Papuan protesters claim police using covid rapid tests to curb free speech

Papuan students at the Otsus protest in Jakarta on Wednesday … covid threat to free speech. Image: CNN Indonesia

Asia Pacific Report

Indonesian police have asked participants at a protest action against Special Autonomy (Otsus) in Papua to take covid-19 rapid tests at the site of the demonstration in front of the Home Affairs Ministry office in Jakarta this week, reports CNN Indonesia.

The protesters refused, saying it was an attempt to silence them.

Police Assistant Superintendant Budi asked all of the demonstrators at the Wednesday protest to take turns in undergoing a covid-19 rapid test. Police had provided healthcare works and rapid test for free.

“Please protesters take a rapid test first to confirm that everyone here is safe from the [corona] virus pandemic”, said Budi from a police command vehicle in front of the Home Affairs Ministry office.

Budi said that the protesters needed to take a rapid because there were too many of them, adding that under the Micro Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM) the maximum limit on a gathering was 10 people.

The police claimed that they wanted to ensure that the demonstrators were safe and even declared they would take firm action if the students failed to follow the rules.

“Before we [have to] take firm action, please follow the rules,” said Budi.

Papuan students refuse
The Papuan students however refused to take the rapid test saying that they felt that the rule was only intended to restrict freedom of expression.

“Regarding the rapid test, last December we also refused because there was no mandatory letter. So, we reject the rapid test. This is curbing democratic space for Papuan people on the grounds of Covid-19”, said one of the speakers, Ambrosius Mulait.

Police continued to appeal to the demonstrators but the Papuan students were reluctant to take a rapid test. Instead, they began singing together.

“Papua is not the red-and-white, Papua is not the red-and-white, Papua is the Morning Star, the Morning Star”, shouted the demonstrators, referring to the red-and-white Indonesian national colours and the Morning Star independence flag of Papua.

Translated by James Balowski for IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Pedemo Otsus Papua Tolak Rapid Test di Depan Kantor Tito”.

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