Pre-Election Violence Hits Papua, 4 Killed

Pre-Election Violence Hits Papua, 4 Killed

Jakarta Globe

Arientha Primanita
Markus Junianto Sihaloho
Putri Prameshwari & Christian Motte

Violence marred election day in Papua when police shot dead one person as hundreds attacked a police post and, in separate incidents, three transmigrants were killed by a group believed to be made up of Papuan natives.

Police at 1.30 a.m. Thursday opened fire after finding their post under attack from more than 100 people in Abepura near Papua’s capital Jayapura, said Papua Police Chief Bagus Eko Danto.

One man was killed and four others injured, Bagus said.

National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said the Papua Provincial Police had detained six people as suspects. “Police ares also currently questioning eight other people as witnesses,” he added.

Bambang said that police and the military would take firm action especially considering the attackers used weapons — knives and other traditional weapons as well as molotov cocktails, although he added, without elaborating, that he believed the violence was not connected to the election.

An unknown group also set the nearby Cendrawasih University’s rectorate building on fire two hours after the first attack, but no one was killed or injured.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Widodo Adi Sucipto, said in Jakarta that three transmigrants (Indonesians from other provinces) were killed after attacks by an unknown group at four separate locations in in Wamena Jayawijaya district.

“Five non-Papuans were attacked by local people at around 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday,” Widodo said, adding that the two survivors were in critical conditions and were being treated at the Wamena General Hospital.

'There were indications that a certain group intended to disturb or scuttle the election'

Widodo Adi Sucipto, coordinating minister

Widodo said that “there were indications that a certain group intended to disturb or scuttle the election.”

Speaking after a coordination meeting in Jakarta attended by the heads of top security and political agencies, Widodo said that the police were still investigating the cases and had not yet concluded whether the violence was linked to the separatist Free Papua Organization, or OPM.

“The facts are that security disturbances do exist, and we must investigate them to reveal who the actors are behind the scene,” he said, adding that police and the military had beefed up security at strategic sites in Papua.

He said, that based on reports, the incidents did not influence the number of people taking parts in the elections.

National Police spokesman, Abubakar Nataprawira, also said that a police post in Wutung, near the border between Papua and Papua New Guinea, had been attacked by several people armed with firearms, but no one was reported injured.

Despite the escalating security tension in Papua, Gen. Djoko Santoso of the Armed Forces, said that the status of security alertness in Papua will not be raised. Security agencies, he said, preferred to take a soft power approach rather than military one.

Defense Minister, Juwono Sudarsono, has said in the past that the government would not use an “iron-fist” approach in dealing with separatists but would always try a soft yet persuasive approach through dialogue.

The military ,Djoko has said, believed that separatism can be minimized with a better government approach to Papuan welfare.

In a unrelated incident, two members of the election supervisory committee from the Mamberamo district remained missing after the boat they were using overturned in the Mamberamo river. Three other men on the same boat were rescued.

Human Rights Watch on Thursday called for serious investigations into pre-election violence in Papua and Aceh, two regions which have seen pro-independence sentiments.

Five politicians have been killed in Aceh since January and in Papua, security authorities had shot and wounded four students calling for a UN-organized referendum and later arrested 20 students activists and threatened three of them with treason and incitement, it said in a statement.

On the election front, Papua Governor Barnabas Suebu said that voters at three percent of the some 7,648 polling stations across Papua could not vote on Thursday, adding that he hoped the polls could be conducted Friday.