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Two University Students Have Died in the Indonesia Protests

Hundreds were also injured in reported cases of police brutality.

by Elisabeth Glory Victory; translated by Jade Poa
27 September 2019, 9:51am

Screenshot of student protests in Kendari via YouTube.

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

Two Indonesian university students have died in the continuing protests against pending controversial bills and laws proposed by the country’s lawmaking body, the People’s Representative Council (DPR).

Immawan Randi, a 21-year-old Fishery Affairs major at Halu Oleo University, died of a gunshot wound while participating in a demonstration in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi yesterday, Sept. 26. Randi was an activist in his univeristy’s Muslim Student Association, who joined the thousands of others protesting at the city’s Regional People’s Representative Council Building (DPRD).

Randi was shot by a still unknown perpetrator as he stood at an intersection on Made Sabara St., roughly 200 metres from the DPRD Building. According to a CNN Indonesia report, he was with his friends when he suddenly fell to the ground and went unconscious.

He was rushed to a nearby military hospital where a team of doctors, including surgeons and anaesthesiologists, immediately tended to him.

“[Randi] arrived here at around 3 p.m., after afternoon prayers. Doctors immediately helped him, but he could not be saved,” Major Sergeant Salam, a spokesperson for the hospital who goes by one name, told local media.

Doctors observed a circular wound on the right side of his chest, which they believe to be a live bullet wound. Southeast Sulawesi Police have confirmed Randi’s death, but not what caused it.

“We will conduct an autopsy to find out the cause,” Harry Goldenhardt, a police public relations spokesperson, told CNN Indonesia . Randi’s family has agreed to the autopsy.

Meanwhile, Yusuf Kardawi, another Halu Oleo University student, died today after succumbing to a brain injury he sustained at the same protest Randi attended. The circumstances of his death are still largely unknown.

Protests in Kendari that day turned chaotic. Students surrounded the DPRD building and some attempted to break in. Police responded by firing water cannons and tear gas at the protesters.

DPR lawmakers have called for an investigation into Randi’s death. Putu Rudana, a member of the DPR’s Commission X that deals with legislation for education, sports, and history, said Randi’s death puts the police’s reputation at risk. He has also urged the Ministry of Research, Technology, and Higher Education to investigate the incident

“The students’ intention in calling for reform and voicing their aspirations are pure,” he said.

Amidst circulating reports of police brutality and documentation of excessive force used by law enforcement, Muhammadiyah Sunanto, head of the Central Youth Leadership Organization, blamed the police for Randi’s death. In a written statement, Sunanto said police violated procedures while controlling protesters.

“We are asking the police to lead the investigation and crack down on repressive members of the police force,” Sunanto said.

The two cases in Sulawesi follow the death of 15-year-old Bagus Putra Mahendra, a high school student who was hit by a truck while participating in a march towards the main DPR building in Jakarta.

Across Indonesia, hundreds more have been injured in the protests. In Jakarta, 353 protesters were sent to the hospital between Sept. 25 and 26 after violent encounters with law enforcement. In Bandung, Indonesia’s third-largest city, 92 protesters ended up in the hospital yesterday.

Youth-led rallies erupted on Monday, Sept. 23 to protest against amendments to the criminal code that would make extramarital sex illegal and a new law that weakens the country’s anti-corruption body. However, protesters have increased their demands and continue to rally today.

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Immawan Randi