On the afternoon of March 23 around 70 people from various different organisations which are part of the People United Front (FPR) and the Anti-Militarism Students Against Military Operations in Nduga held a protest action in the Simpang Lima district of the East Java provincial capital of Semarang.
The action was in response to the military operations being conducted in Nduga, West Papua, which have resulted in almost 30,000 people being forced to flee into the forests.
In addition to this flash floods in Sentani on March 16 killed 89 people, injured 159 and left 74 people missing, as well as leaving 6,831 people homeless.
The flash floods were a consequence of the exploitation of natural resources by capitalists in the Cycloop Mountains. This is just one of many environmental disasters which have been caused by capitalism and imperialism in the land of Papua.
The action began in front of the Diponegoro Statue on Jl. Pahlawan at 9.40 am. The protesters then held a long-march to Simpang Lima, marched around the monument and then returned to Jl. Pahlawan to give speeches.
The demonstrators also brought a banner with the message "End Military Operations in Nduga, End the Exploitation of Natural Resources in Papua", as well as posters with calls to provide democratic space and press freedom in Papua as well as photographs of victims of chemical attacks in Nduga.
In speeches the groups conveyed their strong opposition to militarism and Indonesian colonialism in Papua saying that the right to self-determination is the democratic right of all human communities and condemned human rights violations and violence against women in Papua which is a consequence of Indonesian militarism.
The action was watched over by around 50 uniformed police officers backed up by a police truck, a sedan and pickup truck as well as several intelligence personnel.
Throughout the long-march, three members of the Suharto's era paramilitary group Pancasila Youth tried to intimidate activists handing out leaflets. Several road users also provoked demonstrators with racist taunts.
Two people claiming to be journalists from Modus Investigation approached one of the speakers and conducted an intimidating interview probing them for details of their identity such as their full name, campus, semester and region of origin.
At 11.40 am the action was closed with the reading out of a statement after which the protesters disbanded. (na)
Although there have been widespread rumours that the Indonesian military used chemical weapons in Nduga with photographs of spent munitions and burn injuries being widely disseminated on social media – which were also reprinted in a special report by the Saturday Paper in December – experts who specialise in verifying images of war and conflict for the investigative network bellingcat (https://www.bellingcat.com/) concluded that after identifying the used munitions in the photographs none of them were in fact chemical weapons.
[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original article also included the statement read out during the rally which was not translated. The original title of the article was "Hentikan Operasi dan Tarik Militer dari Papua serta Hentikan Eksploitasi Alam Penyebab Bencana bagi Rakyat Papua!".]