When Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, Thursday (9/26) seemed eager to remind us of a new wave of anti-government movements – which he said including radical Islamic groups, medical officers and football supporters – look at what happened recently: the exodus of thousands of migrants, seeking refuge after bloody, heinous murders in Wamena, Papua (West Papua region).
Four days earlier, Monday (9/23), a wave of demonstrations and violence struck Wamena. Victims were reportedly chased down, attacked, and even burned – inhumanely.
Sadly, a general practitioner, Soeko Marsetiyo, was one of them. The local medical center doctor based in Tolikara, Papua, was trapped by the wave of demonstrators. His car was burned. Soeko escaped from the fire, but the mob went on to barbarically attacked him with a machete. Soeko died, unable to survive the wound. According to the police, Soeko died from severe head injuries, stab wounds and burns on his back.
The 53-year-old doctor was killed in the community he loved. Since completing his temporary term of practice (PTT) 15 years ago, Soeko had devoted himself to serve remote areas in the region of West Papua, walking along steep roads to treat any sick Papuan children. He spread smiles, hopes, and futures.
His family tried to persuade him to go back to Semarang, his hometown. But this good and polite doctor refused. The reason was that, in Semarang, there had been many doctors. Whereas in Papua, doctors are needed, especially in remote areas.
“At least, I can do something here,” Dr. Soeko told his younger brother, Endah Arieswati in Semarang. The day before the tragic death, doctor Soeko sent a short message (SMS) to several families. The content of the short message was a group of particular verses from the Quran called Ayat Kursi.
In Wamena, mob-criminal protesters killed people, who loved Papua very much. It was not only at Soeko that was mercilessly murdered, but also 32 others – mostly migrants from Minang, Bugis, Java, and from other regions.
Their houses, which were built regardless of the difficulty, for years, were burned down. It did not matter if there were humans – like them, the protesters – in those houses. Even, one family reportedly died in the fire. At present, around 165 homes have been burned, 223 cars and about 400 shops were scorched. As many as 10 thousand people were displaced, and approximately 2,500 people decided to leave Papua.
Sadly, this tragic human tragedy seems to gain less coverage. Jakarta is busy discussing student protests and finding out who the rider was, and Indonesian elites are more skilled at addressing the possibility of a new wave of demonstrations ahead of the presidential inauguration. Jakarta prefers to be on the lookout for ‘riders’ who will make use of motorcycle taxi drivers, radical Islamists, and football supporters, and yet ridiculously escaping the monitoring of Wamena.
Political parties are also busy calculating the number of ministerial seats they will get. Prospective members of the Parliament look for suits for inauguration. Entrepreneurs estimate the profits from the planned capital city to be moved. The massacre in Wamena seems as if it was a tragedy in another country far away.
Look, the Papuan children are screaming in pain. Their legs were not long enough to help them run fast to save themselves. During the riot, they were dragged, beaten, hit by arrows. Some died in pain and silence and were gone forever. Some were forced to hide in a pigsty.
Sri Lestari, a clothes trader from Solo, managed to escape death. Sri said that at that time, he and nine other people took a car to escape to the Jayawijaya Regional police station. On the way, their vehicle was blocked. They are forced down, dragged, and beaten.
“They forcibly dragged us out of the car. We were treated like animals. What’s our fault?” Sri said, crying when interviewed by a media agency Kumparan, Wednesday (9/25).
“I was stabbed in the right hip, then in the chest and chin. My eye was almost stabbed. I believe this is the power of God. He still gives me life to this day. ”
Sri survived after special police brigade members arrived at the location and opened fire with some warning shots. The crowd dispersed. But the woman, who was wearing a hijab, did not know the fate of the other nine people, which four of them were children. She only remembers the cry for help and the crying of the children who were dragged and beaten by the protesters.
Anxiety and fear are like a plague that spreads very quickly, damaging the society’s ‘limbs’ until they were all gone forever. These victims died in their own country – a country should have been obliged to protect every citizen according to the constitution.
Indonesian government seems to lose its power, as it may be too tired of thinking of itself, and too busy looking for excuses – like searching for a snake armpit – complaining, pointing, and nervous.
In Wamena – part of Indonesia – the conflict has mercilessly claimed dozens of casualties. People ran away to save themselves, fleeing in their own country. This is scary and can turn into state instability. (*)
Jakarta, 29 September 2019
Asro Kamal Rokan – Senior journalist, Editor in Chief of Republika (2003-2005), General Leader of Indonesian National News Agency, Antara (2005-2007). Member of the Central PWI Honorary Board (2018-2023).
This article was first published in Indonesian on Kumparan.com