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West Papuan students barricaded, detained and tear-gassed by police on Indonesian ‘freedom’ day

BY TASHA WIBAWA

Indonesian police have defended their decision to storm into a dormitory of West Papuan students alongside the nation’s military, over vigilante allegations that someone had committed slander on the national symbol.

Key points:

  • Police arrested 43 students but released them without charge over allegations of “committing slander on the national flag”
  • Earlier this week pro-West Papuan protesters were attacked and hundreds arrested
  • The acquisition of West Papua by Indonesia has long been a cause of controversy

Police and armed military personnel stormed through the gates of the dormitory in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, firing around 20 tear gas canisters into the building, causing injuries, last Saturday.

Forty three students were arrested and taken to a police station in the city, but released around nine hours after without charge, over claims that the Indonesian flag was found in the gutter by the building.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tensions, with his Chief Security Minister pledging a “complete and fair” investigation into the incidents.

Mr Widodo called for calm in Papua and urged people not to damage public facilities.

“It’s OK to be emotional, but it’s better to be forgiving,” he said.

“Patience is also better.”

Today, protesters torched a local parliament building and set fire to tyres and branches in the West Papua provincial capital, Manokwari.

A separate, peaceful protest of about 500 people was also underway in the town of Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

The protests appears to be in retaliation to the detention and treatment of West Papuan students in Surabaya between Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Nationalist vigilantes gathered outside the student’s dormitory building from Friday night — a day before Indonesia’s independence day —singing the Indonesian national anthem, cutting power to the building, and attacking good Samaritans delivering food and drinks to the trapped students.

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