Employees of state utility company Perusahaan Listrik Negara working in Jayapura, Papua, on Saturday to repair an electrical installation that was destroyed by protestors on Thursday. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru).

Gov't Warns 'Provocateurs' to Stop Sowing Unrest in Papua

BY : TELLY NATHALIA

AUGUST 31, 2019

Jakarta. The government wants those responsible for provoking unrest in Papua and West Papua to immediately stop their actions, Chief Security Minister Wiranto said on Friday evening.

In a limited cabinet meeting on Friday evening, President Joko "Jokowi' Widodo ordered law enforcement agencies to take firm action against provocateurs and anyone involved in damaging public facilities.

"I order you to protect and restore law and order to Papua and West Papua… We will not tolerate rioters and anarchists. I reiterate, the security services must act firmly against anyone involved in stoking any form of racial animosity," the president said.

Tensions have been boiling over in Indonesia's two easternmost provinces since Aug. 19, after video footage of an incident in Surabaya, East Java, in which a mob shouted racial slurs at Papuan students, went viral on social media.

Thousands of people have since participated in rallies in several cities to protest prejudice and racial hatred against Papuans. Most of the rallies have turned violent, which saw angry mobs damaging public facilities and government buildings.

A rally Deiyai district, West Papua, earlier this week resulted in the deaths of two civilians and a soldier.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has been restricting internet access in the restive provinces to contain the spread of fake news and provocative content on social media.

The latest rally in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, on Thursday also turned violent when protesters set fire to vehicles, government offices and public facilities. An unknown group also severed the main fiber-optic cable operated by wireless telecommunications provider Telkomsel, resulting in a communications blackout in many parts of the city.

Warning to Provocateurs

However, Wiranto said the president had also called on the security forces to avoid a hard-handed approach in dealing with the unrest.

"Actually, these riots are stoked [by provocateurs]. There are provocateurs who are deliberately trying to cause unrest… We know they are trying to benefit from the situation… We warn them; we know who they are … stop it, because it will only create instability," the minister said.

"I don't want to mention [their names], but I ask them to stop, because [their actions] are really harming the national interest," the retired Army general said.

He said 10 rifles belonging to the military were stolen in the violent incident in Deiyai, but that the community had since been persuaded to return it.

Wiranto expressed hope that the people of Papua would no longer allow themselves to be provoked into damaging public facilities that had been built with their money.

"It is easy to damage them, but hard to build," he said.

President Jokowi expressed his belief that the people of Papua love peace and Indonesia. He also called on all government institutions to continue serving the people of Papua and West Papua.

The situation in Jayapura returned to normal by Saturday.

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