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Jakarta Post

Five Papuans shot dead for dancing and protesting

  • Nethy Dharma Somba

    The Jakarta Post

Jayapura   /   Tue, December 9, 2014   /  09:10 am

Five civilians were shot and killed and 21 others were injured on Monday when security personnel dispersed a crowd that was gathering and dancing at the Karel Gobai Field in Madi district, Paniai regency, Papua.

Paniai Customary Council head John Gobay said the shooting took place at 10 a.m. local time as residents from Togokotu village were gathering at the field, also known as Soeharto field, in protest over an incident from the previous night.

Gobay said the residents were performing the waita tribal dance in Paniai after setting fire to a black SUV that was believed to have been used by perpetrators who assaulted residents gathering at a Christmas event in Ipakiye village in East Paniai.

Police from a nearby station arrived at the field to disperse the crowd. The crowd continued dancing and did not disperse. The police then fired into the crowed. Four people were killed on the spot and 22 others suffered injuries.

'€œThe four deceased have been identified as Habakuk Degei, Neles Gobai, Bertus Gobai and Apinus Gobai. Four people have died while 22 suffered slight wounds,'€ said Gobay in Jayapura on Monday.

Saday Yeimo, one of the injured who was being treated at the Madi Hospital for a shot to the stomach, died later on Monday evening.

Gobay said the initial provocation, which took place on Sunday evening, began when the black SUV, which did not turn on its headlights as it traveled through the hilly Togokotu area, reached the peak of a hill where children from a local church had built a Christmas hut. The local children scolded the driver for not turning on his lights while driving at night.

A quarrel ensued and the car then sped off to the Uwibutu 753 Special Team military command post. Not long after, the car, filled with recruits, returned to the Christmas hut and assaulted the children who were about 12 years old.

'€œResidents then gathered at Soeharto field, just wishing to ask about the driver of the car and the assault, but the soldiers reacted excessively. They thought they would be attacked, so they came to the field. The crowd did not attack the local police station,'€ said Gobay.

Papua Peace Network coordinator and Fajar Timur Theology and Philosophy Academy head Neles Tebay said the police should offer an explanation for their actions against the civilians and church youths who were not members of any armed groups or separatists.

'€œCivilians have been shot and killed without reason. The Papua Police and Paniai Police chiefs should be held responsible. These actions show that security personnel have treated residents not as citizens but as enemies who must be eliminated,'€ said Neles.

When reached by phone in Jayapura, Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Yotje Mende acknowledged he had learned about the incident in Paniai but had yet to receive a complete report from the local police chief.

'€œI have yet to receive information on the number of people who died and the chronology of events. I have not been able to contact the Paniai Police chief yet,'€ confirmed Yotje.

Last week two police officers were shot dead by an unidentified group in a church in Puncak Jaya regency, Papua.

In August, two police officers were shot dead in Lanny Jaya regency, Papua. The shooting triggered the arrest of 21 civilians suspected of affiliation with the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM).