Supporters of slain Papuan rights activist Mako Tabuni convened in Jayapura on Thursday night to express their sorrow and frustration over his death, which has been muddied by conflicting accounts from eyewitnesses who identified with his cause and from the police officers who shot him dead.
Religious leaders, tribal leaders, NGO workers and other activists attended the commemoration at the headquarters of the West Papuan National Committee (KNPB), of which Mako was deputy chairman. The organization is pushing for a referendum on Papuan self-determination.
The attendees sought to commemorate Mako as a freedom fighter, not as the troublemaker they say he has been unfairly portrayed as by security forces.
The police say they have reason to believe Mako was responsible for a recent spate of unsolved shootings across Papua, which was why they went to arrest him.
Their version of his death is that Mako resisted arrest and made a grab at one of the officer’s guns, forcing them to shoot him.
They also say he was armed with the gun that was used to shoot a German tourist on May 29, a seemingly random attack.
Witnesses, though, dispute all of that, saying Mako was only shot while running away from the police and that he never went for one of the officers’ weapons or carried one himself.
Gustat Kawer, a friend and legal adviser of Mako who saw the killing take place, reiterated his sympathetic account while speaking at Thursday’s event. He called the incident an “extra-judicial killing” and “murder” by security forces.
“The police only wanted to kill him because they thought he was a Papuan independence leader,” Gustat said.
He added: “Mako’s spirit needs to be emulated by his peers. The spirit is not extinguished by the might of the bullet. The spirit of his fight for justice and truth should be followed.”