapan hospital in Waena, Jayapura. Ferry Kombo was taken into custody at the Jayapura district police station and released on the following day. It is unknown whether the police will press charges against him. The arrest occurred after Ferry Kombo had organized an orientation activity for first semester students (OSPEK) on 14 August 2018. Senior students distributed bracelets with the morning star symbol and asked the new students to wear them. The morning star is a symbol of cultural identity in West Papua, but is also the emblem of the Papuan independence movement. During the orientation, the students sang Papuan songs and collectively shouted “Papua Merdeka” (‘Free Papua’) inside and outside the university premises.
The activity was closely monitored by joint security forces, among them the Jayapura municipality police chief, Mr. Gustav Urbinas and the head of the military district command 1701/JPR, Lieutenant Nova Ismailyanto. The security forces left the university premises after BEM members had asked them to go. Several journalists from the Papuan news outlets ‘Cenderawasih Post’ and ‘Kabar Papua’ stated that students prevented them from taking pictures and asked them to erase images of the event from their mobile phones. The ‘Ecumenical Forum of Papuan Churches’, represented through the Baptist Church in Papua, KINGMI Papua and GIDI, published an open letter in which they asked the director of Cenderwasih University not to take sanctions against the students and perceive the incident as their attempt to peacefully express their political aspirations.
On 28 August 2018, a similar orientation activity for first semester students took place at the University for Management, Informatics and Communication Technology (STIKOM) in Jayapura. During the orientation activity, representatives of the executive student body had allowed students to wear traditional netbags showing the symbol of the morning star flag. The event was monitored by two members of the police intelligence unit who subsequently ordered the campus security officers to lock down the campus entrance gates. Shortly after, a police patrol vehicle with armed police officers arrived at the university campus. The officers enterd the event hall and arrested four student representatives named Arnold Bame (chairman of STIKOM student executive body), Kamaliel Pahabol (vice-chairman of STIKOM student executive body), Fransiskus Bame and Yutinus Murib, both from the OSPEK organizing committee (see image to this paragraph).