Papuan students demand referendum, raise banned Morning Star flags

Papuan students with faces painted with the colors of the separatist 'Morning Star' flag shout slogans during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. A group of West Papuan students in Indonesia's capital staged the protest against racism and called for independence for their region. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) — Papuan students held protest in front of Presidential Palace, demanding for referendum and raising the banned Morning Star flag.

The demands by Papuans for a referendum on self-determination spread to Jakarta on Wednesday, amid reports of civilian fatalities in Papua.

Hundreds of Papuan students took to the streets in Central Jakarta following similar protests in the highlands of Papua earlier this week.

The protesters marched from the Army headquarters to the State Palace, carrying banned Morning Star flags, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.

“The students and the people of Papua have agreed to call for a referendum,” protest coordinator Ambrosius said during the rally.

In addition to a referendum, the protesters also called for the governors of Papua and West Papua to facilitate a return of Papuan students back to their provinces.

The students also demanded that the Information and Communications Ministry lift the government-imposed internet blackout that has been in place in the country’s easternmost provinces since last week.

When they reached the front of the State Palace, protesters burned tires and performed traditional Papuan dances while chanting. The crowd dispersed peacefully at around 5:30 p.m.

The protests came amid reports that civilians had been shot by security forces during an antiracism rally in Deiyai regency, Papua. Eyewitnesses said that six protesters were feared dead and at least three others were injured during the incident.

Authorities have confirmed that one soldier died and at least two policemen were injured in the incident, but have yet to confirm civilian casualties.

By Donny Fernando