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Papua 2019 anti-racism rally planned as peaceful protest

Tabloid JUBI - March 17, 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – The Jayapura District Court on Wednesday, March 15, 2023, continued the trial of treason against Viktor Yeimo, the international spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB).

In Wednesday's hearing, activists Alexander Gobai and Ones Busop, who were presented as mitigating witnesses, said that the 2019 anti-racism protest which dragged Yeimo to court, was planned as a peaceful action.

Both also said that Viktor Yeimo and KNPB were not the ones who planned or mobilized the mass in Jayapura City on August 19 and 29, 2019. The protest was a response to racial slurs directed at Papuan students at the Kamasan III Papuan Student Dormitory in Surabaya on August 16, 2019.

Yeimo's trial is now led by a panel of judges chaired by chief judge Mathius with member judges Andi Asmuruf and Linn Carol Hamadi.

Alexander Gobai was the field coordinator of the anti-racism protest on August 19 and August 29, 2019. At the time, he was the Student President of the University of Science and Technology Jayapura (USTJ). While Ones Busop was involved in a meeting to plan the protest on August 29, 2019. Busop was then one of the USTJ Student Executive Board (BEM) administrators.

Gobai said that in the meeting, everybody agreed to hold a peaceful and dignified protest. He said the planning was carried out at the Cenderawasih University Big Family Building in Perumnas 3 Waena on August 18, 2019.

Gobai said the meeting was coordinated by the Student Executive Board (BEM) of Cenderawasih University and attended by BEM USTJ, BEM STIKOM, BEM Umel Mandiri, BEM Ottow and Geissler, and BEM Yapis University.

A number of activists of Cipayung Group organizations such as the Islamic Student Association (HMI), the Indonesian Catholic Student Association (PMKRI), the Indonesian Christian Student Movement (GMKI) were also present. Gobai testified that neither KNPB nor Viktor Yeimo was involved in planning the action.

According to Gobai, all representatives who attended the meeting on August 18, 2019 agreed to hold a peaceful long march to the office of the Papua Governor. The meeting also agreed to voice a number of demands, such as calling for prosecution against racist perpetrators in Surabaya and asking all parties to stop racism against Papuan people.

He said that a notification letter was submitted to the Jayapura City Police prior to the protest. "The notification letter was delivered by BEM Uncen chair Ferry Kombo," Gobai said in court on Wednesday.

Gobai said at that time, protesters gathered at Abepura Circle in Jayapura City before doing a long march to the Papua Legislative Council (DPRP) and the Papua Governor's Office. Gobai said the long march was escorted by the police.

Gobai said many residents joined the students' rally and that it was beyond their control. He said he saw Viktor Yeimo giving speeches and urging the crowd to rally in a peaceful manner.

According to Gobai, from Abepura Circle they moved towards the Papua Governor's Office. On the way, the crowd chanted 'Long live the people' and 'Papua Merdeka' (Free Papua).

Arriving at the Papua Governor's Office, Gobai said they were received directly by the Governor of Papua, Lukas Enembe. In addition, some members of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP), DPRP, religious leaders, traditional leaders, women leaders and police also received representatives of the protesters.

Gobai said that each representative of the protesters, including students, youth organizations, religious leaders, traditional leaders, women leaders, and the Indonesian Youth National Committee, made speeches in turn. Gobai said the masses also asked Viktor Yeimo to also make speeches.

"Let him [Viktor Yeimo] speak," said Gobai, imitating the request of the crowd at that time. Gobai said Yeimo's speech talked about racism, and asked the people not to harass the dignity of Papuans.

Gobai explained that the field coordinators then submitted a demand letter containing six points on the case of racism in Surabaya. The demands were submitted to Governor Lukas Enembe. After submitting the letter, the mass dispersed in an orderly manner.

Regarding the next protest on August 29, 2019, Gobai said he was not involved in planning the rally. He only learned about it from a leaflet circulated on the internet saying BEM USTJ was organizing the rally.

He said he was surprised because there was no coordination with him as the student leader at USTJ. However, Gobai said he joined the rally on August 29, 2019.

Gobai said he did not see Viktor Yeimo during the second anti-racism protest on August 29, 2019. Nor did he see any KNPB flag being raised. He also stated that he did not know about the burning of a number of shops in Jayapura City that day. "We don't know who burned those shops," Gobai said.

Gobai said the masses who had just arrived in front of the DPRP office were dispersed by police with tear gas. However, the crowd eventually arrived at the Papua Governor's Office at around 7 p.m. Papua time. The protesters were received by DPRD lawmaker Laurenz Kadepa.

That night, around 700 people slept in the yard of the Papua Governor's Office. The next morning they returned to their homes escorted by the police.

Another witness, Ones Busop, said he was involved in planning the second anti-racism protest. He said the action plan meeting was held at the USTJ hall on August 28, 2019. During the meeting, all participants agreed that in the next day's rally, they would collect promises made by the government during the first rally to fulfill their demands regarding racism problems.

Busop said neither KNPB nor Viktor Yeimo were involved in planning the protest on August 29, 2019. He also did not see Yeimo during the protest this time. (*)

Source: https://en.jubi.id/papua-2019-anti-racism-rally-planned-as-peaceful-protest