West Papua: police investigate as bags of snakes thrown into student dormitory
Masked motorcycle riders pull up around 4am at East Java building that has been the target of protests
Mon 9 Sep 2019 18.48 AESTLast modified on Mon 9 Sep 2019 18.50 AEST
Indonesian police are investigating allegations of masked motorcycle riders throwing bags of snakes into a West Papuan student dormitory in Surabaya and “deliberately spreading terror”.
The hostel was the site of anti-Papua protests last month, which then sparked rolling and often violent protests across Indonesia, including in the Papuan province.
Students at the East Java accommodation, which was the target of racist taunts and protests last month, said shortly after 4am Monday four people on two motorcycles pulled up outside the building.
They threw an open sack containing a 15-20kg python, and another containing three “aggressive” snakes which escaped into the compound, student Yohanes Giyai told the Guardian.
“We could not catch three aggressive snakes because they were moving towards the gutter in the dormitory, while the snake in the plastic bag [we] managed to catch it because the snake had not come out of the bag,” Giyai said.
Videos sent to the Guardian, purporting to be of the incident, show a large python curled inside an open sack.
Giyai,an organiser for the Papuan Student Alliance Central Committee, said the motorcyclists fled as students hurried out of their rooms. He said a group of people they suspected to be Indonesian authorities were watching the building through binoculars, and were “running around”.
An East Java police spokesperson, Frans Barung Mangera, told the Guardian the police were investigating the incident to determine who was “deliberately spreading terror” and confirmed the dormitory was being guarded by police.
It was not clear if police were guarding the building when the motorcyclists came by.
Students have told the Guardian they feel the police presence is a form of intimidation.
It is not the first time snakes have been used to intimidate West Papuans. In February a UN panel of experts called for investigations into violence, unlawful arrest and mistreatment, after video emerged of police using a large snake to terrorise a handcuffed Papuan teenage boy.
News of the dawn intimidation comes days after reports emerged that an Indonesian student activist, Surya Anta, was being detained in an isolated cell at the Mako Brimob detention centre where nationalist songs, including the national anthem, were played throughout the day.
The pro-Papuan activist was arrested with seven Papuan students for allegedly raising the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, at a protest in front of the state palace in Jakarta. Police say they are now facing charges of treason.
In recent days activists have also claimed that security forces in the Papuan capital of Jayapura have conducted nightly raids on student dormitories, leaving students frightened and traumatised, while other Papuan students have complained of being subject to heavy surveillance and intimidation by authorities.
At least six people are believed to have been killed and dozens arrested in clashes between protesters and police in Papuan towns in recent weeks.
Indonesian authorities deployed extra police and military personnel into the region, and shut down internet, as demonstrations turned violent.
A number of students were reportedly shot by militia groups, and footage of soldiers firing on protesters emerged last month.
Footage of protests seen by the Guardian also appeared to show pro-Indonesian militia marching, carrying Indonesian flags and weapons. Indonesian military personnel are seen in some clips, walking among the militia.
Much of the information from the Papua protests has come through the Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who Indonesian authorities have since named as a “suspect” in the spreading of “fake news”.
On Saturday East Java police said they had issued a warrant for Koman.
The chief of the East Java regional police Insp Gen Luki Hermawan, told Antara news police had visited her family’s house, and were working with state intelligence, government ministries and the immigration department.
Police have cited Koman’s posts about an August incident in Surabaya when military and nationalist militia were captured on video calling Papuan students “monkeys” and “dogs”.
She faces up to six years jail if found guilty on charges under the country’s controversial electronic information and transactions law.