Indonesia’s police chief denies force fired fatal shots in Papua

Indonesia’s National Police chief yesterday denied the police were behind a fatal shooting in Papua that killed at least four people and injured more than 20.

Published: 4:03 AM, December 11, 2014

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s National Police chief yesterday denied the police were behind a fatal shooting in Papua that killed at least four people and injured more than 20.

The police despatched a special team to the mountainous Paniai district on Tuesday to investigate the incident, which they say left four people dead, but which a human rights monitor says killed five.

Speaking in Jakarta yesterday, General Sutarman said the police were not responsible for the deadly shooting by security forces. “Everything is still being processed, but they (the shooters) were not from the police corps,” he said.

General Moeldoko, chief of the Indonesian Armed Forces, said the investigation would be left to the police, but declined to confirm whether soldiers had opened fire on the demonstrators. “We are still waiting for the National Police investigation,” he said. “Let’s wait, we want the information to come out from one source to make everything clear.”

There are conflicting reports about what happened on Monday. The police said the shooting was provoked after about 200 protesters — possibly aligned to the Free Papua Movement — attacked a police and military outpost in Ebarotali.

Locals and Human Rights Watch, however, have said security forces opened fire on a group of protesters angered by the alleged abuse of a teen.

Mr Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, said the public should not draw premature conclusions or blame security forces.

“The army chief said there had been shootings not only from the ground, but also from above,” Mr Tedjo said. “We have to check everything first; do not blame the law enforcers.”

At least four teenagers were killed during the demonstration in Enarotali, the capital of Paniai on Monday.

The incident started when local teenagers confronted the driver of a vehicle late on Sunday. The driver was from a local military unit and he returned later with a group of people who beat up a teen.

The beating enraged residents of Ipakiye village who headed to a security outpost in Enarotali to protest.

Based on local reports, the demonstrators torched vehicles and started singing and dancing. A group of police officers and soldiers then opened fire on the demonstrators.

The police, however, say a “mob” first attacked the military base and then a nearby police post with rocks and arrows.

The incident has sparked fears that the increasing military presence in Indonesia’s eastern-most region could lead to an era of renewed violence.

The Indonesian government has deployed military forces in Papua since 1963 to counter a long-simmering independence movement and restricts access to international media, diplomats and non-governmental groups by requiring them to obtain special access permits, which are rarely granted.

Tensions heightened in Papua following the Feb 21 attack last year on Indonesian military forces by suspected elements of the armed separatist Free Papua Movement. The attack resulted in the deaths of eight soldiers, the most in the area in more than 15 years.

Newly installed Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who succeeded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has pledged to lift the restrictions on international access to Papua.