Paniai sweeps intensify misery under Indonesian control as security forces ban music and torture priest

by West Papua Media

March 6, 2013

Local residents in Paniai regency are bracing for more repression in sweep operations by Indonesian security forces after two separate incidents across the Paniai have intensified ongoing crackdowns on West Papuan independence sentiment, torturing a  local priest and even banning the possession of traditional music.

The latest crackdown, imposed in Paniai after guerrillas from Paniai commander Jhon Yogi’s Paniai unit of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) were involved in armed engagements with the Indonesian army (TNI) and Police throughout February .

Reliable human rights sources in Paniai have reported to West Papua Media that an influx of joint TNI and police have “arrived with total war equipment” to bolster sweeps and raids across Paniai against civilians accused of holding pro-independence sentiments.

“In order to confront the TPN PB and on orders from President SBY, a brigade of TNI / Police have arrived with total war equipment. There were drops of TNI/POLRI in Paniai on 3 March 2013. The brigade arrived by 7 ‘Inova’ vehicles via the coast road,” the source told West Papua Media.

Helicopters belonging to illegal gold miners in Degouwo were again being used by Indonesian troops to support the operation, similar to the massive offensive against Paniai people during 2011 and early 2012, according to both human rights and church sources.

“A yellow and white helicopter owned by an illegal business in Degouwo at 13.00 WPB (west Papua time) made two drops of personnel and logistical war equipment. The first drop was to the Enarotali airport in Paniai district, and the second helicopter drop of the brigade forces together with war equipment was at Obano also, in the west of Paniai district,” the human rights source told West Papua Media.

Independent sources are also reporting that Indonesian colonial occupation forces are putting massive pressure on local civilians, with routine violations of civilian’s dignity, and arbitrary strip searches, that have created opportunities for brutality and torture on local people.

The notorious battalion 753 from Nabire has erected scores of “state of emergency tents” every 5-10 kilometres along the main road between Nabire and Paniai, according to witnesses. “TNI are carrying out very strict checking of everything. The TNI from unit 753 are undoing the clothes of every passenger in the area to check them including females. Advocacy and monitoring is requested,” said the human rights worker.

Military Destruction of traditional culture amounting to cultural genocide
Papuan independent media outlet Tabloid Jubi  has reported remarkable accounts of the extraordinary measures Indonesian police commandos from Paniai police headquarters are taking to destroy traditional Papuan culture by banning music.

Father Saul Wanimbo, the Director of the Commission for Justice and Peace (SKP) in Timika diocese, told Tabloid Jubi that during police sweeps, local people are being forced to hand over their mobile phones.  They analyse the memory cards on the mobile phones to find songs in Papuan language, and if the memory card is found to contain either one or many Papuan folk songs, police will smash the memory card with stones, according to Fr Wanimbo.

“The police are sweeping HP (Handphone) memory cards of Enaro society (people) for the last two months,” Wanimbo told Jubi, citing his own experiences and stories directly from Enaro residents from 1-20 Febrruary 2013.  Wanimbo said that Paniai people have been so demoralised that they just accept the oppressive actions of the occupation forces.

Wanimbo said that the actions by Police were killing three values:  “There is destruction of cultural values, murder of the people’s creativity, and character assassination.”

“The situation is conditioned in such a way so that people cannot resist. How can the people fight if the area has a variety of (security force) members lurking there,” Fr Wanimbo told Jubi.  The police acts were morally and legally wrong, police could not arbitrarily violate people’s privacy for no apparent reason, and such actions must be done with a warrant, he said.

“Paniai Police must explain the meaning of this sweeps. Or the Papua Police chief must stop the actions of the Kapolresnya (local police command) men in Enaro. This is serious. We can say it’s the beginning of the genocide, ” he said.

Priest tortured by police who then demand bribe for his release

Meanwhile, again in the Paniai regional centre of Enarotoli, local human rights workers have documented a serious case of torture of a local priest.  According to human rights workers attached to the Kingmi church, at 8.30 in the morning on March 2, Reverend Yunus Gobai (55 years) was arrested, threatened and tortured by local and Brimob commando police at the Enarotali (Kapolresnya) police compound in Paniai district.

According to the report received and confirmed by West Papua Media, as a result of beating Gobai’s nose was bleeding, his upper and lower lips were split and  bleeding, and he sustained abrasions on his hands, swelling on his forehead and cuts on his head, after which he he was put in a cell at the Police Sector command (Polsek) in Enarotali.

Family members went to request his release from the Police station, but the Paniai police demanded a bribe or ransom money to free him, according to the report.  Family members reported they were forced to gather money in order to pay the police, and a Paniai member of the DPRD directly handed over to police one million rupiah (about US$103) at Polsek Paniai.  Reverend Gobai was then released at 1030am local time, and taken straight home to his village by his family, according to the report.

Rev Gobai is the former pastor and head of the council of the community of KINGMI Maranatha Nabire. According to his family, after Rev Gobai became pastor of the community he suffered from (an undefined) mental disturbance together with epilepsy.  Gobai’s family reported that he would regularly be seen “shouting for no reason or running around shouting”.

Reverend Gobai was arrested after exhibiting these symptoms outside the police station in Enarotoli, causing his arrest, but police did not treat the issue as an illness and used unwarranted torture and inhumane treatment on the pastor, according to the report.

(WPM Editor’s Comment: Whilst the KINGMI report uses unclear terminology describing the pastor’s behaviour as “mental illness”, often random outbursts of unintelligible shouting and psychotic visions are perfectly normal and accepted behaviour of Christian pentecostal pastors, Muslim imans, Hindu holy people, and almost all other religious leaders and clerics across human history.  To arrest and torture someone for this behaviour is to ignore the experience of humanity.)

Paniai is no stranger to unrestrained Indonesian security force violence and torture against local people, primarily made up of members of the Mee tribe.  Previous offensives in the  Paniai since December 2011 have displaced tens of thousands of civilians, and burnt down hundreds of villages.  Paniai was the scene of widespread military operations between 1963-1969, 1977-1978, and again in 1981-1982. During this period U.S. supplied Bronco aircraft were used to bomb villages while helicopters strafed Papuans with machine gun fire.

West Papua Media

3 thoughts on “Paniai sweeps intensify misery under Indonesian control as security forces ban music and torture priest

    1. they were also used in Aceh, and especially during the aerial bombardmments campaigns also in the Baliem Valley.

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