Jayapura, Jubi – International spokesperson of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB) Victor Yeimo was arrested by the police’s Nemangkawi Task Force on Sunday, May 9, 2021. According to the police, Yeimo was arrested for allegedly provoking riots following the antiracism protests in Jayapura City on August 29, 2019.
Nemangkawi Task Force chief Sr. Comr. Iqbal Alqudusy said Yeimo, who is also one of the initiators of Petition by Papuans rejecting the potential continuation of Papua special autonomy status, was among the fugitive of the 2019 riots. “He is on the People Wanted List [DPO],” Alqudusy said.
In August 2019, riots broke out in Papua and West Papua as local people, comprising mostly university students, protested against the racial abuse of Papuan students in East Java. Security personnel and members of local mass organizations accused the students of refusing to celebrate Indonesia’s 74th Independence Day then physically and verbally attacked them, shouting insults like “monkeys”, “pigs” and “dogs”.
The antiracism protests took place in several cities such as Timika, Deiyai, Manokwari, Sorong, and Fakfak, as well as Jakarta. Many of these protests were disbanded and the participants arrested by the police.
Tapol, a UK-based human rights NGO, reported 20 people killed during the antiracism protests and 1,500 people arrested in the protests and meetings about Papua throughout 2019.
The Balikpapan District Court in East Kalimantan found seven Papuans guilty of treason in June 2020, for their involvement in the antiracism protests in Jayapura in 2019, despite calls from rights defenders for authorities to drop all charges against them.
The court sentenced Buchtar Tabuni, deputy of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), to 11 months in prison. Meanwhile, Cenderawasih University student union head Ferry Kombo and students of the University of Science and Technology (USTJ), Irwanus Uropmabin and Hengki Hilapok, were sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment. These sentences were far from the demands of prosecutors, who sought 17 years of imprisonment for Buchtar, 10 years for Ferry, and 5 years for Irwanus and Hengki. Agus Kossay and Stevanus Itlay from the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), were sentenced to 11 months in prison after prosecutors demanded 15 years. Meanwhile, USTJ student union head Alexander Gobai was sentenced to 10 months of imprisonment after prosecutors sought 10 years.
Many rights activists deemed the court’s verdict unjust and reflected racism under Indonesia’s justice system. In East Java, the Surabaya District Court sentenced Tri Susanti, who led the mob to attack the student’s dormitory, to only 7 months of imprisonment. Meanwhile, another defendant of racism, Syamsul Arifin, was sentenced to 5 months in prison.
During the wave of arrest of Papuan activists post-antiracism protests, the police repeatedly claimed the KPNB was behind the riots in Jayapura City on August 29, 2019. However, the name of Victor Yeimo was never announced as fugitive until Yeimo was arrested by the police on Sunday night.
Reporter: Yuliana Lantipo
Editor: Aryo Wisanggeni G