Papuan Delegation Tells Its Side of the Story in Wake of Violence

Papua has been wracked by violence in recent weeks, with accounts from police and Papuan activists often at odds. (AFP Photo/Tjahjono Eranius)

Papua has been wracked by violence in recent weeks, with accounts from police and Papuan activists often at odds. (AFP Photo/Tjahjono Eranius)

A group of Papuans was in Jakarta on Tuesday to give their own account of the recent escalation of violence in their home region, which they say has been distorted by imbalanced media coverage and statements by authorities who assert that separatists are behind it.

Meanwhile, reports of arrests continue to flow out of Papua as a police crackdown there intensifies, with the Jayapura Police chief announcing on Monday that his forces had detained three people responsible for “spreading fear and terror” in the province.

The three — Jefry Wandikwo, Zakius Saplay and Calvin Wenda — allegedly acted in conjunction with slain independence activist Mako Tabuni to perpetuate a series of shootings in Jayapura, including a seemingly random attack on a German tourist.

Mako, who was deputy chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was shot dead earlier this month by plainclothes police sent to arrest him.

Officers say they had to shoot Mako because he resisted arrest and made a grab at one of their guns. But witnesses interviewed by the National Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) say the police were in their cars when they gunned him down.

“This is nothing new, these gross human rights violations against those accused of being supporters of separatists,” Rev. Benny Giay, who was part of the delegation from Papua and spoke at Kontras on Tuesday, told the Jakarta Globe after the event. “This is how they try to weaken, try to control the civilians.”

Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfred Papare said Calvin was involved in the shooting of the German tourist while Jefry and Zakius killed someone else and committed arson along with Mako.

The police are still looking for Andi Muk, Slamet Kosay and Dani Wenda, Alfred said.

“Although we arrested the three we believe are behind the act of violence and shooting, to this day we cannot conclude definitively the motive behind these acts. But what is certain is that they have spread fear and terror among residents,” Alfred said.

On Sunday, the Australia-based Institute of Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights (IPAHR) reported that the police had arrested five other KNPB members: Zakeus Hupla, Wayut Aspalek, Niel Kogoya, Niel Wolom and Ishak Elopere.

KNPB, which campaigns for a referendum on Papuan self-determination in coordination with international organizations like the Britain-based Free Papua Movement, is seen by Indonesian authorities as a dangerous separatist organization. Its members and supporters, meanwhile, including Giay, say it acts peacefully.

An International Crisis Group report from 2010 said the organization consisted of “mostly university-educated students and ex-students who adopted a militant left-wing ideology and saw themselves as revolutionaries, fighting the Indonesian state and the giant Freeport copper and gold mine near Timika … they increasingly saw that the only hope of achieving their cause lay in showing the world that Papua was in crisis — and that meant more visible manifestations of conflict.”

A rebuttal to that report authored by the University of Sydney’s West Papua Project that same year stated, “We have found instead that the KNPB is primarily a media and information clearinghouse that expresses mainstream views held by a wide spectrum of Papuan civil society and political organizations … the ICG report is biased and poorly conceived and researched.”

Benny Wenda, the Papuan exile who founded the Free Papua Movement, said the security forces saw Mako as a threat because of his advocacy.

“That’s why they killed him,” Benny told the Globe. “It really upset me, really.”

- Additional reporting by Banjir Ambarita