The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI WP) launched demonstrations in multiple Indonesian cities on 15 August 2020. The protests were held in commemoration of the ‘New York Agreement’, an agreement signed by the Netherlands and Indonesia under the mediation of the United States of America. The New York Agreement and its consequences are considered one of the root causes for the West Papua conflict. Four protests in Jayapura were forcefully dispersed. Police officers arrested 32 protesters. At least one protester sustained injuries as police officers used excessive force to disperse the crowd. In the Javanese city of Semarang, approximately 50 protesters were intimidated by police forces. A demonstration in front of the American Embassy in Jakarta took place without interference.
In Jayapura, four demonstrations took place in Sentani (Jayapura Regency), Tanah Hitam, Waena and the University for Science and Technology (USTJ). All protests were forcibly dispersed by police members. Police officers arrested two participants in Waena and one protester at the USTJ campus. One of the protesters named Nepi Pahabol was allegedly beaten by a police officer during the arrest in Waena. He sustained bruises and swellings in the face and forehead (see image on the right: Nepi Pahabol (left) with two other protesters and director of the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (centre right), source: Jubi). Police officers reportedly broke the protesters’ banners and dispersed the crowd with two warning shots. In the nearby town of Sentani, police officers arrested 29 protesters. All protestors were released on the same day.
The demonstrations in Jakarta and Semarang were not dispersed. According to the media outlet Suara Papua, the police in Semarang interrogated and intimidated the participants, particularly non-Papuans who had joined the commemoration.
The New York Agreement brought the territory of the former Netherlands New Guinea (today commonly referred to as West Papua) under the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA). The United Nations transferred the administration to the Indonesian government under the condition that it would prepare West Papua for an act of free choice (PEPERA) in 1969. The referendum later became known as the ‘Act of No Choice’. The Indonesian government selected 1026 Papuan indigenous representatives to vote for the political status of West Papua. Under threat and intimidation, the handpicked delegates voted unanimously for the integration of West Papua into the Indonesian Republic.