Indonesian security minister calls for calm in violence-hit Papua

INDONESIA (The Straits Times/ANN) - The violence was sparked by an incident in Surabaya in East Java in which more than 40 Papuan students were arrested.

Indonesian Security Minister Wiranto urged residents to stay calm and not be provoked by fake news when he visited the restive province of West Papua yesterday, following violent protests in the region described as the worst in years.

The violence was sparked by an incident in Surabaya in East Java, over the weekend, in which more than 40 Papuan students were arrested after being accused of disrespecting the Indonesian flag during an Independence Day celebration.

Claims of heavy-handed treatment and racist slurs by the police followed.

Mr Wiranto, who was accompanied by Indonesian military commander Hadi Tjahjanto and national police chief Tito Karnavian, sought to put a lid on the unrest in the sprawling archipelago's easternmost region, where a low-level insurgency against Indonesian rule has been simmering for decades.

Mr Wiranto passed on President Joko Widodo's appeal for Papuans to "become peaceful again, forgive one another, and not to be emotional", national police spokesman Asep Adi Saputra told reporters in Jakarta yesterday.

Riots have been reported in several cities across the region, which is divided into Papua and West Papua provinces, including in the West Papua provincial capital of Manokwari where an angry mob torched the Parliament building on Monday.

Elsewhere, violence was reported in the cities of Timika and Sorong. In Fakfak regency, demonstrators hoisted the outlawed Morning Star independence flag of the Papuan separatist movement.

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