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Walhi slams repressive actions by police against Papuan students in Bali

Suara Papua - June 13, 2024

Agus Pabika, Jayapura – The Papua Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has condemned the repressive actions by police against a peaceful protest by the Bali Papua Community Student Association (IMMAPA) and the Bali city committee of the Papua Student Alliance (AMP) on Monday June 10.

In a press release sent to Suara Papua on Thursday June 13, Walhi Papua Executive Director Maikel Primus Peuki explained that the peaceful action was aimed at supporting the struggle of the Awyu and Moi tribal indigenous peoples in defending their land and customary forests from the threat of plantation and mining companies.

Chronology of incident

At 9.30 am around 200 Papuan students gathered at the Renon Park eastern parking area in the provincial capital Denpasar where they lined up in an orderly manner and unfurled banners and posters supporting the "Save Papua's Forests" campaign.

Before they even reached the location of action at the Renon traffic circle in front of the United States Consulate General, the police were already on standby with two crowd control vehicles and a command car to block the protesters.

The 200 or so police officers blocked the demonstrators on the grounds that the Balinese nationalist group the Garuda Nusantara Patriots (PGN) were already holding an action at the US Consulate.

For four hours, the Papuan students held their ground while singing, giving speeches, reading poetry and delivering messages of peace.

When the protesters tried to break through the barricade to reach the traffic circle the police responded by firing teargas and pushing, kicking and hitting several students.

During the incident, several students were injured. Five people, four Papuan students and an advocate for the Bali Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), were arrested and taken to the Renon sectoral police (Polsek) station.

After around forty minutes, the protesters then went to the Renon Polsek to demand that their colleagues be released. Eventually the police did release the five.

Long struggle

The Awyu tribe in Boven Digoel regency, South Papua, and the Moi tribe in Sorong regency, Southwest Papua, are fighting investors who are cutting down their customary forests.

They are currently involved in a lawsuit against the government and palm oil companies to defend the customary forests that are the source of their livelihoods.

Hendrikus Woro, representing the Awyu tribe, sued the Papua provincial government for issuing an environmental permit for PT Indo Asiana Lestari (IAL) covering 36,094 hectares. Although Woro's lawsuit ran aground at the first and second level courts, they now hope that the Supreme Court will grant their appeal.

In addition to PT IAL, the Awyu indigenous community is also facing a lawsuit from the companies PT Kartika Cipta Pratama and PT Megakarya Jaya Raya, two palm oil companies that are expanding into Boven Digoel. While the Moi tribe is fighting PT Sorong Agro Sawitindo (SAS) that will cut down 18,160 hectares of customary forests for oil palm plantations.

Repressive actions condemned

Peuki stated that the repressive actions by the police against the peaceful Papuan student action was a violation of the democratic right of free expression and gathering peacefully. Papuan students fighting for the right to live and for their customary land should receive protection, not violence.

"Walhi Papua strongly condemns these brutal actions and asks for accountability from the police for the treatment of the demonstrators. We also call on the wider community to support the struggle of the Awyu and Moi tribal indigenous peoples in defending their customary forests from exploitation by investors", he said.

Call for global action

Walhi Papua is inviting all elements of society, both domestically and internationally, to participate in the "Save Papua's Forests" campaign.

"It is important for all of us to fight for the sustainability of Papua's forests, which are not only home to rare species and indigenous peoples, but also vital ecological assets for the global environmental balance", said Peuki.

Walhi Papua also emphasised that the struggle to protect Papuan forests was a struggle for life and sustainability.

"The support and solidarity of various parties is very much needed to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognised and protected, as well as so Papua's forests remain sustainable for future generations", said Peuki.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "WALHI Papua Kecam Tindakan Represif Polisi Terhadap Mahasiswa Papua di Bali".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2024/06/13/walhi-papua-kecam-tindakan-represif-polisi-terhadap-mahasiswa-papua-di-bali