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Papuan group opens fire on gov’t fact-finding team

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Intan Jaya regency is marked with the red line. The Jakarta Post/Asian News Network

Papuan group opens fire on gov’t fact-finding team

The West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) has confirmed it was behind an attack on members of the government’s joint fact-finding team (TGPF) in Mamba village, Sugapa district, Intan Jaya regency, Papua, on Friday.

TPNPB spokesperson Rimba Lawingga said one of the group’s fighters opened fire on the fact-finding team, which includes Indonesian Army (TNI) personnel.

“For us, the TNI killed Pastor Yeremia [Zamambani]. We oppose a Jakarta-sanctioned investigation team that will only make us the scapegoat. That is why we shot,” Rimba told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

According to the TNI’s Joint Defence Area Command III (Kogabwilhan III), the shooting occurred on Friday afternoon as the fact-finding team was returning to Sugapa after conducting an investigation in Hitadipa district.

The team, led by Benny Mamoto of the National Police Commission (Kompolnas), was established by the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Ministry on October 1.

It was tasked with probing recent alleged unlawful killings in Intan Jaya regency, including the killing of Papuan pastor Yeremia Zamambani.

“The shooting took place at 3:45pm local time on Wagonopone road in Mamba village. The team were suddenly under fire from the right and left sides of the road. We didn’t expect the attack,” Kogabwilhan III spokesperson Colonel I Gusti Nyoman Suriastawa said on Friday.

Gadjah Mada University (UGM) lecturer Bambang Purwoko, also a member of the investigation team, was shot in the leg, while TNI soldier First Sergeant Faisal Akbar of Hitadipa Task Force sustained injuries to his waist.

Both victims were immediately taken to Sugapa General Hospital. They were evacuated to Jakarta on Saturday, said Sugeng Purnomo, TGPF deputy head and law and human rights undersecretary at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.

He added that the TGPF team had begun an evaluation of its activities following the incident to ensure the safety and security of its members. “This shouldn’t hamper our task to get clear information to solve the case.”

Separately, on Friday, the Papuan Council of Churches announced its stance of opposing the government-sanctioned team, arguing it would not solve the systemic violence in Indonesia’s easternmost province.

The council – comprising representatives from, among other associations, the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Papua, the Papua Kemah Gospel Church (KIGMI Papua) and the Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GIDI) – have written an open letter demanding President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo speak with the Papuan pro-referendum group and stop sending troops to Papua.

“This issue depends on President [Jokowi’s] willingness to solve the problems in Papua. Forming a team won’t solve anything. The president must come himself and have a dialogue with us,” said Pastor Andrikus Mofu, the general synod chairman of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Papua.

The council argued the government had continued to send soldiers to Papua since the antiracism protests in the province in August last year.

This, they argued, had led to more fatal shootings. In September, shootings took the lives of Pastor Yeremia, a civilian identified as Badawi, as well as TNI soldiers Chief Sergeant Sahlan and First Private Dwi Akbar.

In response to the suspicion and opposition toward the TGPF team, Kogabwilhan III’s Suriastawa said the team would conduct an open investigation, so members of the general public could monitor its progress.

He added that the TNI’s involvement in the fact-finding team was necessary because military personnel had witnessed the incidents.

“If we’re not involved, from whom will we seek information? The TNI knows about the incidents’ chronology and can help exam the direction of the shots,” said Suriastawa.



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