Antara & Telly Nathalia, Jakarta – Police have identified a new suspect in the sporadic violence that has plagued several cities in Papua and West Papua over the past two weeks.
Veronika Koman, who describes herself as a human rights lawyer on her Twitter profile, was named a suspect, based on witness testimonies.
East Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Luki Hermawan said Veronika was a legal representative of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and that she allegedly provoked the widespread protests that followed an incident in Surabaya, East Java, last month when a mob of hardline Muslims and members of the police and military reportedly shouted racial abuse at Papuan students.
A video of the incident, which went viral on social media, resulted in several protests – many of them violent – in Papua and West Papua. At least two civilians and a soldier died in one of these incidents.
"She has been actively spreading fake news both at home and abroad," Luki said in Surabaya on Wednesday. He confirmed that Veronika was not in the East Java capital at the time of the initial incident, which occurred at a dormitory occupied by Papuan students.
"But through social media – her Twitter account – she actively provoked [the Papuan people]. There was a call [from her] to mobilize 'monkeys' to stage a street protest in Jayapura on Aug. 18, 2019," the police chief said, referring to the Papua provincial capital. "Monkey" is one of the derogatory names the mob shouted at the Papuan students.
However, police claim that Veronika was in Surabaya in December last year, during a separate incident involving the Papuan community, when she was allegedly seen in the company of two foreign journalists.
East Java Police claim that it was her provocative tweets that sparked the violence in Papua and West Papua. They have charged her with violating the notorious 2008 Electronic Information and Transactions Law, and the 2008 Law on the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said separately in Jakarta on Wednesday that they have requested Interpol to track Veronika down, as she is currently abroad.
He added that Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, had also been involved in the tensions in Indonesia's two easternmost provinces.
Dedi said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would take the matter up with the United Kingdom, where Benny is currently based, as he has acquired foreign citizenship.