The Jakarta Post
Rampant acts of vandalism have spread to Fakfak regency, West Papua following the racist abuse of Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java over the weekend.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo issued a written statement on Wednesday saying that “the situation in Fakfak is gradually getting calm. Generally the security situation in Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong has also been calm”.
Protesters earlier set fire to kiosks and stalls in the Fakfak traditional market, laying waste to public facilities along the road into the market.
Siswanto Tigtignaweria, who participated in the rally in Fakfak, said rioting broke out in the regency with local people setting fire to tires on the streets and conflicts erupted between a local mass organization and some protesters.
The conflicts began after some protesters allegedly hoisted the Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag – a symbol usually used by the Papuan Independence Movement – on the local customary building in the regency.
Police personnel were seen shooting tear gas and firecrackers toward the clashing mobs, he said. “Amid such a chaotic situation, suddenly the customary council’s building was set on fire.”
Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Adj. Comr. Mathias Krey said the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) had dispatched personnel to diffuse the situation.
“The National Police’s Mobile Brigade [Brimob] has scheduled to deploy its personnel to help secure the region,” he said on Wednesday as quoted by Antara news agency.
The incident in Fakfak is the latest in a growing string of protests that included riots in the neighboring Manokwari and Sorong regencies.
In an effort to curb the spread of misinformation amid the unrest, the Communications and Information Ministry has throttled back internet access in Fakfak since 9 a.m. The ministry plans to restore normal connection speed in the region at 6 p.m.
“The throttling was only implemented in Fakfak; [internet access] in other regions has returned to normal since yesterday,” said the ministry’s acting spokesman Ferdinandus Setu as quoted by kompas.com.
Furthermore, he said the ministry had also tracked down and subsequently deactivated social media accounts found to share provocative content amid the chaos in Papua.
“We investigated 50 accounts in the first couple of days. Today we’ve managed to shut down 12 accounts,” Ferdinandus said.
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 residents of Timika in Mimika regency, Papua also took to the streets in an anti-racism strike.
Patricio Wetipo, a human rights activist from Timika, said that thousands of protesters had gathered in the yard of the Timika Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) since Wednesday morning, awaiting the arrival of Mimika Regent Eltinus Omaleng.
The protesters could be seen holding up signs adorned with anti-racism messages, such as ones that read: “We Papuans Love Peace.”
The leader of the rally called on fellow protesters to practice restraint and refrain from committing acts of vandalism.
The regent, however, had yet to show up by 2 p.m. local time and the crowd of protesters were forced to disperse by the authorities who shot tear gas toward them, creating a chaotic situation, Patricio said.
“People who were hurt by the tear gas walked outside the yard to the streets and threw [stones] toward the police and the police cars,” he said.
A Mimika Police officer, Sr. Adj. Comr. Agung Marlianto, instructed protesters to maintain public order and safety.
“I called on locals to maintain order when voicing their aspirations. Chaos will benefit no one,” Agung told the press. (rfa)
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comments from local residents who participated in and witnessed the protests in Timika and Fakfak.