Indonesian police ban violent protests, separatism in Papua

Indonesian police ban violent protests, separatism in Papua

People ride motorbikes as they pass a building damaged after a riot in Jayapura, Papua
People ride motorbikes as they pass a building damaged after a riot in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia, Aug 30, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Photo: Antara Foto/Gusti Tanati/ via REUTERS)

JAKARTA: Indonesian police have banned violent demonstrations and speeches promoting separatism in the easternmost region of Papua, which had been rocked by protests for two weeks, its security chief and the state news agency said on Monday (Sep 2). 

Papua has been racked by the most serious civil unrest in years over perceived racial and ethnic discrimination. Some protesters have also been demanding a referendum on independence, something the government has ruled out.

The Papuan police issued six notices over the weekend, which included the ban on demonstrations and a list of criminal charges that could be brought against violators, chief security minister Wiranto told a news conference.

"Any person or organisation is prohibited from carrying out or spreading separatism in expressing opinions in public and violation of this will result in strict action and law enforcement," state news agency Antara reported, citing the notices.

A burnt car is pictured after a riot in Jayapura, Papua
A burnt car is pictured after a riot in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia, August 30, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Photo: Antara Foto/Gusti Tanati/ via REUTERS)

READ: Indonesia urges calm in Papua after two weeks of protests

READ: Police in Indonesia's Papua ban 'anarchist' demos after mass protests

Police also said in the notices that spreading fake news was a punishable crime, Antara reported.

Police have arrested 41 people in several Papuan cities for damaging public facilities and looting, Wiranto said.

Separately, two students were arrested in Jakarta and charged for treason. Four Australians were also deported after being accused of taking part in demonstrations.

The four Australians - identified as Tom Baxter, 37, Danielle Hellyer, 31, Ruth Irene Cobbold, 25, and Cheryl Melinda Davidson, 36 - entered the region on a yacht through the port of Sorong on Aug 10, said Indonesian immigration official Erlangga Dwi Saputra.

Three of them had participated in a demonstration in Sorong and raised the forbidden "Morning Star" Papuan flag on Aug 27, he added. The other person was found by police on the group's yacht.

About 6,000 police and military personnel have been flown in to Papua, national police chief Tito Karnavian said, to reinforce a region that already has a heavy military presence, due to decades of mostly low-level separatist conflict.

"If necessary I will deploy more troops," Karnavian told reporters in televised remarks, adding that he planned to spend most of this week in the region. 

READ: Papua protests - 5 things to know about the unrest in Indonesian province

The unrest across Papua appears to have been triggered by the mid-August arrest of dozens of Papuan
The unrest across Papua appears to have been triggered by the mid-August arrest of dozens of Papuan students in Java, who were also racially abused (Photo: AFP/BRAM)

Security was being maintained throughout Papua on Monday as police worked with figures in the region to control the situation, said national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo.

Television footage showed people cleaning up a partly charred building that protesters torched in the provincial capital of Jayapura.

Antara said four people were killed in Jayapura during protests last week, citing the city's police chief.

At least one soldier and five civilians were killed in the rural town of Deiyai last week, among the deadliest of the latest demonstrations, Papuan police spokesman Ahmad Kamal said.

The authorities and activists have different accounts of what happened in Deiyai.

papua protesters torch buildings
An armed Indonesian policeman stands guard near a burning building after hundreds of demonstrators marched near Papua's biggest city Jayapura on Aug 29, 2019, where they set fire to a regional assembly building and hurled rocks at shops and hotels. (Photo: AFP/Indra Thamrin Hatta)

An Internet blackout across Papua has made verifying information difficult.

Wiranto promised to withdraw the additional troops and lift an internet curb "when the situation returns completely to normal."

Papua and West Papua provinces, the resource-rich western part of the island of New Guinea, were a Dutch colony that was incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticised UN-backed referendum in 1969.

The spark for the latest protests was a racist slur against Papuan students, who were hit by tear gas in their dormitory and detained in the city of Surabaya on the main island of Java on Aug 17, Indonesia's Independence Day, for allegedly desecrating a national flag.

Source: Agencies/nr

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