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Indonesia’s Kopassus Commandos to Train Again with US Military

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Members of Indonesia’s special forces unit known as Kopassus march during a rehearsal in Banten province, Oct. 3, 2015. Reuters

Papua, Jubi – The elite Indonesian army unit Kopassus will train again with the American military, the Southeast Asian nation’s defense chief said Thursday, in the strongest sign that Washington has agreed to improve ties with the special forces group accused of past human rights abuses.

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu made the announcement after meeting in Jakarta on Thursday with acting U.S. counterpart Patrick Shanahan, during which the two agreed to boost bilateral military cooperation, including on counterterrorism and maritime security.

“Enhancing cooperation will be in the form of dialogue forums, visits by high-ranking military officers, more TNI [Indonesian military] cadets attending education in the U.S., and training for rangers and special forces,” Ryamizard told reporters.

In a joint statement, the two sides affirmed support for normalized relations with Kopassus, which is short for “Special Forces Command” in Indonesian. A joint exercise was expected to take place in 2020, it said.

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“Both ministries affirm support for the expansion in our army to army exercise next year, and by normalizing the Army special forces relationship beginning in 2020 with a Joined Combined Exercise Training with KOPASSUS,” the statement said.

A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately respond to a BenarNews email seeking details on the joint training exercises. But Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman, told Reuters that the training program was still in its initial stages and would likely be for up to six weeks.

Shanahan’s predecessor, James Mattis, last year pushed for expanding training for Indonesian military units involved in counter-terrorism, including Kopassus, which gained notoriety after its members were accused of rights abuses during the 1990s in East Timor, when it was occupied by Indonesia.

Kopassus personnel have also been accused of committing atrocities in hotspots in Indonesia, including Aceh province on Sumatra island and Papua, the country’s easternmost region.

In 2010, Washington lifted a more than a decade-long ban on military assistance to Kopassus, arguing that the unit had undergone sufficient reform following the fall of authoritarian ruler Suharto in 1998.

Last year, Indonesia’s National Commission on Human Rights, known as Komnas HAM, said Kopassus members were involved in rape, killings, enforced disappearances and torture between 1989 and 1998, describing those accusations as crimes against humanity.

“The crimes were borne out of the policy to impose a military emergency in Aceh at that time,” Komnas HAM team member Mohammad Choirul Anam told a news conference in Jakarta last September.

“We have enough preliminary evidence that crimes against humanity, such as rape and other forms of sexual violence, murder, deprivation of freedom, forced imprisonment and forced disappearances,” he said.

The U.S. Congress bans training of foreign military units believed to have involved in human rights abuses under a law sponsored by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.).

Congress began implementing the so-called Leahy Laws in 1998, cutting ties with Kopassus the following year over allegations that its forces had killed civilians and committed rights abuses in East Timor as well Aceh and West Papua provinces.

The laws attach human rights conditions to congressional appropriations of U.S. military aid to foreign countries.

In Jakarta on Thursday, Shanahan told reporters that he and Ryamizard had discussed growing “our capacity and our level of cooperation.”

“The first is expanding, increasing our complex training exercises,” the acting American defense secretary said. “There are many things that we share in common in terms of threats – or I will consider opportunities – our ability to work in counter-terrorism, our ability to work on maritime domain awareness.”

Last year, as Mattis was preparing for his Jakarta visit, Sen. Leahy described Kopassus as a “criminal enterprise” under Suharto, and said it was unclear whether the elite unit had completely transformed.

“The question Secretary Mattis needs to answer is whether the Indonesian government has punished the Kopassus officers who ordered and covered up those horrific crimes, and whether members of Kopassus today are accountable to the rule of law,” the senator told reporters at the time.

Tackling regional threats

On Thursday, the two countries also agreed to tackle threats to security in the Asia-Pacific region, including those posed by returning nationals who fought alongside Islamic State (IS) fighters in Syria and Iraq, the Indonesian defense chief said.

IS-linked militants from Indonesia and the Philippines had been implicated in recent terrorist attacks in both countries, Ryamizard said.

