Rioting Continues In Jayapura After Death Of West Papuan Activist

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Critics claim police using ‘law enforcement’ to condone violence

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, June 16, 2012) – Angry residents in the Indonesian-ruled region of West Papua have burned cars and shops in the capital Jayapura after an independence activist was shot and killed, police and human rights activists said.

Melanesian Papuans have campaigned for independence in the region bordering Papua New Guinea for decades.

Mako Tabuni, deputy of the pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was shot dead while resisting arrest, human rights activist Markus Haluk told Reuters.

Waena riots

Tabuni had been campaigning for an investigation into a recent spate of shootings.

National police spokesman Muhammad Taufik said the victim was shot dead in the town of Waena during a police raid, the Jakarta Globe reported.

"He was armed. Police asked him to surrender but he didn’t. Police shot at him, hitting his hip and leg. He died on the way to hospital," he told reporters.

Haluk told news agencies that he doubted law enforcement’s explanation of the incident.

‘Not law enforcement’

"This is not law enforcement, this is ridiculous," Haluk told Reuters by telephone from Jayapura, the province’s main town.

"Security forces are using the excuse of law enforcement to shoot, using the classic excuse of the separatist group stigma," Haluk said of Tabuni’s killing.

Police confirmed Tabuni’s death saying he was shot in the hip and leg and died on his way to hospital.

A statement by Tapol after translating "unreliable" police details of the shooting from Bintang Papua said: "Can we now draw the conclusion that the police themselves have been responsible for the recent spate of shootings that have occurred, so as to be able to pin the blame on an organization such as the KNPB which has been involved in peaceful advocacy such as calling for a referendum to be held in West Papua?"

West Papua Media reported: "As tensions across West Papua ratchet up in the wake of the execution of … Mako Tabuni, senior Papuan leaders [have accused] Australian and US trained Detachment 88 of being behind the slaying."

[PIR editor’s note: Pacific Scoop reported last week that West Papuans have expressed condemnation of the Indonesian president for downplaying the rising violence in the province and characterizing shooting deaths as "relatively minor" compared to conflicts in other parts of the world. The president has been called upon by members of Papua’s House of Representatives to issue an apology for words that "really hurt Papuans, and the relatives of all victims."]

Mako Tabuni

Independence activist Benny Wenda released a press statement calling the shooting an "assassination" and urging the United Nations to intervene.

"There is now indiscriminate shooting taking place on the streets of Jayapura, with residents fleeing in fear. On behalf of my people, I am urging the international community to wake up and help us," he said.

‘UN peacekeeping needed’

"We urgently need a UN peacekeeping force to be put in place and sent to the region. My people are danger in the hand of the Indonesian military and police."

News of the killing brought people out onto the streets of Jayapura and some of them torched shops and vehicles. Television footage showed police inspecting burned out buildings and smoldering cars.

"People were angry after they heard that their leader or friend was arrested and burnt several motorcycles, cars and three houses," security minister Djoko Suyanto said.

He added that four people had been arrested in the past two weeks over a spate of violence in the region, including the fatal shooting of a German tourist late last month.

They included KNPB head Bukhtar Tabuni, who was released from prison last year after serving three years for organizing a 2008 rally, according to police.

Police said the group was suspected of organizing protests in recent months that have left shops and public facilities in several Papuan cities badly vandalized, but it has denied responsibility.

Pro-independence rallies and displaying separatist symbols, such as the Morning Star flag are considered treason in Indonesia, and protests in West Papua, a former Dutch colony have ended in brutal suppression by police.

Jakarta annexed Papua in 1969 in a self-determination referendum widely regarded as a sham and continues to keep a tight grip on the region through its military and police to quell a decades-long insurgency by poorly armed rebels.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, Indonesia’s human rights committee has expressed shock over news that a member of Indonesia’s special forces unit, Kopassus, had received training in New Zealand at the military’s Trentham Staff and Command College. New Zealand Defence Force representatives have only said that the officer’s involvement at the college "is too sensitive to comment on."]

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