Ezra Sihite & Ismira Lutfia
A major human rights group has refuted the police account of Thursday’s killing of Papuan activist Mako Tabuni in Jayapura, saying there were no indications that he attempted to resist arrest when he was gunned down.
Haris Azhar, executive coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said on Friday that his organization had spoken to witnesses at the scene of the shooting near Cendrawasih University and that none of them said Mako had put up a fight when officers cornered him, as the police claim.
“According to our investigation, three cars approached Mako outside the university and shots were fired at him directly from the car,” he said at a hearing before the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) in Jakarta. “The police account, however, is that they attempted to negotiate with him first.”
Mako was the deputy chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), which has long called for a referendum on Papuan self-determination. His death triggered rioting in Jayapura on Thursday that resulted in the burning of stores and vehicles and some injuries.
Papua Police Chief Insp. Gen. Bigman L. Tobing said they had reason to believe Mako was involved in perpetrating the spate of deadly, mysterious shootings that have wracked Papua in recent weeks.
Bigman said his officers intended to take Mako alive but were forced to shoot him after he resisted arrest and tried to seize one of the officer’s guns.
Bigman also said Mako was carrying a loaded gun, which the police found on him after they killed him.
Haris, though, said the incident bore all the hallmarks of a police hit: plainclothes officers, unmarked cars and nothing to indicate — not before, during or after the shooting — that these were police officers.
“This was a fast and mysterious killing,” Haris said.
The National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) called for full police accountability in Mako’s shooting.
“We hope this incident doesn’t become politicized but is instead treated as a criminal offense,” Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim said on Friday.
Ifdhal called on the security forces to get to the bottom of the string of violence, instead of simply blaming “separatists.”
In Jayapura, Fritz Ramanday, head of the provincial chapter of Komnas HAM, said Mako’s body was to be buried in Sentani subdistrict later on Friday. An autopsy was carried out on Thursday at the police hospital in the Papuan capital.
The security situation in the city was largely back to normal on Friday, although shops remained shuttered in the Waena neighborhood where most of the violence occurred. Very few public minivans were seen passing through the normally bustling area.
One of the five people hospitalized after the rioting has been allowed to go home, while another is set to be released from the hospital this weekend. Three others are still being treated for their injuries.
Additional reporting from Antara