“We must also pay attention to Rohingya refugees. They must be … humanized, otherwise, terrorists will be waiting in the wings to persuade them to join their ranks,” Ryamizard said.

Shanahan was in Indonesia on the first leg of an Asian tour, which will take him to Singapore, where he is scheduled to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue regional security and defense forum.

Ryamizard said he would attend the forum and talk about maintaining stability and resilience in the face of threats in Southeast Asia.

The region will be stronger and more stable if the countries with combined populations of 560 million people are united, with the support of the United States and partners including Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Russia, Ryamizard said.

Concerns that ex-IS militants returning from Syria would become leaders of independent terrorist cells not affiliated with pro-IS militant groups in Indonesia have not yet become a reality but remains something to worry about, according to a recent report by a Jakarta-based think-tank.

“At present, the biggest threat comes from IS supporters who have never left, not from those who returned,” Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said in a report published last month.

Ryamizard also said the U.S. had an interest in making the South China Sea accessible to all.

“Indonesia understands that it must maintain peace and cooperation between countries such as joint patrols so that all countries can go through (the South China Sea),” Ryamizard said.

In December, the Indonesian military inaugurated a military unit in the Natuna islands near the South China Sea.

Indonesian navy patrols have clashed with Chinese fishing boats in waters off Natuna in recent years, as the nation has increased a crackdown on illegal fishing in the maritime region and accused the Chinese of fishing in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

China responded by calling the waters traditional fishing grounds. Tensions between China and its neighbors have risen as the superpower has sought to assert its control of the South China Sea in the face of competing territorial claims from countries in the region.

China claims most of the sea as its own, while Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to territories. (Benarnews.org)

 

Source: Benarnews.org

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Special report: Risking peace in Wamena (part three of six articles)

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Eles Himan’s body before his funeral. – Jubi/Vembri Waluyas

An exploded mass riot blasted Wamena, the capital of Jayawijaya Regency, Papua on 23 September 2019 has shocked the public’s sense of humanity. Everyone was shaken and mourned to see how the anti-racism protest by students exploded into a riot killing at least 42 people and destroyed half of the biggest town in Papua’s central highland.

But what people want right now is to embroider the already-torn apart social relationship, to heal the wounds promptly. On the other hand, the government has many things to do if they want to rebuild a robust peace in society. The article is the third part of six articles of “Risking peace in Wamena”.

Mass outraged in the downtown

Every single minute passed in silence at the lawn of the Jayawijaya regent office. A TVRI journalist Naftali Pawika risked for taking a picture of protesters in the yard because some students had warned anyone for not taking their photographs or videos during the protest.

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“So I could only sit down at the back. To every journalist who later came, I told them for not taking their picture because they might be angry,” said Naftali Pawika.

Those students also refused the security forces. When a group of Mobile Brigade personnel stopped at Yos Sudarso Street caught by the students, they run out of the regent office’s compound, throwing stones and asking the Brimob personnel to go away. When the troops left, the students turned calm. They quietly sat and waited for the Regent Jhon Richard Banua.

“They didn’t want to see the security forces after hearing their seven friends arrested by police. They were waiting for the regent because they wanted him to release their friends,” said Pawika.

Meanwhile, the human rights activist Theo Hesegem said the Regent Jhon Richard Banua arrived at his office along with Lieutenant Colonel Infantry Candra Dianto, the Military District Commandant of 1702/Jayawijaya. Before the regent had a chance talking with the students, a military adjutant took a shot of the students.

“It made the students mad. They were throwing stones towards the regent and military commandant. The commandant finally left the compound through the back door,” said Hesegem in Wamena on 5 October 2019.

But, Amid the chaos, suddenly smoke raised from the finance department located in the back compound of the regent office. According to Naftali Pawika, the fire surprised everyone because the students were in the front yard of the regent office.

“The regent who took shelter to escape the stones throwing came out to calm down the students. Everything was under control after the regent promised to take care of their friends arrested by police. The students then sat peacefully until a fire brigade car entered the compound to help to extinguish the fire in the finance department,” said Naftali Pawika.

