We are grieving. We are saddened. As reported, four West Papuans died in a moment that no one really wanted as they were shot by a soldier who was on guard at a security post that was to be fiercely attacked by a group which included four victims. National and international news reported that this is a human rights crime, which was unfortunately misleading and failed to capture the actual situation which was entirely triggered by a regional political dispute.
The Wawawa Journal formed a small team to find out what actually happened on Monday 27 May. We asked for statements from the civil and military parties who were eyewitnesses to the situation. Here is what we gained on what really happened.
On Monday, at around 10:00 Eastern Indonesia Time, several people carrying sharp object used for weapon were to attack the Fayit District Office, in Asmat Region, and the house of a local legislator named Handayani, a member of the Asmat Reg. Council (DPRD) from the Golkar Faction.
The intended attack and destruction was then known to have something to do with the dispute over the results of the recent election. One of the regional council candidates from the PDIP party, John Kakaye, had the right to get one seat, according to a valid vote count. But he was suddenly replaced by another person named Fitalis Akun from the same Party as ‘ordered’ by Asmat Regent as he is the Chairperson of PDIP Asmat chapter.
During the protest and destruction, according to the security procedure, a security soldier named Serka Fajar took his weapon and fired one shot upwards as a warning shot in the hope that the protesters’ anger could subside.
But it seems the results were different from expectations. After hearing the gunfire, the 300s people in the group became increasingly violent and threatened to kill security forces guarding the local Koramil (local armed security) post. The protesters began to brand their weapons that did not hesitate to threaten the safety of anyone in front of them. After firing the warning shot, Serka Fajar fled and hid in the house of local religious leader in the same area.
At around 11:35 p.m. a few community members who were eyewitnesses to the riots said that a member of the armed forces had fired a few shots. Due to the unfortunate situation, it has been confirmed that 4 people died and 1 person was critical. The crowd of riots immediately dispersed to see their members being victims.
Residents and security forces immediately brought the dead and critical victims to Asmat Local Hospital. Those casualties include Jhon Tatai, 25 years old, who is in critical condition, and other people who passed away including young man aged 16. They are Xavier Sai 40 Years, Nikolaus Tupa 38 Years, Matias Amunep 16 Years, and Frederikus Inepi 35 Years.
While this piece is being written, we have received confirmation that the community at the scene of the current riots has been calmed down, thanks to the collaboration of security forces and local civil and tribal leaders.
From here, we would love to invite you readers to deeply and honestly reflect on what actually caused the riots that unfortunately resulted in casualties. And here are some of our thoughts.
SECURITY PROCEDURE. The armed security forces who at the time were in charge proved to have carried out actions according to procedures where security shots took precedence. A warning shot unfortunately did not calm the situation that could not be controlled. The crowd of 300s people turned violent, continued to approach the security force members and threatened to kill them and attack and destroy the security post. Meanwhile, the security forces who are on duty were not up to ten personnel.
Unequal numbers of people from both sides intensified thecritical, deadly situation. The shots were fired as a defense. We really do not like to say this situation as a situation of ‘kill or to be killed’, but we see that there is no other option.
ALL BECAUSE OF POLITICS. Many incidents of political disputes have led to the loss of people’s lives. The same thing happened in West Papua especially the case this piece discusses. These unwanted events were clearly triggered by dissatisfaction with the results of political election, or known as pileg in Indonesia. The Asmat Regent who is a West Papuan native suddenly gave recommendations that led to changes in legislative elected members.
This political logic and reason, unfortunately, is not much revealed and discussed in the news. The Asmat Regent who is a political and local figure there issued a decision that was not in accordance with legal political procedures. The mobilization of the masses seemed to be coming from the replaced elected council member as his protest to the un-procedural, illegal decision.
But no matter what, triggering riots is a decision that is very unnecessary because political disputes should be resolved politically, not through violence. In the end, people who did not know about the real problem end up being the victims. The riots that occurred were an irresponsible, apolitical, and amoral activity because they were actually made to be as living shields and guards for the political conflicts of the elites. The public and the media should see this case as a disappointing political incident. Political elites who are concerned only with their personal interests at the cost of the lives of innocent people must be the key culprits in cases like this.
SHOOTINGS INVESTIGATED. At present The Papua branch of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights has independently investigated this case. The Chairperson of the organization, Fritz Ramandey, a native West Papuan, has stated that, “Legal proceedings against perpetrators are being carried out and are open to the public.”
In fact, the Papuan Human Rights organization has issued the initial recommendations as the results of its investigation. The first recommendation is that the Asmat District Government to carry out reconciliation and further support to the families of the dead victims and victims who were undergoing treatment. The regional leaders in Asmat are expected to continue to build good communication with the Indonesian National Police and the TNI in District Fayit for the sake of orderly conditions for the community.
The second recommendation, based on Article 1 of the Human Rights Law Number 39 of 1999, Komnas HAM recommended the Commander of the Cendrawasih XVII Military Command to immediately process Serka Fajar members to a military court for not coordinating and awaiting orders from members of the Fayr District Posramil. This legal process is currently underway and the National Human Rights Commission of Papua and the general public can access their information openly.
As reported by Col. M. Aidi, Chief of Information of Cendrawasih Military Area has informed that the Asmat Regent Mr. Ellisa Kambu is now leading the reconciliation process between representatives of local communities as well as families of victims with the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) with the agreement that all parties receive all the consequences of the riots and forgive and respect each other. However, the legal process continues to uphold the rule of law.
It has been also confirmed that the Indonesian armed security forces including the police and the TNI have investigated the incidents of riots and shootings in Asmat. They have carried out a series of investigative processes. These processes are open to anyone who wants the information. They also continue to evaluate and improve procedures to anticipate potential similar fatalities possibilities in the future.
IRRESPONSIBLE ACTIONS. In a number of news and reports, we regret that some individuals such as Lewis Prai Wellip made these unwanted events as their political commodities. They wrote that this incident was a manifestation of human rights violations in West Papua and gave the impression that the work of the security forces in West Papua was a crime.
Meanwhile, the facts on the ground indicate that many security forces are working fully to maintain the security and comfort of the lives of West Papuans. Some help organize education and provide health services there. They become volunteer teachers and health workers. While international media and irresponsible local political elites take advantage of these saddening situations, and irresponsibly advance this into propaganda material for their political and personal interests.
West Papua is one of the emerging regions in Indonesia which provides a significant economic contribution to the country. West Papua’s economy is in a progress of positive growth. Education is getting better, that many young West Papuans now have the opportunity to study abroad with local government scholarships.
As an emerging region, West Papua, like other regions, surely has a struggle to stabilize their local social and political situation. And so, many local and international organizations provide free training for West Papuans, especially their youth, about the potential for contributing to and enabling social stability. It is unfortunate if there are individuals or media that deliberately mislead the public by reporting the opposite. (*)