Commemoration of International Women’s Day accompanied by repressive acts against Papuans – Malang police chief accused of racism

Media outlets have reported repressive acts against protesters in multiple cities across Indonesia during the International Women’s Day commemoration on 8 March 2021. In the Javanese city of Malang, police officers arrested 17 protesters, among them Papuan students, after protesters had allegedly damaged a police car. The Malang Police Chief gave the order to shoot down Papuan students who had come to the police station to demand protesters' release. In Makassar, two protesters were reportedly arrested after being accused of promoting Papua-related political issues. The police dispersed a peaceful commemoration in the Papuan city of Jayapura. Nine protesters were arrested. The police in Malang and Jayapura argued that the protests were violating COVID-19 health protocols.

The commemoration in Malang, Java Timur Province, took place at the Gajayana Stadium and was joined by multiple civil society organisations, including the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Papuan High-School and University Student Association (IPMAPA). Unrests and vandalism acts accompanied the commemoration after the police wanted to enforce COVID-19 health protocols and demanded the protesters to disperse. Several protesters were throwing stones at the security forces and allegedly smashed the windshield of a police truck. The police officers arrested 17 protesters in response to the incident.

Around 8.00 pm, a dozen Papuan students came to Malang Municipality police headquarters and demanded the release of Papuan students and other protesters (see photo). However, the Malang municipality police chief, Leonardus Simarmata, and several police officers prevented the Papuan students from entering the police station. As the students continued to demand access, Simarmata gave the order to open fire at the Papuan students if they would try to enter the police compound. The racist slur was recorded on camera. Simarmata threatened, "Shoot, just shoot, [spilling] the blood of [Papuan] students is halal [permissible under Islam]. Shoot, just shoot". He also claimed that Papuan students were using the commemoration to express their opposition to the Papuan Special Autonomy's prolongation and calls for Papuan independence.

On 12 March 2021, the AMP in Jakarta, in Arman Asso's name, filed a complaint against Leonardus Simarmata to the Internal Disciplinary Division (Propam). AMP’s lawyer, Michael Himan, explained, "We are concerned that this could spread like the 2019 incident in Surabaya. This is the same as what was done by police in Surabaya. We are concerned that it will go viral on every social media group […] this has to be reported, so it doesn't spread in Papua". The AMP called upon the Indonesian police chief to remove Simarmata from his position as Malang police chief.

A commemoration of the international women’s day in Makassar, Sulawesi Selatan Province, proceeded with minor disturbances by opposing pro-government civil society groups (Ormas). According to the Makassar Legal Aid Institute (LBH Makassar), pro-government groups intervened, claiming that the protesters used the demonstration to voice political issues about West Papua. Thereupon, two protesters named Akbar and Halim were arrested and detained for 24 hours. The director of LBH Makassar, Muhammad Haedir, stated that witnesses did not know whether plain cloth officers or pro-government supporters conducted the arrests.

In Jayapura City, Papua Province, Protesters commemorated the International Women’s Day at Expo Waena, Perumnas III, and the Abepura Roundabout around 9.00 am. They raised concerns over the discrimination of Papuan women, particularly the economic and educational discrimination against indigenous women. Police officers asked the protesters to stop the demonstration after 30 minutes, arguing that the protest would violate COVID-19 social distancing provisions. As the protesters refused to leave, police officers dispersed the demonstration. They arrested nine protesters named Rossyana Zine K, Christin B Wakerkwa, Alfando Kogoya, Elias Hindom, Yurdin Kogoya, Astry B Yikwa, Iman Kogoya, Warinus Murib and Yokbeth Felle. They were released around 1.00 pm.