Suddenly, they became angry and chased that car to the back office’s compound. At the same time, there was another group entered the office compound through the back door. “They are adults. They joined the students’ crowd. The situation was getting chaotic. Finally, other buildings in the regent office compound also burned,” said Naftali Pawika.

The outraged mass came out from the regent office compound to the street. They marched through SMP 2 Wamena in Diponegoro Street and tried to penetrate the Wamena Airport in Trikora Street. At the t-section of Diponegoro and Trikora streets, the police shot the tear gas to dismiss the crowd.

Blocked by police, the mob moved back and turned into Ahmad Yani Street. They then turned towards the orphanage Panti Asuhan Pelangi and walked approaching Trikora Street. Many witnesses believe that the mob eventually wanted to burn the Wamena Airport. The police once again confronted the crowd with tear gas shots. Gunfire continuously shot to scatter the mob. They run away to all direction, mainly towards Pasar Misi in Wouma.

Meanwhile, Father RD Allo Dabi Pr who was in the Central Highland Diocese Office in Wouma heard the gunfire since 09 a.m. Many innocent people were panic and run away in all direction. Many Catholics came and refuged to the diocese office.

“At 10.30 p.m., the situation was getting tenser. The traditional market, Pasar Misi, burned out. When the Brimob arrived at Pasar Misi, the fire had spread to other locations. When the students saw the Brimob opened gunfire, instead of fear, they attacked the Brimob,” said Father Allo.


At the same time, the outraged mass due to a shooting incident in Homhom started to come to Wouma. “Three adults carrying traditional bow and arrows entered to the diocese office’s yard. It seems they wanted to go to Pasar Misi. I asked them to go because they would harm people who took refuge here. Thank God they left. A few moments later, the police came. I raised my hand, and they asked me, ‘a priest?’ I answered, yes, I am a priest, then they went away,” said Father Allo.

Meanwhile, in Pasar Misi, the tension amongst the outraged mass that repelled by police was getting worst. They took the retail gasoline in bottle displayed in front of the stall, used it to burn any shops and stalls there. Some traders trapped inside their shops or stalls. The riot in Pasar Misi, Wouma, on 23 September 2013 took the most casualties. Father Allo said the tense gradually decreased at 3.00 p.m.

The official police data said the mass riot in Homhom and Wouma on 23 September 2019 had killed 33 people, caused 80 injuries and traumatised thousands of people. Meanwhile, dozens of thousands of people from Wamena and surrounding areas refuged to some refugee camps or left Wamena. In Wamena, some offices reportedly burned, while 351 shops and 27 houses also demolished by fire.

Some Jubi sources confirmed that seven of 33 death victims from the police’s record killed by bullets during the mass riot on 23 September 2019. The victims are Eliaken Wetapo, Gestanus Hisage, Ketron Kogoya, Manu Meage, Mison Lokbere, Yus Asso, Eles Himan. Jubi also received information about another victim, Marius Wenda, who also killed by the bullet. However, this information has not yet verified.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Papua Customary Council elected in the Extraordinary Congress noted that there are eight other death victims but not yet recorded by police. They are Kelion Tabuni, Niligi Wenda, Lawan Hesegem, Beam Wenda, Inius Tabuni, Naligin Yikwa, Wenas Babingga, Yandrik Wenda. The council stated that these eight victims died because of the bullets.

Jubi also received information from another source confirmed that a resident Nisaba Himan also killed on 23 September. Some residents witnessed his body found in Pisugi with a gunshot wound on the chest. Nisaba Himan is also not recorded in both police’s record and the council. With the addition of nine death victims, the mass riot in Wamena on 23 September 2019 has killed at least 42 people. (To be continued)

Jubi Journalists Victor Mambor and Islami Adisubrata also contributed into the article writing.

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Special report: Risking peace in Wamena (Part 2 of 6)

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PLN employees repair the electricity grid in Homhoom following the burning of the power house in the riot of 23 September 2019. – Jubi/Vembri Waluyas

An exploded mass riot blasted Wamena, the capital of Jayawijaya Regency, Papua, on 23 September 2019 has shocked public’s sense of humanity. Everyone shaken and mourned to see how the anti-racism protest by students exploded into a riot killing at least 42 people and destroyed a half of the biggest town in Papua’s highlands.

