Church leaders denounce killings in Papua

Circle of violence in the troubled region continues
Church leaders denounce killings in Papua

The state wants to label Papuans as criminals and separatists, says the Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, chairman of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua. (Photo by Benny Mawel)

Protestant and Catholic leaders in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua have denounced a series of killings that occurred last month and have urged an end to the violence in the troubled region. 

The first incident occurred Dec.1 when four separatists were allegedly tortured and shot to death by Indonesian security officers on Yapen Island. In another killing, a Papuan was allegedly shot dead by a soldier Dec. 20 in Keerom district, which borders Papua New Guinea. 

The Rev. Socratez Sofyan Yoman, chairman of the Communion of Baptist Churches in Papua, expressed concerned about the shootings. 

"These shootings are ignoble acts and cruel crimes. We denounce such incidents. (The government) must end them," he told ucanews.com on Jan. 2.

Yoman added that on Dec. 8, 2014, four students were killed — and many others injured — when security forces opened fire on a crowd of Papuans who were protesting the beating of a child, allegedly by soldiers. 

"All those shootings are part of the state's intelligence operations because they want to get a reaction. The state wants to label Papuans as criminals and separatists," Yoman said. 

Father Neles Tebay, coordinator of the Papua Peace Network, said the shootings are a clear indication of the unresolved conflict between the Indonesian government and indigenous West Papuans, particularly those who support the Free Papua Movement.

Father Tebay, also rector of the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and Theology in Abepura, said such shootings have been part of the circle of violence that has been evident since Papua was made part of Indonesia in 1962.

"Violence is paid with violence," said Father Tebay, adding that the Indonesian government and the Free Papua Movement should instead join in dialogue to find a solution to the conflict.

Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said that the Indonesian police must conduct a thorough investigation into the shootings.

"But the Indonesian police must be careful in conducting the investigation, so as to prevent legal violations during the process," said Harsono.

"It commonly happens in Papua, where security forces — because of emotion — fail to work professionally. As a result, innocent people become victims," he said.

Police officers killed 

Three police officers also were shot dead by a group of armed men stealing weapons and ammunition from Sinak Police Station in Puncak district on Dec. 26. Harsono, said the Free Papua Movement and Lekhaka Telenggen, who is chief of the rebel group in that area, have claimed responsibility for these shootings.

Papua Police Chief Inspector Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said that all of these shootings are under investigation. 

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"For the shootings of police officers, we keep hunting down the perpetrators. Also, we are still dealing with the other cases," he told ucanews.com.

Additional reporting by ucanews.com reporters in Jakarta.

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