Papuan resistance grows against Jakarta

Benny Mawel, Victor Mambor, Kharishar Kahfi, and Donny Fernando
The Jakarta Post

PREMIUM Jayapura/Melbourne/Jakarta / Thu, August 29, 2019 / 10:0

Defiance: A member of the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) holds a Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag as he stands in front of dozens of police personnel during a rally at the State Palace, Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. In the rally, AMP members protested against racism, urged the government to unblock internet access in Papua and West Papua and demanded a referendum on Papuan independence.(JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Papuan demands for a referendum on self-determination have gained widespread momentum amid fears of civilian casualties in restive Papua and West Papua provinces, where a government-imposed internet blackout is in place following a wave of protests triggered by racial abuse against Papuan students in East Java.

In a rare event, hundreds of emboldened Papuan students took to the streets in Jakarta on Wednesday, marching from the Army headquarters to the State Palace while carrying banned Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flags, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.

“The students and the people of Papua have agreed to call for a referendum,” protest coordinator Ambrosius said during the rally.

When they reached the front of the State Palace, protesters burned tires and danced traditional Papuan dances while chanting. The crowd dispersed peacefully at around 5:30 p.m.

In addition to a referendum, the protesters also called for the governors of Papua and West Papua to facilitate a return of Papuan students back to the provinces.

The students also demanded that the Communications and Information Ministry lift the internet blackout that has been in place in the country’s easternmost provinces since last week.

The students’ demands echoed those made by protesters in the Papuan highlands earlier this week, where thousands of villagers donned customary attire and joined their urban counterparts in filling the streets, chanting words brimming with Papuan pride. Many shouted “Freedom!” while some demanded a referendum on self-determination.

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