Papuan student arrested in Ambon for wearing a net bag with Morning Star symbol

Seven months ago, multiple racist assaults against Papuans students by nationalist mass organisations and discriminative interventions by the local police in the Javanese cities Malang and Surabaya caused large scale demonstrations against racism in all major cities across West Papua, some of them turning into violent riots. The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) has reported a further case, in which military members arbitrarily arrested a Papuan student for wearing a bag with a Morning Star symbol in the city of Ambon, Maluku Province.


On 15 March 2020, at 12.10 am, Papuan student Yakob Kocu and a friend were heading home on a motor cycle after attending the Sunday worship as they saw another Papuan student whose motor cycle had run out of fuel. Yakob Kocu and his friend decided to help, so Yakob got off the bike while his friend drove to a nearby gas station to get fuel. Shortly after, two military members stopped their bike and began to take pictures of Yakob Kocu because he was wearing a traditional net bag with the Morning Star symbol.
In order to avoid any trouble, Yakob Kocu decided to walk away from the sight. Subsequently, the two military members intercepted Yakob Kocu on their motor cycle and wanted to arrest him (see image intro image). As Yakob refused to come with the military members, a heated debate occurred. At 1.10 pm, the military member arrested Yakob Kocu and brought him to the Kota Java Sub-district police station (see image on the right). The military members did not respond when Yakob and his friends asked them for the reason of the arrest.

Yakob police stationThereupon, a group of 15 people consisting of Papuan students and members of the Indonesian Peoples Front for West Papua (FRI WP) came to the police station after they heard of the arrest. The police officers insisted that Yakob Kocu should be brought to the Ambon district police station for further examination, where his net bag was seized. The police argued that the bag “disturbs the Indonesia’s sovereignty”. During a discussion with the Papuan students at the Kota Java Sub-district police station, one police officer allegedly asked the students “Why don’t you just study in Papua? Why are you coming here to Ambon?”.

The Papuan students in Ambon claim that they are monitored at their boarding houses and when they walk in public.