Breaking News: Indonesia’s Chief Security to Visit Papua Tonight as Riots Continues

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto - Photo: TheInsiderStories.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto will visit Papua and West Papua tonight when the condition of Indonesia’s easternmost region has not been conducive following rioting that broke out in the provinces’ capitals on Monday.

“Tonight I will go to Papua. The situation there is still not conducive, I will see firsthand the situation on the ground. I invite them to dialogue, make peace and forgive each other,” Wiranto told the media in Jakarta today (08/21).

This week’s demonstrations were triggered by reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students in the Southeast Asian nation’s second-biggest city Surabaya, East Java on Saturday – Indonesia’s independence day.

Security personnel reportedly cursed the students with the words “monkey” and “pig” as they rounded up students at a dormitory in the city. The personnel was believed to be provoked by accusations that the students had destroyed an Indonesian flag.

Since this morning, local media reported that a number of areas in Papua and West Papua had been filled with thousands of demonstrators. A number of public facilities were burned by residents in Fakfak West Papua, while in Timika Papua the local parliament office was stoned. On Monday the demonstrators had burned down the parliament office and several public facilities in Manokwari West Papua.

Meantime, Papuan presidential staff member Lenis Kogoya said that President Joko Widodo also visits the provinces sometime next week.

“We will invite the President to Papua to talk with the locals there,” he said, adding that the state leader would accommodate the people’s aspirations regarding his next five-year term.

Widodo, who has visited Papua more times than any previous president, had called on all Papuans to stay calm and forgive fellow citizens who had launched physical and verbal attacks on Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java.

“Fellow citizens, brothers, sisters, and mothers in Papua and West Papua, I know that there are some grievances. As fellow citizens, it is important to forgive each other,” the president said at Merdeka Palace on Monday, addressing the Papuans in the local dialect. “It is better to forgive and be patient.”

The President, however, refused to comment on calls to investigate the racist abuse that sparked the rioting. While the National Intelligence Agency claims to have known the actors behind the riots. Its spokeswoman Wawan Purwanto said today that it was discovered after the agency did the mapping. Although it is already known, Purwanto is reluctant to say who the actor is. He only said that the agency had anticipated that tensions in the regions would subside.

Meanwhile, country’ authorities were hunting for more than 250 inmates who escaped a prison in Sorong city set ablaze during violent riots.

“258 inmates escaped and only five of them had returned by this morning,” said local justice ministry spokeswoman Marlien Lande to Kompas Tv this morning, adding that several prison employees were injured by rock-throwing prisoners as they tried to stop the escape.

While calm has mostly returned to the region, some 500 people rallied again in Sorong yesterday and it continues in Fakfak and others region today as police in riot gear fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

Monday’s riots marked the latest flashpoint in a decades-old rebel insurgency against Indonesian rule and allegations that its security forces committed widespread rights abuses against Papua’s ethnic Melanesian population.

The former Dutch colony declared its independence in the early Sixties, but neighboring Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region following a UN-sponsored referendum that was widely viewed as a sham.

Papua, which shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea, sees frequent clashes between the military and rebels.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com