President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono admitted on Tuesday that security officers had overreacted with their handling of the security situation in Papua, where violence has escalated for the past couple of weeks.
“Security officers with the TNI [Indonesian Military] and the National Police have been deemed over reactive in their responses to activities committed by certain elements, such as the killings of citizens and TNI soldiers stationed in the region,” Yudhoyono said on Tuesday while opening a Cabinet meeting on the recent security situation in Papua.
Yudhoyono stopped short of further explaining the statement, but TNI commander Admiral Agus Suhartono made a similar confession after the meeting.
Agus referred to the alleged attack of a village in Wamena, Papua, by a group of TNI soldiers, reportedly in retaliation for the killing of a fellow soldier by an angry mob after he and another soldier, critically wounded, almost hit a child while riding a motorcycle through the village.
“We should take lessons from this situation. They [TNI soldiers] shouldn’t have overreacted. But we must also understand the emotional states of the soldiers,” Agus told reporters after the Cabinet meeting at the presidential office.
“We don’t want other overreactions by the TNI there because we don’t want any human rights abuses,” he added.
Agus said the TNI had made an agreement with residents of Honai Lama village to build tents as temporary shelters for some villagers who lost their houses, reportedly burned down by TNI soldiers.
“We’ve also agreed to question TNI members that overreacted, and have agreed that police should at the same time investigate murders of TNI soldiers. Investigations must run both ways,” he said.
Besides the Wamena village attack on June 7, at least seven shootings, some of them fatal, have been reported in the Papuan capital of Jayapura. A German tourist was shot and wounded on May 29. In the latest case a security guard at the Cenderawasih University campus was killed.
No one has been arrested for the attacks. State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Marciano Norman has accused the Free Papua Movement (OPM) of being behind the Jayapura shootings, but the OPM has denied any responsibility.
Yudhoyono has ordered a thorough investigation into the incidents and said he would dispatch the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Djoko Suyanto, to Papua to monitor the situation.