But what people want right now is to embroider the already-torn-apart social relationship immediately, to promptly heal the wounds. On the other hand, the government has many things to concern if they want to rebuild a robust peace in society. The article is the second part of six articles of “Risking peace in Wamena”.

An obscured morning in Homhom

At the same time, hundreds of people dressed in high school uniform also gathered in Homhom, a location situated only 3.2 Km north of the Jayawijaya regent office. They looked furious. A pastor of Wesorama Baptist Church of the Papua Baptist Fellowship Church (PGBP) in Pikhe, the Rev. Simet Yikwa, said the mob wanted to approach the regent office to join the protest against racism by a teacher of SMA PGRI Wamena.

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But, they were not able to pass the police at Wamena Police Headquarters in Homhom Street. While forcibly returned to the t-section in Pikhe Street, the mob were becoming more violent. “They threw stones in all directions. They are so many, perhaps thousand. They just threw away the stones randomly. But, no one set a fire at the time,” said the Rev. Yikwa.

The police repeatedly come to the scene and warned them with several warning shots. Instead of stepping down, the mob even became more desperate after hearing seven students been arrested by the police when they came to SMA Yapis Wamena. In the chaos, people scattered to run away trying to escape from Homhom Street.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Papua Customary Council elected in the Extraordinary Congress, Dominikus Surabut, told that he met some protesters running from Homhom Street to the intersection of SD Percobaan and Sangiri streets.

“I was able talking to a high school student standing near me, ‘boy, wait a minute!’, but another student then shouted at me, ‘hey you! You’re provocateur!’ trying to hit my body with a wooden stick. I deflected, and the bat broke. But, it was not over yet. A girl came to approach. She hit my helmet with a big stone and kicked my motorbike,” said Dominikus Surabut.

Surabut believes that those who had abused him were students. However, he also thought some of the protesters look ‘mature’ as students. Because he was aware that the masses did not recognise him and he would not be able to calm them down, he finally pulled away.

Meanwhile, a resident Obeth Alua testified the crowd in the t-section of Homhom, and Pikhe streets refuse people to approach. Therefore, Obeth and his friend only watched a mass rampage occurred in front of Yudha Supermarket from a distance. Also, he does not know any of those who involved in the violence.

“They said they want to do the anti-racism rally. I don’t know those people, so I just watched from a distance. Suddenly I saw two people from the crowd shot down: a boy and a girl,” said Obeth Alua. He remembers the victims did not wear high school uniform.

The Rev. Simet Yikwa confirmed there was a boy shot during the rampage in Homhom Street. Later, he learned the boy’s name is Kelion Tabuni (20 years old), an architecture student from Universitas Negeri Manado, North Sulawesi. However, he was unaware of the girl that Alua mentioned of being shot and taken to Wesaput. Jubi also cannot obtain further confirmation about the girl from other sources.

Shops in Pikhe area were burnt down in the mass riot on 23 September 2019.– Jubi/Vembri Waluyas

However, both the Rev. Yikwa and Alua testified about how they saw the wave of outrage amongst the masses rapidly grew after they saw Kelion Tabuni died. Some residents who previously watched from a distance turned angry, joined the crowd and attacked the shops surround Homhom and Pikhe streets.

“I saw some people carried the body of Kelion Tabuni, moved it to Pikhe. Meanwhile, the mob started attacking shops and stalls there. They took gasoline in the bottles displayed in front of the shops, threw it to the shops in Homhom Street and set alight,” said the Rev. Yikwa.

They burned Dina Teknik, a car repair shop located in Homhom Street, also Yudha Supermarket’s warehouse. During the rampage, some protesters and residents were shot.

While seeing the rampage start increased, the Rev. Simet Yikwa mobilised the officials of Wesaroma Baptist Church to evacuate the migrants. Most of them are the owners of shops, repair shops or stalls in Homhom and Pikhe streets.

