Students launch petition against prolongation of Papuan special autonomy in Manado – Police reacts with roadblocks and tear gas

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Police officers have prevented Papuan students from conducting a peaceful assembly on 21 September 2020 in the city of Manado, North Sulawesi Province. The students wanted to launch a petition against the prolongation of the Papuan Special Autonomy and for the right to self-determination of the Papuan people. The officers reacted by setting up roadblocks (see intro image, source: Suara Papua) in three different locations around the Papuan student dormitory in Manado, preventing students from other cities in North Sulawesi to enter the dormitory. The Manado Legal Aid Institute (LBH Manado) and the students tried in vain to convince the police officers to allow the peaceful assembly. The officers dispersed the crowd with teargas as some of the protesters attempted to overcome the police barriers.

The petition was organised by the Association of Indonesian and Papuan Students (IMIPA). According to the IMIPA coordinator, Dr Jhoni Jangkup, 79 student associations, movement organisations and solidarity groups in the North Sulawesi Province supported the petition. Dr Jangkup explained that IMIPA representatives informed the local police aforehand of the peaceful assembly as required under the national law. However, Manado police representatives refused to issue an ‘acknowledgement letter’ (Bhs Indonesia ‘Surat Tanda Terima Pemberitahuan’ or 'STTP') and prevented the protest under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also argued that the demonstration was illegal because it promoted the separation of West Papua from the Unitary State of Indonesia (NKRI).

On 22 September 2020, the situation around the Papuan student dormitory in Manado was still tense. The protesters demanded the local police to speak directly with the North Sulawesi Governor after the officers continued to restrict access to the dormitory.