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Indonesia urges calm after deadly Papua protests

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police and protesters are seen clashing in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia, on August 29, 2019, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Via Reuters)

The Indonesian government has called for calm following violent protests, including in Papua Province, over racial discrimination.

“Why must we kill each other because we’re offended?” Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto said at a joint news conference with several Papuan figures in the capital, Jakarta, on Friday.

“Let’s return to calm, return to peace, think about the future where there is no destruction and there is development,” he said.

On August 17, Indonesia’s Independence Day, police tear-gassed Papuan students in their dormitory in the city of Surabaya, on the main island of Java after receiving reports that they desecrated a national flag.

Footage later appeared showing the security forces calling the students “monkeys” and “dogs.”

Groups of students then poured onto the streets both in Papua — on New Guinea Island — and in other parts of Indonesia, including in the capital.

In Abepura Town, protesters set fire to a local government building. And at least during one protest, police fired live rounds at the protesters.

Some protesters also called for Papuan independence.

Wiranto said an investigation was underway into the Surabaya incident, and two police officers were undergoing an unspecified legal process. He said police had also identified two people suspected of hate speech who had been in a crowd that mobbed the dormitory.

But he ruled out any referendum on independence for Papua.

On Wednesday, a separatist group said security forces had opened fire on protesters, killing six people in the Deiyai region, while police said one soldier and two civilians had been killed during the protest.

Wiranto said a “certain party” was taking advantage of the situation to cause chaos, without elaborating.

He said the situation in the provinces of Papua and West Papua was calm as of Friday morning, although there were plans for more rallies.

Speaking at the same press conference, Samuel Tabuni, a Papuan community leader, also called for calm but urged the government to ensure a fair treatment of Papuans.

“Why was law enforcement not conducted properly? Especially in Surabaya, the legal process started after we demonstrated, but racism has happened for a long time, fueling Papuans’ anger,” Tabuni said.


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