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Jakarta Post

Papuan students removed from Surabaya after rally

  • Karina M. Tehusijarana and Wahyoe Boediwardhana

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta/Surabaya   /   Tue, December 4, 2018   /   10:41 am
Papuan students removed from Surabaya after rally Hundreds of Papuan Students Alliance (AMP) in Surabaya march to commemorate Dec. 1, a day they consider a the West Papua liberation day, on Saturday. (JP/Wahyoe Boediwardhana)

Police in Surabaya, East Java, ordered 233 members of the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) to leave the Papuan student dorms on Jl. Kalasan where they were staying on Monday following a rally that turned violent on Saturday.

Around 300 Papuan students gathered in Surabaya from various cities across Java and Bali, to hold a rally on Dec. 1 to commemorate what some Papuans claim to be the birth of the West Papua nation in 1961.

The students marched from the Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI) studio on Jl. Pemuda to the Grahadi Building on Jl. Gubernur Surya and made speeches calling for the right of Papuans to self-determination. They also displayed images of the Morning Star flag, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.

The situation became tense when around 200 people from various mass organizations, including the Communication Forum of Indonesian Veterans’ Children (FKPPI) and Pancasila Youth (PP), arrived on the scene to stage a protest against the AMP.

The counter-protestors accused the Papuans of committing treason and the two camps launched verbal attacks on each other, which escalated into a physical clash, resulting in injuries to 17 people. 

On Saturday night, when the students had returned to the student dorms, Surabaya Police surrounded the building and detained the 233 AMP members, two non-Papuan students, and an Australian citizen.

The 233 Papuans were released on Sunday evening, under the condition that they immediately leave the dorms and return to their respective homes. 

Fifty students were put on a bus headed to Malang, East Java, 90 others were sent to other cities, while 80 were sent back to their residences in Surabaya. The remaining 13 were residents of the Jl. Kalasan dorm.

AMP human rights lawyer Veronica Koman confirmed the release of the students and condemned the police’s actions as “forceful removal” that violated the students’ civil rights.

“It clearly violates their freedom of movement as well as their freedom of expression,” she told The Jakarta Post on Monday. 

Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Surabaya commissioner Fatkhul Khoir agreed. “What happened to the students is in violation of the principles of human rights that state that every citizen has the right to chose where to stay,” he told the Post.

The two non-Papuan students, Fachri Syahrazad and Arifin, had been thought missing after the police raid on the dorms, but were actually being held in a separate police station in Surabaya. They were also released on Sunday. 

The Australian citizen, identified as Ronda Amy Harman, was handed over to the Surabaya immigration authorities. Veronica said Ronda had not taken part in the rally and was at the dorm to meet her boyfriend, who is an AMP member. 

“I have spoken to immigration officials and they told me she is being ’secured’ at a hotel but I have not been allowed to see her,” she said. “It is my understanding that she is likely to be deported. This is the third time this year that a foreign citizen has had problems with immigration because of their connection with Papua.”

In February, Australian journalist reporting for BBC Indonesia, Rebecca Henschke, was told to leave Papua after she posted several tweets criticizing the provision of aid. In August, Australian PhD candidate Belinda Lopez, who was planning to visit Papua, was barred from entering Indonesia for unspecified reasons. 

East Java Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Frans Barung denied allegations that the police had violated the students’ rights, claiming that the officers were actually trying to ensure their safety.

“Police deliberately brought [the students] to the station to protect them from the threat of groups opposed to the AMP,” Frans said.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 4, 2018, with the title "Papuan students removed from Surabaya after rally".