Veronica Koman says there are 2 versions on death of health worker in Papua

CNN Indonesia – September 22, 2021
Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman with New Zealand journalist David Robie – Undated (PMC)

Jakarta – Papua human rights activist and lawyer Veronica Koman says there are two versions of what happened during an attack by the West Papua National Liberation Army-Free Papua Organisation (TPNPB-OPM) on health workers in the Kiwirok district, Star Highlands, Papua. During the incident, a healthcare worker named Gabriella Maelani (22) was killed.

"There is one version which is clearly being shared a lot in the media. [And] there is a second version circulating among the Papuan people", Koman told CNN Indonesia on Tuesday September 21.

Furthermore, Koman explained that the chronology of events which is being broadcast by most media depicts the brutality of the TPNPB-OPM in attacking the health workers.

In the second version, said Koman, the attack was triggered when a person wearing a doctors' uniform shot at the TPNPB resulting in a shootout inside the healthcare building.

Koman said that in Papua many TNI (Indonesian military) personnel hold dual posts as teachers and doctors. She believes this is what causes a great deal of suspicion in Papua.

Nevertheless, she said she was saddened by the news that a healthcare worker died, although she said that the truth about the chronology of events must still be investigated.

Based on information she has received, the death of the healthcare worker was not because they were tortured by the TPNPB.

"The Papuan people's version is that it's not true that there was torture. Gabriella jumped [into a ravine] while escaping, she wasn't thrown into the ravine by the OPM", she said.

Koman is therefore calling for an independent investigation. According to Koman, finding out which chronology is correct will influence several aspects, particularly racism against the Papuan people.

"If for example the [alleged] barbaric actions are not true, it will influence the stigma and racism against the Papuan people. [And] that is very barbaric", she said.

"Looking for example at human rights issues, we can separate it. The ones adversely affected should be the OPM, not the ordinary Papuan people. In general with minority groups, including the Chinese, when one person does wrong, everyone is adversely affected. LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] for example, if a gay person does something, the whole community is adversely affected. So it's important to straighten it out", she said.

In addition to this, Koman also believes that care needs to be taken with the witness testimonies. She questioned whether or not the witnesses provided the information under duress.

"There would have been many soldiers around them. In a conflict area, so it would be different. Such as in Java. So they could have been pressured", she said.

Earlier, the TPNPB-OPM admitted responsibility for attacking public facilities such as a community healthcare centre and school building in the Kiwirok district on September 13 and 14.

They claimed that the attack was a form of resistance in order to separate Papua from Indonesia. The OPM declared that it was ready if its actions were tried under international law.

The Presidential Staff Office says that armed criminal groups (KKB) violated the human rights law after the healthcare worker died during the attack on September 13.

Presidential Staff Deputy V Jaleswari Pramodhawardani said that that the armed criminal group had violated several laws such as the healthcare law, the nurses law, the hospital law and the healthcare quarantine law. (yla/pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Veronica Koman Klaim Ada 2 Versi Penembakan Nakes di Papua".]