Papua police chief sacked over killing

A police chief in troubled Indonesian Papua has reportedly been demoted following last week’s fatal shooting in Deiyai Regency.

Yulianus Pigai, 28, died and up to 16 others were injured when police tried to disperse a crowd that had destroyed a construction site.

The incident followed the death of a villager who had needed help from the construction firm PT Putra Dewa Paniai to get to hospital.

The Jakarta Post said Tigi police boss N Raini had lost the role and Mobile Brigade personnel had been recalled.

It said an investigation team led by Papua police’s internal affairs boss was examining the incident along with the National Commission for Human Rights.

The Papua-based news agency Tabloid Jubi said the officers had apologised and their weapons had been confiscated.

“Papua police apologised for the incident in Deiyai, we apologise to the people of Papua, especially the families of the people who were hit by officers,” Papua police Inspector General Boy Rafli Amar reportedly told the agency.

Civil society organisation and activists held a candlelit vigil in Jayapura.

The Post said Timika Bishop John Saklil had condemned the shooting, calling it an abuse of state power to attack civilians and a crime against humanity.

“All perpetrators must be held to account and tried in the human-rights court,” the bishop said.

The police reported that they opened fire using rubber bullets on rock-throwing protesters who “ran amok” and ignored demands to disperse.

Human Rights Watch reported that villagers said the police opened fire on protesters without warning, also injuring two children. Papuan social media is circulating photos of shell casings reportedly from the site, implying that police fired live rounds rather than rubber bullets.

Human Rights Watch said: “We will probably never know what really happened in Deiyai. That’s because the government obstructs the watchdog function of a free press by severely restricting access for foreign media to Papua despite a May 2015 pledge by President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo to lift those restrictions.

“Indonesian journalists in Papua, particularly native Papuans, who dare to report on ‘sensitive’ topics, including security forces’ abuses, are highly vulnerable to official harassment, intimidation and violence. The result: competing allegations of official wrongdoing about security force violence that are immune to media scrutiny.”

The NGO said that promised investigations by the Indonesian authorities went nowhere. For example, three separate probes into the killing on December 2014 of five young Papuans in Enarotali in Paniai regency had failed to result in any accountability.


Provincial capital, Jayapura. Picture credit: Wikimedia