Offices and shops in Jayapura, Papua, are starting to open again on Monday after violent pro-independence protests rocked the city last week. (Antara Photo/Zabur Karuru).

Police Investigate Possible Foreign Involvement in Violent Protests in Papua and West Papua

BY : ANTARA & TELLY NATHALIA

SEPTEMBER 02, 2019

Jakarta. Police said they have been investigating possible foreign involvement in violent pro-independence protests in Papua and West Papua since Aug. 19. The protests were triggered by a series of racist incidents against students from Papua on the island of Java, including in Surabaya, the capital of East Java, where a boarding house for Papuan students was besieged by an angry crowd who called them "monkeys."

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has ordered the police to investigate the acts of racism against the Papuan students, and also to take firm action against the groups responsible for the subsequent violent protests in Papua and West Papua. 

"We now know these groups have links to an international network," National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said on Monday. 

"We have to handle this issue carefully, domestically and internationally. We [the police] will work together with the Foreign Minister [Retno Marsudi] and our intelligence agency," he said.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Mohammad Iqbal said an investigation is already underway to follow up on initial information related to foreign involvement in a series of incidents on the islands of Java and Papua in the past two weeks.

"We've mapped out the groups who drove this issue [of racial discrimination and provoked the violent protests], and we're investigating them. If we have proof [that they were responsible], we will take legal action," Iqbal said.

At least two civilians and a soldier have died during a series of sporadic demonstrations where protesters also damaged public facilities as well as government offices and vehicles.

During the latest rally in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, on Thursday, several parts of the city suffered a communications blackout after an unidentified group severed its main fiber-optic cable.

Another National Police spokesman, Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo, earlier said an investigation conducted jointly by the National Police, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN) had discovered 1,750 social media accounts that had been the source of 32,000 fake news articles and provocative content about the current security situation in Papua.

According to the police, some of these accounts were operated from overseas. The findings of their investigation were already reported to the Communication and Informatics Ministry. The 32,000 fake news articles have been deleted from Facebook and Twitter.

The police and the military have deployed 6,000 extra personnel to Papua and West Papua to regain control. The situation was getting close to normal by Monday, according to Chief Security Minister Wiranto.

He said Police Chief Tito Karnavian and Military Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto had set up office in Papua since Monday and would stay on the island for at least a week until the security situation returns to normal. 

Papua Governor Calls for Calm

Papua Governor Lukas Enembe issued an announcement on Sunday urging Papuans to remain calm, close ranks and avoid provocations. 

He also called on the central government to take firm action against racial discriminations directed at Papuans all over Indonesia.

Wiranto said five soldiers who were present at the scene when a mob besieged a boarding house occupied by Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, on Aug. 17 have been suspended and put in Military Police detention to be interrogated.

The East Java Police have also charged two residents of Surabaya – Tri Susanti and Syaiful – with hate speech and for organizing the mob that surrounded the Papuan students' boarding house. 

Police charged 28 people with rioting after Thursday's violent protest in Jayapura.

After a protest in Manokwari, West Papua, on Aug. 19, police charged 10 suspects.

During another protest in Sorong, also on Aug. 19, police detained seven suspects. Four more suspects were charged during a demonstration in FakFak, Papua, Wiranto said.

These riot suspects were charged with Criminal Code offenses, some for stealing and others for damaging public facilities.

Governor Lukas had also demanded that the police and the military follow a persuasive approach to handle the situation in Papua. 

Wiranto said he had already asked Governor Lukas to order Papuans to notify the police when another demonstration is planned. 

The governor has also called on indigenous Papuans to protect non-Papuan residents of Papua and vice versa.

Wiranto said the government will fight conspiracies to separate Papua from Indonesia by presenting "the true facts."

"I think Benny Wenda is part of the conspiracies, but we will present the true facts [in due time]," he said in Jakarta on Monday. Benny is the chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua based in the United Kingdom.

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