Five civilians dead in West Papua after security forces fire into crowd

Metro TV News – December 8, 2014
Victims of shooting by security forces in Paniai - December 8, 2014 (Suara Kolaitaga)
Victims of shooting by security forces in Paniai - December 8, 2014 (Suara Kolaitaga)

Ricardo Hutahaean, Paniai – The situation in Paniai regency remains tense following a shooting by a joint unit of Indonesian military (TNI) and police (Polri) on Monday December 8. The shooting, which was intended to disburse a group of protesters, left five people dead, three in a critical condition and 22 others injured.

As of going to print, local residents were still in gathering at the Karen Gobai Square in Enarotali, which is adjacent to the Sectoral Police (Polsek) office and the Sub-District Military Command (Koramil) headquarters.

The chairperson of the Paniai Traditional Council, John Gobay, related the fuse that triggered the riot. According to Gobay, the incident started with an assault on a 12-year-old boy in the Togokotu hills at Ipakiye village in East Paniai the previous evening. The assault was allegedly committed by a member of the TNI.

At midnight on December 7, a black Fortuner car passed through the Togokotu hills without its headlights on. Upon arriving at the Ipakiye village, the driver was reprimanded by some youths who were at a Christmas hut (Posko Natal). “Because their (car) lights were off, the children reprimanded them and asked (the driver) to turn on the car’s lights. An argument ensued”, Gobay told Metro TV on Monday.

After the argument subsided, the driver continued on to the Timsus 753 [military unit based at Paniai Koramil – JB] at Uwibutu. A short time later the car returned to the Christmas hut will additional passengers. “Upon returning to the posko, they assaulted a youth aged around 12 years”, said Gobay.

Upon hearing the news, residents of Ipakiye village gathered and headed towards Enarotali city around five kilometres away. Their intention was to ask for an explanation from security forces about the assault on the youth and discover the identity of the assailant and the location of the Fortuner.

At around 10am the residents found the Fortuner that they suspected was driven by the assailant. They immediately set fire to the vehicle while they danced and sang in the Karen Gobai Square. Security forces responded by firing shots to disburse the demonstrators. Five people fell.

“The incident is a human rights violation and a crime against humanity”, said Gobay. “The incident had no link with the TPN/OPM [National Liberation Army/Free Papua Movement], they were ordinary people who became victims of violence”.

Papua Peace Network coordinator and Papuan religious figure Pastor Neles Tebay said that the violence by security forces against civilians in Paniai cannot be tolerated. “Why is violence always prioritised in handling every single problem in Papua”, he asked.

Tebay called on the joint TNI and Polri unit to be held accountable for the shooting. He insists that the people that were shot were not members of the Free Papua Movement. “Moreover it was done in the lead up to Christmas”, he said.

He also called on the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to intervene and immediately conduct an investigation into the shooting. “Komnas HAM must carry out an immediate investigation because this was a shooting of civilians by security personnel”, he said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the report was “Penembakan Lima Warga Dipicu Penganiayaan Bocah Paniai oleh Aparat”.]