Wednesday, February 3, 2010

West Papua’s Timika’s Deadly Rain

Again, shots were fired at vehicles belonging to Freeport Indonesia. Kelly Kwalik’s group is suspected to be behind the attack.

THE sun was peacefully rising last Sunday when gunfire suddenly broke the silence. Along the 60th-61st mile of the Timika-Tembagapura route, a convoy of three vehicles transporting the employees of Freeport Indonesia was attacked by an armed group.

The convoy was on its way from Tembagapura to the Rimba Golf Kuala Kencana golf course. There were two buses, escorted by three members from the 2nd Pioneer Combat Unit A-Detachment of the National Police Force who were driving a LWB QRF Land Cruiser.

As usual, the convoy reported their Kuala Kencana City destination to a security post at the 68th mile. Nobody had the slightest thought that 30 minutes after leaving the post, they would end up under a rain of bullets with seven people becoming injured.

A bullet fragment entered the eye of James Howard Lochard, a Canadian employee working in the underground mining section. Another victim, Chindi Alifani Modokompit, received a gunshot wound to her right thigh. First Brigadier Budi S, Second Brigadiers E.P. Supriyadi and Abdullah, and also the three drivers were also injured. Their vehicles were heavily damaged.

Papua Regional Police Chief, Inspector-General Bekto Suprapto said that the police suspect the shots were fired from three different positions: two from the left side of the road, and one from the right. Twenty-three 5.56 millimeter bullets were recovered from the left side, the kind of ammunition used by SS1 and M16 assault rifles. “Coincidentally, the Kelly Kwalik group does have M16s and SS1s matching these recovered shells, as well as revolvers,” said Bekto.

Following the shooting that took the life of an Australian Freeport employee, Drew Nicholas Grant, last July, these waves of attack have been almost continuous. The attacks once stopped around October to January. After the Free Papua Movement (OPM)
Commander Kelly Kwalik was shot dead last December, gunfire had ceased. Kelly was suspected to be behind the attacks on Freeport grounds.

Even with Kelly Kwalik out of the picture, the accusation against his group remains. “As long as his men carry firearms, it’s very possible for them to continue their struggle,” said Bekto. He suspects that some members of Kelly’s group are still carrying firearms. These members include Tadius Yogi in Enarotali, Paniai regency, and Goliat Tabuni’s group operating in the Puncak Jaya regency.

Markus Haluk, Secretary-General of the Indonesian Association of Papua Middle Mountain Students, denied such accusation. “The police are throwing wild accusations,” he said. “The OPM had nothing to do with this.” He said the police had never discovered who the real shooters were. On the evidence that is linked with Kelly’s group, “We urge an independent investigation.”

Markus asked why the thousands of troops who stand guard over Freeport’s grounds had never succeeded in catching the perpetrators. The security unit ordered to guard the Freeport area is called the Amole task force. It consists of 1,500 men, 800 of whom are from the police, and 700 from the army. “They receive huge paychecks, yet they cannot bring things under control,” said Markus.

Freeport spokesperson Mindo Pangaribuan said that his company is indeed paying a lot to assure security. In 2008, for instance, Freeport rolled out cash of up to US$22 million to secure its areas, US$8.2 million of which was used to fund the 1,850 men of Amole task force.

Freeport is also required to provide the task force’s logistic needs, daily rations, transportation means, health care, as well as the allowances for both soldiers and officers. “We agreed to cover all the needs of our security personnel,” said Mindo. Regarding the money, Bekto said that he does not know anything about it. “I don’t know, because it depends on the number of security personnel deployed,” he said.

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