The head of the local public order agency (Satpol PP) in East Nusa Tenggara’s Ngada district has been named a suspect in the forced December 21 closing of Turulelo Soa Airport.
On Tuesday, 15 Satpol PP officers under his command were named suspects in the same investigation.
“The suspects now number 16,” Cmr. Gen. Suhardi Alius, chief National Police detective (Bareskrim), said on Friday. “The chief of Satpop PP and 15 members have been named suspects.”
Marianus Sae, Ngada’s district head, allegedly decided to temporarily shut down the airport after he was refused a ticket on a Merpati flight that was already fully booked. Airport officials said they could do nothing to end the blockade because they were outnumbered by Satpol PP officers who were enforcing Marianus’s wishes.
“After this, we will investigate who ordered them [to close the airport], and if it was true that the Ngada district chief ordered it, we would not be reluctant to name him as a suspect,” Suhardi said.
Hendrikus Wakedan, the Satpol PP chief, faced questioning at 10:50 a.m. local time on Friday, according to Metrotvnews.com.
A team from the National Police detective department’s General Crime Directorate has been sent to East Nusa Tenggara to aid in the investigation.
Several witnesses have been questioned, including employees of airport operator Angkasa Pura, employees of Merpati Nusantara Airlines and members of the Port Security and Services Unit (KP3).
Marianus has been scheduled to face questioning.
“We don’t need the President’s permission to question a district chief,” Suhardi said. “Permission is needed if an arrest is to be made.”
Indonesian law prohibits obstructing flights or engaging in activities that could jeopardize air safety and security without express permission from airport authorities.
Entering certain areas of airports without permission from authorities could could carry a sentence of one year in prison or a fine of up to Rp 100 million ($8,100). Activities that threaten flight safety could carry a three-year sentence or a Rp 1 billion ($81,000) fine.