Blood in the Sweet Potato Garden

Blood in the Sweet Potato Garden

Tempo Magazine, 18 August 2010

It is suspected that the Free Papua activist died from police torture. The video of his arrest is posted on the Internet.

OVER the last few days Kalasum Ladari’s house at Serui, Yapen Waropen Islands, Papua, was constantly visited by unknown individuals. “They threatened Kalasum so that she would not talk too much,” said Aston Situmorang, the activist who accompanied Kalasum’s family.

Terror began to be felt by Kalasum, 33, a week after the arrest video of her husband Yawan Menase Wayeni appeared on In the 7-minute video presumably made by the Police Mobile Brigade member who arrested him, Yawan is lying helpless on the ground while under “interrogation” by the police—with his
intestines disemboweled. “Oh God!” Yawan cries a few times in pain. Instead of treating him, the policemen seen on the video continue to question him.

This amateur video recording has become a topic of the international mass media. The case is under the world spotlight, as at the same time 50 US Congressmen ask President Barack Obama to prioritize the handling of human rights violations in Papua.

Actually the arrest of the activist who staunchly voiced Papuan independence took place last year when the Indonesian Police and Military were after the members of the Free Papua Organization (OPM) on Yapen Waropen Islands. On August 2, 2009, the Yapan villagers saw the local Police Mobile Brigade troops passing through their village in the dark of the night.

Police caught scent of the presence of Yawan in a jungle hut near the village. They surrounded the hut in the middle of a sweet potato garden, waiting for sunrise. The police began pushing forward in the morning when Yawan and his wife and three
children were having a sweet potato breakfast. That was the last time Kalasum saw her husband because she along with her children were taken by the police to Serui.

Kalasum assured Aston that Yawan did not resist, let alone carry a weapon. According to the report of the Commission for Missing Persons & Victims of Violence (Kontras), during the raid the police found only Yawan’s wife and children in the hut. Seeing the police, Yawan’s children started crying, calling out for their father.

Hearing the cry, Yawan returned to the hut. A few meters from the hut, he was shot in the calf but kept walking. It was during this moment when an assailant slashed his bayonet into Yawan’s belly. According to Usman Hamid, Kontras coordinator, he
obtained this story a few months ago when investigating Yawan’s death. “Kontras has got strong evidence,” said Usman.

Yawan died soon after he was brought to Serui General Hospital. An eyewitness saw two policemen carrying a long wooden stick. “Yawan’s two arms and legs were tied to the stick, just like carrying a pig,” he said.

Police offered an excuse that when about to be captured, Yawan resisted with a gun. The police’s return fire tore open Yawan’s belly causing his intestines to come out. “Don’t look at the picture as a kind of torture and so on, but look who he was,”
said Papua Police spokesperson, Sr. Comr. Wachyono.

Yawan was on the police blacklist as he was the personal bodyguard of Chairman of the Serui Traditional Board, Yusuf Tanawani, who staunchly fights for Papua’s separation from Indonesia. Yawan was also a member of the Team of 100 who in
1999 met with President B.J. Habibie at the Palace to demand independence for Papua.

Yawan, 39, was also a fugitive who escaped from Serui prison a year after the court gave him a nine-year jail sentence. The court viewed him as being involved in an armed raid against the employees of PT Artha Makmur Permai and the military post at Saubeba, Serui.

About two months after Yawan’s death, his family received the video recording. The family’s attorney Saul Ayomi said the video was used as material evidence when reporting the matter to Papua’s National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the Papua Police, the Regent, and the Yapen Waropen Regional House
of Representatives. “But there has never been a serious probe,” said the Director of the Serui Legal Aid Society.

The National Police Headquarters began to react after the video recording was widely circulated. Head of the National Police HQ Information Section Sr. Comr. Marwoto stated that the police had sent a detective team to investigate Yawan’s death.

However, before the probe had even begun, the witnesses were terrorized. “Police must investigate Yawan’s death and protect his family,” said Chairman of the National Commission for Human Rights, Ifdhal Kasim.

Oktamandjaya Wiguna, Maria Hasugian (Jakarta),
Tjahjono Ep. (Papua)