20 Aug 2019

Indonesia's President appeals for calm after Papua protests

12:45 pm on 20 August 2019

Indonesia's President, Joko Widodo, is appealing for calm after violent protests in cities across West Papua.

Protesters in Papua's Jayapura.

Protesters in Papua's Jayapura. Photo: Whens Tebay

The unrest was sparked when dozens of Papuan university students in Surabaya were assaulted by a mob on Saturday and later arrested.

The students were called "monkeys" and other racist slurs by the mob, prompting thousands to march in the streets of Papua on Monday.

In Manokwari, videos posted to social media showed the parliament building on fire and roads blocked by burning tyres.

But this morning, local resident, Lucu Sawaki, said the streets were quiet.

"Police is still everywhere and the security is also good this morning but people are still afraid to go out from the house," Mr Sawaki said.

In a statement posted by his office, Joko Widodo said he understood the "hurt feelings" but he urged people in Papua to be patient and forgive.

Indonesian police confront West Papuan demonstrators in Jayapura, August 2019.

Indonesian police confront West Papuan demonstrators in Jayapura, August 2019. Photo: Whens Tebay

Reuters reported Surabaya's governor, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, had apologised for the behaviour of the mob who sparked the protest.

"We apologize because this does not represent the voice of the people of East Java," she said.

Calling Papuans 'monkeys' was "someone's personal outburst of emotion", the governor added.

Veronica Koman, an Indonesian human rights lawyer who works with Papuans, said 15 people who marched in Sorong city had been arrested and she was not sure if they had been released.

"This is the 'tip of the iceberg'," she said in a Tweet, in reference to Monday's protests.

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