Banjir Ambarita, Made Arya Kencana & Farouk Arnaz
Armed resistance group the Free Papua Organization on Monday claimed responsibility for Sunday’s ambush of soldiers who were trying to seize the banned Morning Star flag from protestors.
Lambert Pekikir, commander of the group known as the OPM for Keerom, said his men attacked an Army vehicle on patrol near Sawiyatami village in Keerom, near the border with Papua New Guinea.
“We conducted the shooting as a form of retaliation against the Indonesian military, which often prohibits the OPM’s democratic rights of expressing our political aspirations peacefully,” Lambert said by phone from Jayapura.
The soldiers were thought to have been searching for the Morning Star flag, a symbol of Papuan independence, during the 47th anniversary of the OPM’s founding on Sunday. Displaying independence symbols is considered an act of treason by Jakarta and several Papuans are serving 20-year jail terms for the deed.
During the ambush, local tribal leader Johanes Yanufrom was reportedly shot and killed. The military claimed the OPM members were responsible. Lambert denied that Johanes had been deliberately targeted.
“We are still trying to determine whose bullets killed Johanes Yanufrom,” the rebel leader said. “We are equally shocked to hear [Johanes] died because my men knew him very well.”
National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said police were pursuing Lambert’s fighters, adding that they may have crossed into Papua New Guinea.
Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Bigman L. Tobing said Lambert was wanted for “terrorizing civilians.”
Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi reiterated what President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Saturday — that discussing independence for the resource-rich province was out of the question.
“We have earmarked more money to Papua compared to other regions,” he said.
Jakarta refuses to revisit the 1969 UN-backed “Act of Free Choice” vote, the basis for its claim over Papua. The poll, often inaccurately called a “referendum,” consisted of Jakarta hand-picking 1,026 people to vote for all Papuans.