WEST PAPUA: by News WeeklyNews Weekly
Rising US concern over Indonesian army killings
, July 12, 2003
The theft of some weapons from an Indonesian army depot in Wamena, West Papua, three months ago is being used as a pretext by the Indonesian army for a large-scale military action against the Papuan population in the highlands.
The burglary in April was carried out by a dozen Papuan members of a pro-Jakarta militia but not without inside help from the Indonesian army. Military authorities have admitted that their own personnel were involved in the burglary and nine soldiers were arrested soon after the theft, but the military action against local Papuans is still continuing after three months.
Members of the Indonesian red-beret elite force, Kopassus, were behind the theft of weapons but the two soldiers killed were from Kostrad, the green-beret troops from strategic command.
The two who were killed were off-duty. They had seen torch-lights inside the weapons depot after the power supply to the building had been cut with the assistance of Kopassus who still deny involvement.Retaliation
In retaliation for the two deaths, Indonesian military have been using flamethrowers to burn houses, killing people and destroying livestock and gardens in the Kurawage district, north-west of Wamena.
The names of sixteen Papuans killed by the army have been released by local authorities but others have simply disappeared without trace. Several hundred Papuans - men, women and children - who fled into the forest, now face starvation, and deaths were being reported in mid-June according to a group spokesman.
Two Papuan pastors who returned at night seeking food for their people were shot by the army. They were Kutis Tabuli, 41 and Engellek Tabuli, 57, who was the district church leader.
Eleven churches had been destroyed and many Papuans were still missing, according to the human rights group, Elsham. According to reports, some victims died inside their houses when flamethrowers were used.
When a bible was located, the army would burn it deliberately to show disapproval and more than 50 such burnings have occurred. The military operation is using helicopters and more than a thousand additional troops as well as Brimob, the mobile police counter insurgency unit.Army response
One Papuan who was a local figure in the OPM (Organisation for Papuan Independence) voluntarily surrendered to the army when he heard he was being sought in relation to the April burglary. In the presence of his lawyer, he explained that he had nothing to do with the theft of weapons - most of which were recovered in a nearby army building a few days after the burglary.
Nevertheless, he was flown from Wamena to Jayapura for further questioning and was reported dead a few days later. Many innocent Papuans such as Sam Payokwa, a Papuan tour guide and Wamena airport employee, who was arrested without charge, now face torture and imprisonment.
The death of two Indonesian soldiers in Wamena last April led to a violent reaction: the deaths of two American school-teachers (and one Indonesian) in August 2002, at the Freeport gold-mine in West Papua, has resulted in a reaction of a different sort from the USA, threatening to cut aid for the Indonesian military who (again) are suspected of being behind the killings.
Top Indonesian Security Minister (retired army general) Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on June 30, 2003, denied that the Indonesian Army was involved in the deadly attack on a convoy of buses in Timika, Papua. Indonesian provincial police-chief, General Pastika (who was subsequently shifted to investigate the Bali bombing) announced last year that the evidence pointed to army involvement in the death of one Indonesian and two American teachers in August 2002, along the mountain road to the Freeport mine, the largest gold-mine in the world.US demands
According to Susilo, a joint investigating team from the military and police was still investigating the fatal attack. Susilo was responding to remarks by Mathew P. Daley, US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, who said that the preponderance of evidence collected during a preliminary investigation by the Indonesian police indicated that "members of Indonesian Army were responsible for the murders in Papua".
The army had intended the murders to be publicly blamed on the OPM, branding them as terrorists. Freeport has provided millions of dollars annually as 'protection money' to the Indonesian army, and the August 2002 shootings were possibly an attempt by the army of ensuring this payment did not stop - even though Freeport shareholders have demanded clarification.
Susilo stressed that the arrival of FBI agents was not aimed at interfering with the ongoing investigation being carried out by Indonesian military and police, arguing that "they (the FBI) will only help the investigation process."
The FBI, up to now, has been able to interview army personnel only in the presence of a superior officer and this has seriously stalled the process of investigation.
Both Democrat and Republican Congressmen are demanding that aid to the Indonesian military be withheld until those involved in the murder of the American schoolteachers are brought to justice.