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Jakarta Post

Pro-democracy activists hold event in solidarity with Papuan students

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, July 9, 2018   /   04:44 pm
Pro-democracy activists hold event in solidarity with Papuan students Papuans hold a self-determination rally on June 15, 2016 in Sentani, Papua, calling for the government to hold a referendum for the easternmost province. (KNPB/Exclusive)

Pro-democracy activists held an event campaigning for freedom of expression and assembly over the weekend, amid recent reports that public discussions were being dispersed either by the police or by opposing groups of people.

The “Solidarity Action: Why Should We Fear Discussion?” event was held on Sunday at Aspiration Park near the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta, following a report that a discussion at a dorm for Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, was under heavy police guard on Friday.

“We want to protect the narrowing democracy in Indonesia. We also want to pressure the government and the state to stop dispersing discussions and art exhibits, because such events are necessary to foster critical thinking,” said Helena, a university student and an organizer of Sunday's event.

Helena said they had recorded several incidents when discussions were not permitted or disturbed by a crowd, but Sunday's event was held in response to the incident in Surabaya and another one on July 1 in Malang, East Java, that also clamped down on Papuan students.

“A nation needs open discussions to foster intellectual life, not just on campus but also in dorms and other places," she said.

Another organizer, Kania Mamonto, said the event was “[an act of] solidarity by artists, journalists and scholars who care about freedom of assembly and expression”.

The event noted that besides the two incidents concerning Papuan students, authorities had also prohibited other forms of public discussion like the Belok Kiri Festival in 2016, last year's photography exhibition of poet Wiji Thukul in Yogyakarta and last November's discussion at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

On Friday evening, hundreds of police officers and military personnel raided a Papuan student dormitory on Jl. Kalasan in Surabaya, saying they were there to carry out “Operasi Yustisi” – a civil registration raid – for checking people’s IDs.

According to Tambaksari Police chief Comnr. Prayitno, security forces raided the dormitory based on reports from a local resident that alleged the students were conducting suspicious activity. However, the dorm residents refused, saying the police did not have a proper warrant. 

“We initially planned to carry out the operation tonight, but they [the residents] refused,” Prayitno said as quoted by Antara news agency.

Anindya Shabrina, a dorm resident, said that the students had planned to hold a discussion over the situation in Papua on Friday night. She also said that the students had refused entry to the police, who could not provide a copy of their warrant.

“This is a democratic country,” she said as quoted by Antara. 

The government has often suspected Papuan students of allegedly carrying out separatist activities outside their home province.

The students spoke with the police and said they were watching the World Cup together, not discussing the violence in Biak.

Antara reported that the students were watching the World Cup until dawn on Saturday, while their dormitory was under guard by the security forces. (nor/dpk)