“We picked some of them from their house’s back door. If any shop or house has no back door, we broke into it and took the migrants to Wesaroma Baptist Church. We managed to save about 350 migrants in our church. The reverend Yason Jikwa from Panorama Baptist Church was also able to evacuate around 270 migrants to his church,” said the Rev. Yikwa.

Meanwhile, in Pikhe Sreet, the flame continued to move towards the north, away from the city, destroying rows of shops, stalls, repair shops on the left and rights sides of the street. The arsonists continued to move along as if they followed a group of people carrying the body of Kelion Tabuni across the Pikhe Bridge, towards Pisugi. Black thick smoke arose, visible up to Wamena downtown.

Meanwhile, Junaedi, the Department Head of UP3 PLN Wamena, predicted that the mass rampage had occurred before the riot devastated half of the city of Wamena. He said the voltage-reducing transformer in Homhom Streed had exploded before the regent office caught fire. “It exploded at around 9.30 a.m. After that, the electricity transformer near the regent office exploded,” said Junaedi in Wamena on 4 October 2019.

At the time when the mass riot and burning occurred in Homhom Street, the students of SMA PGRI and other schools were conducting a rally in front of the Jayawijaya regent office. They continued to sit there demanding the police to release their seven friends who arrested in SMA Yapis Wamena.

But, why and how the outrage masses could gather in Homhom Street?

The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) team is still also looking for the answer. The Komnas HAM Chairman Ahmad Taufik Damanik said they are still questioning where did the mob actually come from? It is a big question mark. For that reason, they asked the police to investigate it further. “We already asked the police to find out and trace the allegation of mass mobilisation,” said the human rights commissionaire Damanik in Jayapura on 17 October 2019. (To be continued)

Jubi Journalists Victor Mambor and Islami Adisubrata also contributed into the article writing.


Reporter: Aryo Wisanggeni

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Special report: Risking peace in Wamena (Part 1 of 6)

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A student’s cap laying on the grass of the lawn of Jayawijaya Regent Office, Wamena. – Jubi/Vembri Waluyas

When a mass riot blasted Wamena, the capital of Jayawijaya Regency, Papua on 23 September 2019, it shocked public sentiments, their sense of humanity. Everyone was shocked and mourned to see how the anti-racism protest exploded into a riot killing at least 42 people and destroying half of the biggest town in Papua’s highlands.

At the same time, everyone eagerly wants to share a collective desire for weaving the already-torn-apart of social relationship and heal the sufferings. On the other hand, the government has many things to concern if they want to rebuild a robust peace in society. This feature is the first part of six articles of “Risking peace in Wamena”.

News on racist taunt instantly spread

Mikael Alua drove his motorbike to SMA PGRI Wamena located in Jalan Bhayangkara. On that Monday Morning, 23 September 2019, he must go early to school due to mid-semester exam. But, once he parked his motorbike in front of the school’s gate, Alua were striking.

“I saw broken window glasses of our classroom shattered everywhere. Soon, the School Principal Herry Max Kasiha and I tried to figure out what has had happening to our school. Our school neighbour told us that a group of people came to our school at around 2 a.m. These people destroyed all window glasses in classrooms and school office,” said Mikael Alua in Wamena on Friday (4/10/2019).

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But then, he could no longer find out the group’s motive by doing such a crime against his school. Once other teachers and students arrived at school, he was too busy preparing the flag-raising ceremony.

Then suddenly, a group of students shouted out, calling their friends to leave the mid-semester exam. They protested against a substitute teacher who allegedly insulted a student of Grade 11 from Class IPS 2 by calling him ‘monkey’ during the economics lesson on Wednesday, 18 September 2019.

The teacher, named RTS, has just been teaching for a week in SMA PGRI. She was appointed by the Papua Education Office to teach economics replacing Elfrida Panjaitan who are attending the certification training for teachers in Makassar, Sulawesi Selatan. While teaching, she then had a dispute with a student in her class. The student named APB accused her of insulting him by calling him ‘monkey’.

