Special Report by Nick Chesterfield at West Papua Media
Monday, April 9, 2012
Concern is mounting in Puncak Jaya that an Indonesian military unit of “unknown persons” seeking to create a security crisis in Puncak Jaya may be behind the April 8 shooting attack on a Trigana Air Twin Otter aircraft in which a Papua Post journalist was killed.
Civil Society representatives, media sources and representatives from the rebel TPN (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional or National Liberation Army) have all cast significant doubt on the Indonesian military claim that Papuan guerrillas were responsible for opening fire on the aircraft. The aircraft came under accurate small arms fire as it was approaching from the Noble airfield in Mulia, Puncak Jaya, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.
Leiron Kogoya, 35, the Puncak Jaya correspondent covering local elections for the Nabire-based Papua Post, was fatally injured by a gunshot to his neck.
During the landing the injured pilot panicked, according to local media sources, and crashed the plane into the terminal building (shed). Four people sustained injuries from bullet fragments. A child, Pako Korwa, was wounded in the left finger, Jackie Korwa (mother) was wounded in the right shoulder; Dedy or Beby (pilot), was hit in the left ankle, and Willy Resubun (copilot) injured his right hand and fingers.
Papua Police’s public relations head, Commander Yohanes Nugroho Wicaksono, told Tempointeractif.com that the shooters were hiding in the hills 50 metres from the airport. Police had been unable to identify the perpetrators or the guns used in the incident. Yohanes guessed the shooter had used a M-16 or SS1 – the standard issue weapon for the TNI. “We’re still studying what particular type of gun was used,” he said.
Djoko Suyanto, the Coordinating Minister for Political, Justice and Security Affairs condemned the attack and demanded security forces immediately capture the perpetrators, but admitted that the case would likely remain unsolved. “Their actions must be stopped although it is difficult to do this because of the hills and dense forests,” Suyanto said.
A joint team of the Australian-created Detachment 88 counter-terrorism unit,
Brimob snipers and members of the notorious Nabire-based Indonesian army (TNI) Battalion 753 AVT gave chase to the shooters – according to the police statement – but failed to locate the shooters. Perpetrators for “unknown persons” shootings are rarely located by Police in Papua, despite significant intelligence resources and funding provided to the counter-terror units by the Australian Government.
A West Papua rights activist and former political prisoner Sebby Sambon has told Tabloid Jubi that the work is not that of the TPN, and was far from the areas of operation for troops of TPN leader Goliat Tabuni. “If it occurred near the TPN-OPM headquarters in Tingginambut, then accusations (that TPN may be involved) may make sense,” he said.
However, according to Sambon, TPN/OPM will not shoot civilians. “TPN / OPM (is there) to fight for the people. Period. It is not possible to shoot people.”
Sambon, who is in regular contact through the underground network with Tabuni’s men, said there is a group that was playing at Mulia. “There is a play, therefore, forged evidence. TPN / OPM has made no orders to shoot civilian aircraft, Sambon explained.
Police have accused TPN of involvement without any evidence, according to Sambon. “Is it the TPN / OPM purely firing, or other parties who deliberately do this to create a “project” in Papua?”
“For every event at Mulia, legal facts have never been substantiated,” said Sambon.
Indonesian press outlets are reporting that Indonesian police have conceded that the shooting is the work of “Unknown persons”, Polri Public Information Bureau chief Brigadier-General M Taufik told Vivanews.com that the police could not confirm whether the shooting was carried out by the Free Papua Movement (OPM). “So far we have not been able to ascertain whether or not they are the OPM, and we suspect they are a bunch of strangers,” he told Vivanews.com.
Yet a senior media source told West Papua Media on condition of anonymity, that both Police and military intelligence officers have been sending contradictory SMS messages about the shooting to journalists across Papua. “Two SMS messages about Trigana shooting were received from ASINTEL (Assistant Intelligence Commander of the Cenderawasih military district) and two from Kadivhumas (Public Affairs) Police.”
“Asintel told me that the shooter is OPM, but Kadivhumas Police told me that the shooter were “unknown persons”. This is a common habit known among journalists in Papua. TNI (Indonesian military) will send SMS to journalists to told them that the shooter is OPM. But the police already know who actually did the shooting in the Puncak Jaya and Freeport area. You know, TNI also has many groups that conducted operations in Papua,” the source told West Papua Media.
In a statement obtained by West Papua Media, Indonesian human rights organisation Imparsial suggested that the shootings were carried out as an “outrageous act” by elements that want to destabilize the security situation in Puncak Jaya and take advantage of the chaos. “Shoot civilian aircraft on the holy day of Easter, there are casualties. I guess there is a deliberate manufacture of the situation in Mulia, (so the area) seems to be harbuoring terrorists,” said the Executive Director of Imparsial, Poengki Indarti.
Indarti says that serious investigation must occur into events surrounding the shootings in Puncak Jaya. “I hope the government and security forces act seriously, because Papuans don’t want to dirty their hands with blood of others on Easter Sunday,” she said. “This act was orchestrated to make Mulia a (place) of terrorists, but it is not at all, “said Indarti again. Imparsial urged the police to immediately identify the imposters with sophisticated intelligence sent to Puncak Jaya.
The Alliance of Independent Journalists Papua Branch has also called for Kogoya’s death to be properly investigated by police, and for them not to fall back on the usual defence of “unknown persons”.
In a statement, the Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists Jayapura, Victor Mambor said “The incident is very regrettable. Leiron Kogoya was confirmed as the journalist for Pacific and Papua Post Nabire, and was commissioned by the editors to cover the phase of the elections in Puncak Jaya district.”
“It is clear that Leiron Kogoya was killed while on journalistic assignment, because he flew on the plane ordered by the editors to cover the phases of elections in Puncak Jaya,” said Mambor. According to AJI Jayapura, the police are supposed to ensure the safety of civilians, including journalists carrying out their journalistic duty.
“To his fellow journalists in Papua, (this is a renewed warning) to always be alert and careful in carrying out journalistic duties, since the recent intimidation and violence against journalists in Papua is increasing in intensity.” said Mambor. Victor Mambor is also is editor in chief of tabloidjubi.com.
Journalists in Papua are regularly subjected to violence and intimidation by Indonesian security forces, including direct monitoring by intelligence officers in newsrooms. The Pacific Media Freedom Report 2011 documented cases where at least two journalists have been killed in West Papua, five abducted and 18 assaulted in 2011.
- Gunmen Attack Plane in Indonesia; Journalist Dead (abcnews.go.com)
- Australia keen to follow developments in West Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Concerns of JPIC in Papua regarding the situation in Papua (westpapuamedia.info)