Papua Police Chief Says Recent Attacks Linked to Local Elections
SP/Roberth Vanwi & SP/Carlos Paath
Jayapura. The two armed attacks in Puncak Jaya that left eight soldiers and four civilians dead last week were linked to the local district elections, Papua Police Chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian said over the weekend.
“We have evidence that Goliath Tabuni is the actor behind the attacks and ambush in Tingginambut and Sinak,” Tito said late on Sunday, following a ceremony for the release of the bodies of seven of the eight dead soldiers in Jayapura.
He said Goliath himself has laid claim to the attacks through a telephone call made to an individual, Tito said without identifying the individual for security reasons.
In the telephone call, Goliath claimed that the attack and ambush were related to the elections for the Puncak Jaya district head and his deputy.
“It is true that to determine the real motive, the perpetrator should be arrested first, but from our analysis, this case is local in nature and is related to the district elections,” Tito said.
Goliath, he said, is believed to be close to one of the candidates running in the elections, and the violence may have been to scuttle the elections and the vote counting.
“The incidents took place two days ahead of the plenary to count the ballot and determine the vote count. They took place on Thursday while the plenary was on Saturday,” he said, adding that ballot casting proceeded safely because the winners were not yet apparent.
But in a press release issued late on Sunday, the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (TPN-OPM) denied any links between the shootings and the district elections.
The statement, signed by Maj. Gen. Teryanus Satto, the chief of staff of the West Papua TPN, contained nine points.
The first was that the TPN was not a “security-disturbing group” as the government called them, but a structured organization fighting for self-determination and the freedom of West Papua.
It vowed to fight until their aims were reached and also emphasized that they were not a group of armed civilians but a military force possessing armaments.
The statement claimed that the shooting of soldiers in Puncak Jaya district was carried out purely by the TPN-OPM under its paramount commander, Gen. Goliath Tabuni, and had nothing to do with the district’s elections or anywhere else in Papua.
“But we do reject the programs of the Indonesian government, including the district elections in Puncak Jaya or elsewhere in Papua land,” the statement said.
It added that the actions were not to get the government to pour money, housing developments and others into Papua, but to claim the political rights of the people of West Papua for self-determination.
The shootings on Feb. 21 were a rejection of the government’s offer to Goliath, although the statement did not give any details on the offer. It only said that the TPN-OPM rejected the “persuasive approach” taken by the government through its administration in Papua, police and armed forces.
“The TPN-OPM is not asking for anything from the government of Indonesia. TPN-OPM demands the political rights of the Papua nation for independence and to be fully sovereign so that they sit equal with other countries in the world,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, in Jakarta, Deputy House Speaker Priyo Budi Santoso, who deals with politics, justice and security, on Monday said that there was a need to beef up security in Papua.
“I think troop reinforcement is necessary. Non-regular troop reinforcement should be considered but it does not mean that it should be a show of force, just make it soft,” he said.
It was the duty of the police and the armed forces to provide a feeling of safety and security in Papua, he said, and therefore the House of Representatives would soon summon the government to be briefed on the problems in Papua.
Priyo said the violence in Papua was now so complex and interrelated. “Especially regarding the latest incident, whatever the reasons, we cannot tolerate it because so many security personnel have lost their lives while on duty,” he said.
The Golkar Party lawmaker called on the security forces to go after the assailants and capture them.
“This is a heavy violation, a cruel action,” he said. “I have asked that all the security personnel hunt down the perpetrators and act firmly against them.”