An unverified video clip purportedly from a military YouTube channel claiming that nine Papuan rebels had been shot, 28 April 2021. The video of an unknown location or unit has been circulated on social media today. Video: EKA PR33DATOR 57
Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Armed violence has escalated in Puncak Regency in the “land of Papua” – known internationally as West Papua – following President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s order to crack down on the rebels seeking independence, reports the Papuan newspaper Jubi.
Widodo ordered the capture of all members of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) while the Peoples Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker in Jakarta, Bambang Soesatyo, demanded that the government “talk about human rights later” after totally “exterminating” the TPNPB.
“I demand that the government deploy the security forces at full force to exterminate the armed criminal groups (KKP) in Papua which has taken lives. Just eradicate them. Let’s talk about human rights later,” Soesatyo told CNN Indonesia on Monday.
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Soesatyo, who last year proposed that 9mm pistols be made legally available to certified gun owners for “self-defence”, also asked the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to declare the group a terrorist organisation.
The human rights watchdog Setara Institute deemed the politician’s statement would only trigger a spiral of violence and add to the complexity of the Papua conflict, resulting in more casualties.
“Numerous cases of fatal shootings, which have claimed the lives of people, mostly civilians, has shown that the security approach is not the answer to the problem in Papua,” Setara Institute deputy Bonar Tigor Naipospos said in a statement.
Naipospos criticised Soesatyo’s suggestion to brush human rights aside, saying such rights as stipulated in Article 28i of the Constitution, could not be reduced by anyone, in including in war and emergencies.
Stop branding rebels ‘terrorist’
Secretary of Papua Pegunungan Tengah Student Association (AMPTPI) Ikem Wetipo asked the government to stop calling the TPNPB a “terrorist” group or calling for their “killing”, as in Soesatyo’s comment, which justified human rights violations in West Papua.
“Stop making reckless statements, [such as from] the MPR speaker and the President about capturing, eradicating the TPNPB. It means that the state justifies casualties in the process of pursuing the group,” Wetipo said.
Armed conflict has been escalating in Puncak Regency since April 8, 2021, when the TPNPB shot dead Oktavianus Rayo, a teacher in Beoga District suspected by the group as an Indonesian spy.
Since then, five people have died including the intelligence chief in Papua, Major General Anumerta IGP Danny NK, who was killed in crossfire last Sunday. The TPNPB was also accused of burning schools in Beoga.
A Jubi source was told that the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police were seen pursuing the TPNPB troops in North Ilaga District since Tuesday at 9 am local time.
“We saw the security forces in three helicopters, [flying over] in Misimaga, Efesus, and Tegelobak Village. The helicopter landed at the Mayuberi creek, [then flew and] has not returned. Whether [the helicopter] has gone to Sinak or Beoga, we don’t know,” he said.
At 5 pm, firefights broke out between the TPNPB led by Lekagak Telenggen and the TNI and police in Makki, Misimaga, Efesus, and Tegelobak Village. The security forces also reportedly bombarded the villages, prompting villagers to evacuate to churches, forests, and nearby villages such as Tanah Merah and Gome.
No civilian casualties
There were no reports of civilian casualties reported by yesterday.
However, two Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel were wounded and one died in the crossfire, Papua Police spokesperson Senior Commander Ahmad Musthofa Kamal confirmed.
The wounded policemen are Second Insp. Anton Tonapa who was reportedly shot in the back and Chief Brigadier M Syaifudin, shot in the stomach. Meanwhile, Second Agent Komang died of a gunshot wound.
All wounded military personnel have been evacuated to Mimika General Hospital.
Meanwhile, TPNPB commander Egianus Kogeya claimed his party had shot dead three TNI members in Nduga Regency on Monday, who Kogeya accused of burning five houses in Alguru District.
TPNPB spokesperson Sebby Sambom, responded to Jokowi’s order and Soesatyo’s statement, saying the group would never back down in the face of the Indonesian government’s military operations.
“TPNPB is ready,” Sambom told Jubi.
“We are standing on our own land. Indonesia with the TNI and police are the thieves coming to steal our natural resources while killing us,” he said.
Sambom urged the Indonesian government to act in a “democratic” way and send a negotiator, instead of security forces, to meet with the TPNPB.
“We warn President Jokowi not to sacrifice any more [Indonesian] soldiers. President Jokowi must be open to negotiations with TPNPB’s negotiators,” he said.