Benny Mawel, Jayapura – Violent unrest broke out in Wamena, the main city of Jayawijaya regency in Papua, on Monday, with some senior high school students reportedly being attacked by security officers as they dispersed a protest.
Local Veronika Uaga said the chaos occurred after hundreds of senior high school students in the city "behaved violently" and set some facilities, including the Jayawijaya regent's office, on fire.
The police then reportedly fired tear gas at the protesters to disperse them. Some are believed to have been injured, with a photograph obtained by The Jakarta Post on Monday morning showing a female senior high school student bleeding from her right arm.
"Students were running around the streets to avoid getting shot," Veronika said, adding that she fled to a nearby church to stay away from the unrest. Some other residents reportedly took shelter at the police headquarters.
Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Rudolf A. Rodja said separately that the protest occurred due to a "baseless" provocation spread among the students. A teacher allegedly called a student a "monkey" last week, triggering the protest across the city.
"We have asked the teacher and she denied having made the racist slur," Rudolf said as quoted by kompas.com. He called on all students to be cautious about unconfirmed information.
The unrest has forced Wamena airport to halt its operations until an unspecified time. The airport located in Baliem Valley typically sees 120 flights a day. "Wamena is the door to many cities and villages in [the isolated] Pegunungan Tengah area," said the airport's head of operations, Joko Harjani, as reported by Antara.
The protests in Wamena follow the use of racist slurs and an attack against Papuan students in August in Surabaya, East Java, which triggered massive protests across Papua and West Papua provinces. Many Papuans, who claim they are discriminated against by the majority of other Indonesian citizens, have demanded a referendum on independence. (vny)