Police Blame 'Bad Judgement Call' After Opening Fire on Papuans, Killing One

Police Blame ‘Bad Judgement Call’ After Opening Fire on Papuans, Killing One

Jakarta Globe
Christian Motte & Agencies

At least one person was killed and three others injured when police mistakenly opened fire on a group of armed Papuans outside a police post in Paniai district, a local police spokesman said on Tuesday.

The death is the latest in the troubled province, with fears increasing that the violence that marked the lead-up to the legislative elections on April 9 could again flare up prior to the presidential election.

Local residents identified the deceased as Mika Boma, 45, who was shot in the stomach, and the three wounded men as Vincent Boma, Marthen Pogai and Simon Keiya. They were taken to the Nabire Regional Hospital for treatment.

Adjutant Sr. Comr. Nurhabri, the acting spokesman for the Papua Police, confirmed that “a civilian was shot to death and a member of the Mobile Brigade [Brimob] was hit in the back by an arrow.”

Nurhabri blamed the clash on a misunderstanding, saying the trouble began when an intertribal squabble turned into a skirmish at the Suharto football field in Enarotali.

He said some of the mob ran onto the street, passing the Mobile Brigade task force station. Officers at the post, he said, believing that the mob was going to attack, made a bad judgment call and opened fire on the crowd to prevent them from getting any nearer.

Nabire Police Chief Rianto Djatmono also confirmed the incident in Paniai. “The shooting occurred during an intertribal skirmish,” he said.

Oktovianus Pekei, from the Office of Justice and Peace of the Timika Diocese in Enarotali, said the Brimob officers who opened fire on the civilians had only been stationed at the village for three days and were not familiar with local customs.

Oktovianus said the situation in the area remained tense.

Papua Police Chief Bagus Eko Danto confirmed the clash but said poor communications with the remote town meant he was unable to confirm the death.

He said the clash was triggered after the tribesmen, who were heading to attack a rival family, fired arrows at the Brimob post.

Papua has been the site of long-running tensions between indigenous Papuans, transmigrant settlers and security forces since it was incorporated into Indonesia in the 1960s.

Foreign journalists are restricted from entering the region, where security forces are fighting a low-level separatist insurgency.

Though tensions have eased somewhat from their peak surrounding the legislative elections, particularly in Jayapura, the provincial capital of Papua, it is understood that Brimob reinforcements are being sent to the Puncak Jaya region to hunt for a rebel leader believed to be behind a number of deadly attacks.

A spokesman for the Indonesian military recently told Human Rights Watch to “eat” a report alleging that members of the military had acted with impunity in Papua to detain, torture and intimidate ordinary citizens.