On February 19, 2020, a shooting occurred in Papua. However, sources conflict considerably as to what actually happened. According to Cenderawish command military spokesman Eko Daryanto, there was a shootout between soldiers and separatists and one separatist, Meki Tipagau (age 18) was killed. An unidentified 14-year-old girl was also shot, likely by her own companion. However, a local news website, apparently Suara Papua, identified the victim as Melkias Tipagau (age 12); his principal at SD YPPK Bilogai elementary school, Stefanus Sondegau, hadn’t yet determined if Tipagau was deceased. The same site reported a second fatality, Kayus Sani (aged 51)as well. It also reported that there were two additional people shot, not one: Heletina Sani (aged 30), and an unidentified 11-year-old girl (not 14).
Furthermore, West Papua National Liberation Army (separatist) spokesman Sebby Sambom denies that any of his people were in the area at the time and that the victim (singular) was a civilian. He also claimed that there was no shootout and that “the security forces cracked down on villages.” Sources even conflict as to whether the shooting occurred at Yoparu village (Sugapa District) or at Gulanggama village in Intan Jaya district), and one site suggests it happened a day earlier but was reported on February 19. With so much conflicting information, we will provide an update on our Facebook page as we learn more.
Ironically this shooting occurred within days of Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Konmas HAM) determining that the Indonesian military violated human rights in a 2014 shooting in Papua. In Indonesia’s Bloody Paniai case, or Kasus Paniai Berdarah in Indonesian, the TNI’s Special Battalion 753 Team shot and killed four Papuan students and injured 21 others on December 8, 2014. This was at a protest at the Karel Gobay Field in Madi district, Paniai regency, over alleged beatings of Papuan youth by the army. After demonstrators threw stones at the military office, security forces opened fire on the crowd.
Then recently-elected President Joko Widodo ordered the National Human Rights Commission (Konmas HAM) to investigate. On February 19, 2020 the commission determined that the military had carried out gross violations of human rights. They explained that the delay in arriving at a conclusion was the result of unnamed individuals hiding evidence. Konmas HAM “interviewed two dozen witnesses, analysed documents and visited the scene”.
The commission announced they have forwarded the findings to the Attorney General’s office for possible prosecution and says the soldiers and their superiors should be blamed not only for their deaths but also for the torture of 21 Papuans. The commission’s chief investigator Muhammad Choirul Anam called the shootings “a crime against humanity”. Presidential Chief of Staff, Moeldoko, who was at the time of the incident the commander of the armed forces has counterargued that the shootings were not premeditated and that it was not a violation of human rights. He claimed that the military’s sudden reaction was due to being caught by surprise.
As witnessed by the shooting on February 19, shootings occur with alarming regularity in the region, stemming from Indonesia seizing control of the mineral-rich region in the 1960s. A series of violent outbreaks occurred in the region August-October 2019. We hope that the Konmas HAM conclusion will discourage the latest shooting from starting a new lengthy round of violence towards Papuans.
Prepared by Andy E. Nystrom, PPP Archivist & Research Assistant
February 19, 2020