Killing of four West Papuans ‘brutal reminder of reality’ under Jakarta rule, says Wenda

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Indonesian authorities announce in Jayapura the arrest of six special forces suspects
Indonesian authorities announce in Jayapura the arrest of six special forces suspects over the killing and mutilations of four Papuan civilians. Image: News agencies

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The United Liberation Movement of West Papua has condemned the brutal killing and mutilation of four indigenous West Papuans last week, saying it was a “a reminder of Indonesian colonialism”, as authorities announced the arrest of six special forces suspects.

News agency reports said Indonesian security forces had arrested the six elite troopers who had been accused of involvement in the killing of four Papuans and beheading them.

An Australian newspaper report said the accused’s military unit had a link with the Australian Defence Force.

“We are committed to upholding the law in this case,” Papua military chief Major-General Teguh Muji Angkasa told reporters in Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

“If any of our soldiers are involved in criminal acts, we will not tolerate it.”

Residents of Iwaka village in Mimika district were shocked on Friday by the discovery of four sacks, each containing a headless and legless torso, in the village river.

Two other sacks were found separately, one containing four heads and the other eight legs. The sacks were weighted with stones.

‘Heartbreaking’ reports
In a statement, ULMWP interim president Benny Wenda said it was “heartbreaking” to hear that the four Papuans had been killed and mutilated by Indonesian special forces. The four were named as Arnold Lokmbere, Irian Nirigi, Lemanion Nirigi, and Atis Tini.

“This brutal killing must be seen for what it is: state sponsored terrorism,” he said.

“My people have always rejected Jakarta’s impositions, from the “Act of No Choice” in 1969 to the so-called “Special Autonomy” that rules over us today.

“Indonesia knows West Papuans will never accept their colonial rule. Instead, they must enforce it at the barrel of a gun.

Wenda said the killings, which had happened in Timika regency, in West Papua’s highlands, exposed the racism at the heart of Indonesian rule.

“After shooting the four men, soldiers cut off their heads and legs, stuffed them in sacks, and dumped them in a village river.

“How can people be seen as human if they are treated in this way? Indonesia views us as ‘primitive’, as ‘monkeys’. They have always wanted to get us ‘down from the trees’.

Rivers uses as ‘tombs’
Wenda said this was not the first time “our rivers have been used as our tombs”.

In 2020, Pastor Yeremia Zanambani in the Intan Jaya regency was tortured and killed by the Indonesian military.

Following this, soldiers killed two of Pastor Zanambani’s family members, burning their bodies and throwing the ashes into a river to hide the evidence.

Since 2019, there had been frequent examples of Indonesia’s “systematic brutality in West Papua”.

‘We have seen Papuan students murdered by Indonesian death squads, babies shot and killed, civilians in Nduga executed in military-style operations,” Wenda said.

“The history of Indonesian rule in West Papua is written in the blood of my people.”

Wenda said that although Indonesian police had arrested six special forces suspected of being responsible for the crime, “we know from the death of Theys Eluay that soldiers charged with extrajudicial killing regularly receive light sentences – and are often welcomed as heroes by their military superiors”.

“In Indonesia, peacefully raising the Morning Star flag is a worse crime than murdering indigenous West Papuans in cold blood.”

Justice call
Wenda called for justice to be done for these four slain men and their families. He declared the following demands:

  • Indonesia must release all political prisoners, including the eight students who have been held since December 2021 for peacefully demonstrating on our national day;
  • Indonesia must allow journalists to operate in West Papua;
  • Indonesia must stop the delaying tactics and honour their promise to allow the UN High Commissioner to visit West Papua, as also demanded by the Pacific Islands Forum, the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States, and the EU Commission; and
  • Indonesia must allow our right to self-determination and grant West Papua an internationally-monitored Independence Referendum.
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