Via West Papua Media Alerts
Fact-Finding Team:The president will set up an independent probe into the deaths of five civilians at the hands of the police
By Banjir Ambarita on 10:35 pm Dec 28, 2014
Category Featured, Front Page, Human Rights, News
Tags: Joko Widodo, Paniai shooting, Papua human rights abuses
President Joko Widodo says the killing of five young civilians by security forces in Papua earlier this month is deplorable. (Antara Photo/Prasetyo Utomo)
[This story was first published at 4:19 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014 and this update adds more details and changes headline]
Jayapura. President Joko Widodo has told a crowd in Papua that the shooting of five young civilians in the province earlier this month is unacceptable, and that the government will soon form a fact-finding team to investigate the case.
Joko, who is in Indonesia’s easternmost province to attend Christmas celebrations, said the incident, which occurred in the town of Enarotali in Paniai district on Dec. 8, was deplorable.
Security forces opened fire on about 800 peaceful demonstrators, including women and children. Five protesters were killed and at least 17 others — including elementary school students — were injured, according to a report from Human Rights Watch.
Joko, who addressed a crowd of hundreds at Mandala Stadium in Jayapura, the provincial capital, on Saturday, said he empathized with the grieving families.
“I want this case to be solved immediately so it won’t ever happen again in the future,” the president said. “By forming a fact-finding team, we hope to obtain valid information [about what actually happened], as well as find the root of the problems .”
Joko added he wanted peace in Papua.
“I want my visit to Papua to be useful, I want to listen to the people’s voices, and I’m willing to open dialogue for a better Papua,” he said.
Joko said the government needed to listen to Papuans in order to solve the long-running conflict in the restive region.
“I think that the people of Papua don’t only need health care, education, the construction of roads and bridges, but they also need to be listened to. That is what I will do in dealing with the problems in Papua,” he said.
Hostilities between Papuan civilians and the security forces have frequently turned deadly since Indonesia annexed the region in 1969.
The president had earlier faced strong calls from Papuans to abandon his plan to celebrate Christmas in the troubled eastern province due to his previous muted response to the Paniai shootings, which were one the worst acts of state violence in years.
Victims and activists have said the incident was prompted with the beating of a 12-year-old boy from Ipakiye village, five kilometers from Enarotali, when the boy confronted a group of men in an SUV for driving at night with their headlights off.
The beating resulted in villagers marching to the capital to demand an explanation the next day. At around 10 a.m. the crowd spotted the same SUV and began attacking it. Police then opened fire on the unarmed crowd, witnesses said.
But the National Police chief, Gen. Sutarman, gave a different account of what happened, claiming the victims were planning an attack against the local military base, where locals suspected the SUV driver was hiding.
Police stopped the crowd from advancing by setting up a barricade, he said.
“Amid the protest, some [unknown] gunmen fired shots from the hills far away, causing the 200 or so people to riot,” the police general claimed.
He also denied that a high school student was among the five people shot dead by officers, despite photographs obtained by HRW clearly showing young men in school uniforms among those shot.
The coordinator of the Papua Peace Network, or JDP, Rev. Neles Tebay, welcomed the president’s plan to form a fact-finding team, having previously criticized the police for being “very secretive” about their investigation.
“The president is willing to identify the problem, so surely this is a good commitment,” Neles said on Saturday.
By Jakarta Globe on 11:21 pm Dec 28, 2014
Category Editorial, Front Page, Opinion
Tags: Indonesia human rights, Joko Widodo, Paniai shooting, Papua
Joko Widodo was always going to be the president that his predecessors were not, from his man-of-the-people ways to his love of heavy metal.
This past weekend, he again demonstrated the quality that has inspired in Indonesians so much hope for positive change, when he promised to set up a fact-finding team to probe the shooting deaths of five unarmed Papuan civilians, reportedly by the security forces.
The president was in Papua for Christmas celebrations when he made his remarks about the Dec. 5 shootings in Paniai district.
By most credible accounts , the incident involved police firing indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed civilians protesting police brutality against a 12-year-old boy. The police chief’s more fantastical account is that “gunmen in the distant hills” fired on the crowd, whipping it up into a violent frenzy and forcing police to act in self-defense.
Joko has done something unprecedented and hugely commendable here: He has refused to take the word of the police chief at face value and instead taken it on himself to ensure that the truth, no matter how painful, comes to light through the unaberrated lens of an independent investigation.
For far too long the security forces have controlled the narrative that the rest of Indonesia and the world have obtained from Papua. That they have long taken a heavy-handed approach to anything deemed a security disturbance is no secret.
Joko’s move is perhaps the first official step by any Indonesian government to bring official accountability to an act of excessive use of force by security officers in Papua. This will be hugely important in clearing the path toward addressing the legitimate grievances that Papuans have long held against the government. Even if that is Joko’s only legacy, it will be a worthwhile one.