The Fakfak — West Papua incident: As it has happened

The Wawawa Journal
4 min readJan 9, 2020


An unfortunate incident has recently occurred again in West Papua. Some parties claimed that some West Papuans were arrested without clear procedures, which is considered barbaric, just because they wanted to fly the Morning Star flag. Several photos related to the arrest quickly came into the spotlight. The other parties, especially the Indonesian security forces, stated that the arrest is early detection as those people were detected carrying sharp weapons and planned to harm civilians.

In Indonesia, the Morning Star flag cannot be legally accepted yet, even though many, both the native and non-native West Papuan Indonesians, have respected the flag. The arrest procedure carried out by the security forces was legal as needed to be done. And, if there were a similar situation in another country, similar arrests would surely be made. However, the procedure has indeed failed to accommodate humanitarian principles. This is indeed very serious homework for the government and the security forces in West Papua that need to be navigated immediately.

What happened?

The combined security forces (Indonesian National Armed Forces/TNI and Indonesian National Police/POLRI) of Fakfak region arrested 54 residents, who were mostly of West Papuan ethnicity, in Kayuni and Kramomongga District, Fakfak Regency, West Papua. They were found to be involved in the plan to raise the Morning Star Flag (Bintang Kejora) at the official residence of the Fakfak Regent. The attempt was suspected of being coercive because the Regent of Fakfak, Mohammad Uswanas, who was a native Papuan figure, did not give any permission or comment regarding the attempt.

The security forces made the arrests in different areas. Some were secured in Warpa Village, Pikpik Village, and Mambuni-Buni Village and Kayauni District. The assembly point of the 54 suspects is in Warpa Village.

The Fakfak security also reported, after putting down the 23 people raising the Morning Star flag in the Warpa Village in the Kayuni District, the forces continued to Kramomongga Village and arrested a suspect. The investigation was carried on to Kampung Pikpik and arrested a group of people with sharp weapons who were gathering in one of the houses of residents in Kampung Mambuni-Buni. The arrested suspects were aged around 20 to 60 years old, and they currently are under investigation at the Fakfak Regional Police Station. (Further info about the development of the case has yet to be found)

The security forces also ensured that there was no involvement of The National Committee for West Papua (KNPB) in this case. Thus, there was no sentiment of targeting certain groups of people, unless they were carrying out illegal actions.

National joint endeavor

The incident, unfortunately, tensed up the atmosphere of Fakfak city. According to some news reporters’ confession, there were not only prohibited from covering the incident, they were also expelled, shouted at and forced to delete their video recordings. But there wre one or two journalists who managed to record the incident in secret.

In the process of arresting the suspects, there were some testimonies among the people that can be obtained. Based on the statement of several journalists, the security forces carried out the arrests inhumanely. Those who gathered at the alleged location of the raising of the Morning Star flag were forcibly herded and stripped of their top clothes and some of them who tried to make a defense were violently acted upon by the forces.

The case is in the end heavily criticized by a number of human rights fighters, especially those related to West Papua’s case. They shared and circulated the proof pictures and videos of the arrest on their social media. Their comments are of course, a form of protest over the treatment of security forces which was deemed inhumane.

The concern for the inhumane action needs to be appreciated. Because, in this modern era, anyone’s opinion needs to be understood and responded to correctly without violence. However, the security process is also essential to be understood as a general procedure that is certainly essential to be carried out if there is potential for violence. As reported, the masses who will fly the Morning Star flag are undeniably proven to carry sharp weapons and threaten residents.

What was done by the security forces to the suspects was triggered due to allegations of any possible repercussion that could threaten the public. However, the violent handling of the security forces should, of course, be criticized.

Therefore, there needs to be some collaborative work to be done. A joint task can be initiated so that various parties can work together and find the right ways to regulate and improve West Papua. The security forces need to realize that they do not have sufficient human rights views. Therefore, there is necessary to open up and cooperate with groups that care about human rights principles.

Meanwhile, human rights defenders must also be willing to open themselves up to provide and share the understanding in a way that is more strategic and can be accepted by the security forces. Hence, confrontations in the media, especially on social media which are full of misinterpretations and misunderstandings, should be avoided. As for the latest information, it has been reported that the situation in the city of Fakfak remains safe and conducive. There were no riots anymore, as published by some people who claimed to be local obs