Police hose down Papuan student activists during peaceful rally in Denpasar

The rally was held to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Biak massacre. Photo: LBH Bali
The rally was held to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Biak massacre. Photo: LBH Bali

Police were said to have used a water cannon on activists during a peaceful rally held by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) in Denpasar earlier today, along with reports of alleged physical assault against some participants, who were commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the Biak massacre. 

A number of videos uploaded to Facebook by AMP show moments when the water cannon was deployed, as well as one participant who appears to have been briefly detained. 

“This is the attitude from the country which claims to be a democracy,” a speaker at the rally can be heard in one of the videos seen by Coconuts. 

Ni Kadek Vany Primaliraning, who heads the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) in Bali said that authorities blocked rally participants, took away some of their protest items and disrupted the masses. She also confirmed that some participants were beaten and were blasted with a water cannon.

“This is excessive, especially because authorities used violence,” Vany said.  

Only dozens of people appeared to take part in the rally, which was organized to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Biak massacre, one of several long-standing human rights abuses in Papua that remains unresolved to this day. 

Repression is unfortunately common in protests held by Papuans or on issues regarding Papua. Last year, AMP activists also clashed with local organizations and pecalang (traditional Balinese security forces) during a similar demonstration that saw some of the former physically assaulted, throughout which police reportedly only stood by and watched. 

On July 6, 1998, Indonesian security forces launched an attack against demonstrators who took part in a peaceful rally days prior that saw the raising of West Papua’s Morning Star flag. Eight people were reportedly killed that day while several others were injured, with another three people having gone missing and dozens more arbitrarily detained. Activists also say that around 150 people were tortured and 32 people died mysterious deaths. 

This year, one of the protesters’ demands is for the Indonesian state to claim responsibility over the Biak massacre, along with other human rights violations that have occurred in Papua.

Papua was a colony of the Dutch until the early 1960s, when it declared itself an independent nation in 1961. Neighboring Indonesia took control of the region by force in 1963 and officially annexed it with a UN-backed referendum in 1969 that was widely seen as a sham.

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