Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Irian Jaya

VII. Riots in Manokwari

Other Sections

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Background to the Demonstration
III. Sorong and Jayapura
IV. The Biak Demonstration
V. Bodies in Biak
VI. Wamena, Jayawijaya
VII. Riots in Manokwari
VIII. Bodies in Biak
IX. Appendix: Arrests Since July 1998

At about 8:30 a.m. on October 2 in Manokwari, a district of some 150,000 people in western Irian Jaya, about twenty men lowered the Indonesian flag outside the district council building and raised the West Papuan flag in its place. The leader of the group was a man named Albert Kareth, an employee of the local campus of Cenderawasih University's agriculture faculty. They sang hymns and OPM songs, and some of the men made short speeches. Police arrived shortly after the flag-raising took place and surrounded the demonstrators, as crowds began to gather to see what was happening. At about 10 a.m., the demonstrators entered into negotiations with the police, who agreed to let the flag fly for two more hours. The demonstrators, however, insisted on having it fly until sunset. After two hours, police approached to cut down the flag, and the demonstrators, according to one report, tried to prevent them from doing so with knives.(15) The police reportedly shot into the air to try to break up the demonstration, and the crowd began throwing stones at the police. Violence then erupted, with the crowd breaking into smaller groups and systematically stoning, burning, and vandalizing homes and shops along Manokwari's major streets. Shops owned by Muslim migrants from other parts of Indonesia, especially South Sulawesi and Java, were particularly targeted. As a result of the violence, all economic activity in the town ceased for the next few days. By October 6, government offices were open, but most stores remained closed. An ugly confrontation at the main market between Bugis, the dominant Muslim migrant group, reportedly hurling epithets at local youths, and Irianese, armed with iron pipes and knives, was narrowly averted. By October 8, the town was functioning more or less normally.

Church leaders who conducted an inquiry questioned whether the violence was spontaneous but came to no conclusions, and those arrested in connection with both the flag-raising and the violence that followed were eventually released.

Indonesia: Human Rights and Pro-Independence Actions in Irian Jaya - Table of Contents

15. "Complete Report on the Peaceful Demonstration to Raise the Flag of West Papua and The Riot in Manokwari That Followed," Fact-finding Team of the Christian Churches and Nongovernmental Organizations in Manokwari, October 1998.