New protests against special autonomy and for the release of Papuan political prisoners – 146 protesters arrested in Manokwari

Last week, hundreds of people from the Papua Barat province came together to join two public demonstrations in the city of Manokwari, the provincial capital of Papua Barat. Joint security forces dispersed the protest on 25 May 2021 -146 protesters were arrested and temporarily detained. The police claimed some protesters violated COVID-19 health protocols. The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and The Indonesia Peoples Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) organised peaceful protests in the Javanese cities Bandung, Jakarta, Malang and Jember. The rally in Malang was reportedly followed by violence between Papuan students and nationalist counter groups.  Protesters in Jember were allegedly intimidated by nationalist groups. All protests expressed disagreement with the continuation of the Papuan special autonomy funding and demanded the immediate release of all Papuan political prisoners.



Several hundred protesters gathered in five locations in Manokwari on 21 and 25 May 2021. Both protests were registered and organised by the Papuan Peoples’ Solidarity. The protesters handed over a list of demands to MRPB representatives. The main demands concerned the rejection of the special autonomy and the release of Papuan political prisoners. Police officers prevented the protesters from walking to the Papua Barat Peoples Assembly (MRPB) during the protest on 21 May 2021. Thereupon, the solidarity group organised a second demonstration on 25 May 2021. According to Suara Papua, 146 protesters were arrested and temporarily detained at the Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Manokwari (see photo, source: Suara Papua). Some protesters reportedly sustained injuries due to excessive use of force by police members during the arrest.


AMP and FRI-WP supporters gathered in front of the North Jakarta District Court on 25 May 2021. They demanded the release of Papuan political prisoners, including the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Victor Yeimo and two Papuan students named Roland Levi and Kelvin Molama, both AMP members who had been arrested in Jakarta on 3 March 2021. Human rights groups argue the arrests violated criminal procedures. Human rights watchdog Front Line Defenders has expressed concerns regarding the safety of Roland Levy and Kelvin Molama, as it believes they are being targeted for their legitimate and peaceful work for the protection of human rights. The protest remained calm and was closely guarded by approximately 200 police officers.


AMP and FRI WP supporters gathered in the early morning of 25 May 2021 to protest against the extension of Papuan Special Autonomy funding, demanding a referendum and the release of Papuan political prisoners. Although the protest itself proceeded peacefully, media sources mentioned temporary outbreaks of violence between Papuan students and nationalist groups in the vicinity of the Tribuana Tungga Dewi University (Unitri) in Malang around 2.00 pm.


AMP and FRI WP supporters held a demonstration in front of the Merdeka Building in Bandung on 21 May 2021. The protest reportedly proceeded peacefully under the supervision of the local police. The protesters, most of them students from Papua, read aloud nine demands, among them the rejection of Special Autonomy and the formation of new autonomy regions in West Papua, the release of Victor Yeimo, Roland Levi and Kelvin Molama, the withdrawal of troops from West Papua and the access for foreign journalists and international observers to West Papua.


The protest by AMP and FRI WP supporters in the Javanese city Jember on 20 May 2021 took place peacefully. Nationalist groups reportedly tried to block the protesters and threatened to disperse the demonstration. The rally was finally able to proceed.  Members of the local police closely guarded the rally.