Jayapura – The West Papua National Committee (KNPB) has denied accusations by police that seven West Balim regional KNPB members were involved in the killing of Michele Kurisi on August 28 in Kolawa district.
Reportedly, four of the seven perpetrators have already been arrested. The arrests were carried out on October 5 in Wamena, Jayapura and Tolikara, while three others are still on the wanted persons list (DPO).
KNPB spokesperson Ones Suhuniap said that the police's accusations that the seven alleged perpetrators are West Balim KNPB militants is slander.
"This isn't very different from other cases where police have accused the KNPB. The KNPB is always used as a scapegoat when there is violence. They always say the culprits are KNPB people. The police have been too hasty in saying the seven people are members or militants of the West Balim KNPB regional [branch]", said Suhuniap in a statement received by Suara Papua on Monday October 9.
Suhuniap said the police must first confirm the status of the seven members who are accused of being Kurisi's killers.
"The police [should] first confirm whether they are KNPB members or not. Whether the seven people are registered as KNPB members for the West Balim region or not", he said.
Because, according to Suhuniap, every regional branch of the KNPB has a membership database so the police should not automatically accuse the KNPB of being the perpetrators without checking first.
"How do the police know they are KNPB militants?", asked Suhuniap. "Because the KNPB's struggle is clearly a peaceful struggle in the cities. The KNPB militants' function is to work to secure every KNPB activity in the city, not kill people".
"KNPB militants are always assigned to security, both to secure people and to secure every activity. The police know this. KNPB also does not teach KNPB members to kill people, especially KNPB militants who only function to secure and protect."
Suhuniap said that the KNPB has an organisational platform, rules and operational standards when acting as security in public. The KNPB has the highest regard for the values of democracy, human rights and tolerance, and prioritises an approach of dialogue.
Suhuniap said that the KNPB has proven this during its peaceful struggles in the cities, where the KNPB has carried out demonstrations peacefully even though the police provoke protesters by firing teargas.
"The most recent evidence of this was at a demonstration on August 15, 2023 and at the thanksgiving prayers for [Papua rights activist] Victor Yeimo's release from the Abepura penitentiary. What was even more amazing was during the procession accompanying [Papua independence activist] Filep Karma's body. Where thousands of people took to the streets and KNPB militants were able to contain the people's emotions. That is the security function of KNPB militants".
Suhuniap is therefore insisting that the police not continuously accuse and slander the KNPB. "Please conduct an investigation first before accusing the KNPB", he said.
"We ask for clarification on the KNPB's good name, because they [the ones who were arrested] are definitely not KNPB members. The police must first find out and prove that they are West Balim regional KNPB members or militants with membership data".
If the investigation proves that the seven are registered KNPB members, then they should be held liable as individuals, because the KNPB as an organisation does not order its member to commit murder.
"We will also coordinate with the West Balim regional management as to whether the seven accused are registered as permanent members of the West Balim regional KNPB or not."
Suhuniap said that over the last two years fake KNPB groups have emerged who use the name KNPB and its attributes which are proclaimed loudly at demonstrations.
"These fake KNPB are backed up by a third party to criminalise the KNPB central office down to the 31 KNPB regional structures. Like when these groups criminalised KNPB General Chairperson Agus Kossay and Beni Murib, the KNPB secretary for the Numbay region."
"We ask the police to withdraw the accusations that have been leveled at the KNPB. Stop the continuous accusations and slander against the KNPB, because the KNPB is not a criminal organisation", he concluded.
Michelle Kurisi was murdered on August 28, 2023 in Kolawa district, Lanny Jaya Regency, in the Papuan highlands. Following her murder, a statement claiming responsibility was made by West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) spokesperson Sebby Sambom. The TPNPB alleged that the Kurisi had collaborated with security forces and had engaged in spying activities during her visit to Nduga, where she was collecting data on refugees, including information related to the release of Philip Mark Mehrtens, a New Zealand pilot who has been held hostage by the TPNPB since February 7.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "KNPB Bantah Tudingan Aparat Tentang Keterlibatan Pembunuhan Michele Kurisi".]