A string of fatal shootings in the past month has rocked the conflict-torn province of Papua. Pro-independence groups are suspected of the violence.
Early in June, just three hours before midnight, Arwan Apuan sat relaxed on his motorcycle. Every night, the 30-year-old civil servant from the Cendrawasih Military Regional Command in Jayapura worked at his second job of driving a motorcycle taxi.
The area where Arwan waited for customers is known as a busy place during the night. Its location is right in front of the Jayapura mayor's office. Next to Arwan, other motorcycle taxi drivers parked their vehicles while waiting for passengers, as usual.
That night, someone patted Arwan's shoulder. The person needed a ride to an area behind the mayor's office not far from the place where the motorcycle drivers were parked. After bargaining on the price, Arwan drove off with his passenger. That was the last time Arwan's friends saw him alive.
Less than quarter an hour later after he left, a gunshot was heard. The back of the young man's neck had been shot through. Guards at the Military Headquarters located not far the place of the incident, rushed Arwan to Marthen Indey hospital. But it was too late to save Arwan.
Arwan's murder has become part of a string of violent attacks in Papua which began the end of last year. Unrelated or not, these mysterious shootings have been happening quite regularly, following the forcible and violent dispersion of the Papuan People's Assembly in Padang Bulan, last October. In the ensuing melee, two Papuan pro-independence activists died.
Since then, shootings have occurred almost every month. The pattern is almost always the same. The victims are generally ojek, or motorcycle taxi drivers, and the y are shot from behind. On June 10, for example, only four days afer the shooting of Arwan, another ojek driver was found dead.
This time the victim was Tri Surono, a migrant worker from Ngawi, East Java. This security guard at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura had been moonlighting as an ojek driver in the evenings. Like Arwan, Surono was shot through from behind. A week later, another ojek driver, Arkilaus Refwutu, 48, was the next victim. Arkilaus was shot in the Yalinggua village of Mulia, Puncak Jaya, also from behind.
Besides ojek drivers, ordinary people passing through the main roads of Jayapura in the evenings also became targets. Usually, the shooting would take place after 9pm.
Since the beginning of June, there have been three incidents of mystery shootings on Jayapura's main roads.
The target of these shootings then shifted to foreigners. Last May, a German tourist was shot in Jayapura. Dietmar Pieper, a 55-year-old man, was walking on a beach when he was shot from behind. This incident prompted the police to finally act.
A number of witnesses were questioned intensively. One of Arwan's colleagues, First Sergeant Eko, who also moonlights as a motorcycle taxi driver, claimed to have seen the face of Arwan's last passenger. He was there the night Arwan was assassinated.
"The passenger was a Papuam. 170 centimeters tall," said Papua Regional Police officer, Adj. Sr. Comr. Johannes Nugroho Wicaksono. "He was well-dressed and neatly shaved." The detailed information was given by Eko and verified by Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfred Papare. "But that was just the physical features of the victim's last passenger. This does not necessarily mean that he is the actual mastermind of the shooting," he said.
The police also holds the ballistic test results of bullets used during previous terror shooting sprees in Papua. According to Alfred Papare, some of the bullets were fired from the gun of a .38 millimeter caliber Taurus revolver. "The weapon was registered to a policeman from Keerom precinct, reported missing in 2010 after a theft."
Based on the evidence and witness testimonies, on June 14, the police set off to arrest Mako Tabuni, deputy chairman of the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB. But claiming that Mako Tabuni resisted arrest, the police fatally shot him. Tabuni's killing triggered rioting in Papua. Members of the KNPB vowed to surrender themselves to the Indonesian authorities as proof of their innocence with regards to the shootings.
The police insist that Tabuni's arrest had nothing to do with his political activities. The gun found in Tabuni's bag was the same as the gun used by the assassin, officer Alfred Papare had said.
A number of KNPB activists are now targets of investigations. Papua Police deputy chief Brigadier General Paulus Waterpauw announced the arrest of three suspects: Calvin Wenda, Jefry Wandikwo and Zakeus Wakla, KNPB members.
Paulus' announcement may be an attempt to link the KNPB to the mysterious fatal shootings rocking Jayapura. The police argue that the group, established in 1961, had been pushing for a referendum to determine the future of Papua.
"That is the police scenario to make us the scapegoats," said the spokesperson of KNPB, Warpo Wetipo. He insisted that it was not the KNPB's agenda to make Papua chaotic. "Mako Tabuni was definitely not the mastermind of all those of shootings," said he decisively.
One of Tempo's sources in Jayapura corroborated Warpo's claim. He said the secret shootings in Jayapura must have been carried out by men who are extremely well-trained in using guns. "The fact is that they dare to kill people in an urban, public area, watched by many people," said the source. He also inferred that the killers may be trained by the Indonesian Military.
Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, Marshal (ret.) Djoko Suyanto, right away denied this claim. "Don't believe in cheap rumors," he said in an SMS text message.
Sumardi, secretary of the Papua Problem Resolution Desk at the Ministry, gave a more detailed explanation. He said the escalation of violence in Papua was politically motivated. "The perpetrators want to give the impression that Papua is not stable," he said last week. The pro-independence group would be the one to capitalize on the image of an unstable Papua, said Sumardi.
"In that way, the international community and human right organizations will pay more attention to their cause," said Sumardi.
By Fanny Febiana (Jakarta), Tjahjono E.P. (Timika), Jerry Omona (Jayapura)
No. 45/12, July 03, 2012
From right to left, suspects JW, CW and ZW, charged with committing terror acts in Jayapura.