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Sydney group slams 'unjust' Jakarta crackdown on Papuan torture protests

Asia Pacific Report - April 3, 2024

An Australian West Papuan solidarity group has condemned a brutal crackdown by Indonesian police against student protesters demonstrating against torture by the security forces.

A video of the cruel torture of a West Papuan man, Defianus Kogoya, by Indonesian troops in West Papua in early February, went viral last week with students and civil society groups staging several protest rallies and meetings over the past two days.

Indonesian security forces violently crushed these protests with tear gas and water cannon and arrested 62 people at one demonstration.

"Yet again we have peaceful demonstrators being arrested, beaten and tear gassed by the Indonesian security forces," Joe Collins, spokesperson of the Australian West Papua Association (AWPA), said in a statement.

"Do they really believe West Papuans will be so intimidated that they'll stop protesting against the injustices they suffer under Indonesian rule?

"The West Papuan people will continue to protest until the international community and the United Nations start to bring Jakarta to account for the actions of its military in West Papua. The issue isn't going away."

University crackdown

In Jayapura, a rally was held yesterday at Perumnas 3 Waena and the Jayapura University of Science and Technology (JUST) by civil society groups, including by the Papuan Student and People's Front Against Militarism (FMRPAM).

The local news outlet Jubi reported that the police had cracked down on the rally, assaulting demonstrators and firing tear gas.

The demonstrators were demanding that an independent investigation team be formed into the case of torture of Puncak regency residents by Indonesian military (TNI) soldiers and asked that the perpetrators be tried at the III-19 Jayapura Military Court.

Although the demonstrators tried to negotiate with the police, it ended in frustration. The police then dispersed the crowd by hitting the demonstrators and firing tear gas.

"Disperse, disperse, this is a public street," shouted the Commander of Battalion A Pioneer of the Papua Mobile Brigade in Kotaraja Jayapura, Police Commissioner Clief Duwit.

The police then dispersed the crowd by beating them and firing tear gas. Demonstrators ran for their lives towards the JUST campus.

In Sentani, at the red light junction where protesters began giving speeches and criticise the behaviour of the military in West Papua, security forces arrived quickly with two water canon vehicles.

Jubi reported that the field coordinator of the FMRPAM action, Kenias Payage, said that his party was taken away by a combination of TNI/Polri security forces while carrying out a peaceful speech at the Sentani red light. Sixty two people were reportedly arrested.

'Third party' probe call

Meanwhile, Reverend Benny Giay, the moderator of the Papuan Church Council, has called for a "third party" to investigate allegations of violence by the security forces in Papua, reports Jubi News.

The third party should examine the facts, including allegations that the victims were members of the pro-independence West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB).

"Those who are arrested or killed are often referred to as 'armed groups', 'separatists', 'terrorists', and with other accusations," Reverend Giay said.

"It's necessary to have a third party to clarify this. There is a lot of violence in Papua now but the media doesn't classify it, so we suspect everything," he said earlier this month.

Reverend Giay cited the incident of racial slurs against Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, in August 2019, which sparked massive demonstrations in cities across Papua and Indonesia.

He said that when Papuans protested against the racism, they were instead branded as "insurgents".

[Reported with the collaboration of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) and Jubi News.]

Source: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2024/04/03/sydney-group-slams-unjust-jakarta-crackdown-on-papuan-torture-protests