Adi Marsiela, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has asked National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian to investigate acts of racism allegedly perpetrated against Papuan students last week, which sparked several days of unrest in Indonesia's easternmost provinces.
Jokowi made the move after critics slammed his initial comment in which he asked the Papuan people to forgive the racial slur, while at the same time deploying security forces and blocking internet access in the region to restore order.
"I continue to follow developments in Papua. Thank God, the situation has returned to normal. An apology has been made and this shows our mutual generosity to respect each other as fellow countrymen and citizens," Jokowi said late on Thursday.
"I have also ordered the National Police chief to take firm action against discriminatory acts based on race and ethnicity. Please underline this," he said.
"I invite the leaders of Papua and West Papua, including tribal chiefs, community leaders and religious figures, to come to the State Palace next week to discuss ways to improve the welfare of the people in Papua," Jokowi said.
The controversy started on Aug. 16, when an angry mob, which reportedly included members of the police and military, surrounded a dormitory occupied by Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java. Some people in the crowd allegedly shouted the word "monkey" – a derogatory term for people of Melanesian descent.
The act, which was caught on video and subsequently went viral on social media, proved to be a trigger that unleashed years of resentment in the region. This resulted in violent protests in several major towns in Papua, including Manokwari, Sorong, Fakfak and Mimika.
On Thursday, dozens of members of the Papuan Students Association and Solidarity for Humanity in Bandung, West Java, returned alcoholic beverages sent to them by Comr. Sarce Christiati, who was tasked with monitoring their activities on the day.
Christiati sent bottles of Cowboy Hat vodka, which has an alcohol content of 19 percent, to the students' dormitory in Bandung while most of them were taking part in a peaceful protest in front of the West Java governor's office.
Protest coordinator Weak Kosay, 20, said this reflected the stigma of alcohol abuse generally associated with Papuans. "We ask for Christiati to be removed from her post," Kosay said.
When confronted by the students, Christiati said it had not been her intention to demean them.
"I want to clarify. These drinks are not alcoholic; only fresh drinks to give to our younger brothers. See for yourselves. I had no intention of demeaning you. Secondly, I did not say the brothers were drunks," Christiati said in a video recorded by the students.
Adjutant Chief Comr. Dedi Suryadi, the deputy chief of the Bandung City Police, said they would investigate Christiati's action. He denied that sending the vodka to the students had been an institutional initiative.