Following the call on strike, on that Monday morning, the students of SMA PGRI asked the School Principal Herry Max Kasiha to follow up the racist taunt by RTS to court. Therefore, according to Mikael Alua, the principal tried to calm the students by explaining the vice-principal Debora Agapa has settled this case on Saturday, 21 September 2019.

Regarding the case, Debora Agapa also recounted the allegedly racist incident at school to the Papua Police Chief Paulus Waterpauw.

“We were confused. Nothing had happened three days ago. [Allegedly racist taunt] It happened on Wednesday. Nothing had been happening on Thursday, as well as on Friday. But then, on Saturday, the students were making noise problematising it. We are the teachers just found out this incident on that day, Saturday, 21 September 2019, when the students crowdedly protested on it. By that day, we tried to reconcile both the teacher RTS and student APB,” said Debora Agapa during Waterpauw’s visit to SMA PGRI Wamena on 7 October 2019.

Mikael Alua admitted that on that Monday morning, the teachers were overwhelmed to calm down their students.

“When we were trying to calm down our students, suddenly a group of students from other schools came and talked about the same racism issue. I don’t know them. Meanwhile, our students keep insisting on suing RTS. It seems that the news of reconciliation attempt by the school authority has spread out to the public on Sunday,” Alua guessed.

Ruins of vehicles burned by the mob near the Jayawijaya Regent Office, Wamena. – Jubi/Vembri Waluyas

However, he said he felt a little relieved at that moment when seeing some police officers came to school. The officers tried to talk with students who still insisted saying that RTS should take to the police.

“The police agreed on the students’ demand. They then said only the students from IPS 2 could go to the Police Station. But all the students said they all must go,” said Mikael Alua.

So, all students of SMA PGRI Wamena and some students from other schools finally walked towards Jawijaya Police Headquarters through Jalan Bhayangkara. Meanwhile, Mikael Alua, the School Principal Herry Max Kasiha and two other teachers rode their motorbike and arrived at the police station before the students.

“In the police station, we were brought to the intelligence room. When we entered the room, RTS was already there. So we were waiting for the students to come. But they would never have arrived at the police Jayawijaya,” said Mikael Alua.

The students contingent of SMA PGRI never arrived at the Police Headquarters. They walked on Jalan Bhayangkara, had a chance to visit SMA YPK Betlehem Wamena to invite the students there joining their crowd. At the intersection of Jalan Bhayangkara and Jalan Sudirman, the group divided.

To reach the Jayawijaya Police Headquarters, they should walk through until the eastern passing Jalan Bhayangkara. But, some students turned left to visit SMA Negeri 1 Wamena. Meanwhile, the others turned right towards Jalan Yos Sudarso towards the Jayawijaya Regent Office and SMA Yapis Wamena.

The School Principal of SMA Negeri 1 Wamena Yosep Wibisono recounted that the students’ mob were anarchist while entering his school. The crowd threw stones over the window glasses and called students from SMA Negeri 1 to join the protest against racism.

“Everything happened so quickly. The teachers were teaching in the classrooms. They were fear but could not do anything about it. The mob ruined the teacher’s office, threw out over the window glasses. I could only hide in my office,” told Yosep on 7 October 2019.

The student mob were also doing anarchist while visiting SMA Yapis Wamena to ask the students from that school to join their protest. The students of SMAP Yapis initially refused their call, and it triggered a clash among those students. Wamena residents firstly thought there was a clash among school students. Following this clash, the police arrested seven students who came to SMA Yapis Wamena.

Having additional supporters from some schools from the city centre of Wamena, the students’ mob came to the Jayawijaya Regent Office. A reporter from TVRI in Wamena, Naftali Pawika who was at the regent office that morning told the students’ crowd arrived at 8 a.m.

“The regent John Richard Banua has not yet come to the office. The students occupied the lawn of the Jayawijaya Regent Office. Although they were threatening some journalists to not taking photographs, they were not violent. Some of them indeed held a wooden stick they collected from the street, but I didn’t see they brought stones or fuel. They just sat down, awaited,” said Naftali Pawika. (To be continued)

Jubi Journalists, Victor Mambor and Islami Adisubrata, also contributed into the article writing.

Reporter: Aryo Wisanggeni

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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