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Police in Papua must 'calm down'

19 March 2006

Heeding public pressure, the National Police moved Sunday to stop retaliatory measures by ordering its Mobile Brigade (Brimob) in Papua to return to their barracks in Jayapura.

In a bid to restore security and order following Thursday's anti-Freeport demonstration that turned deadly, two companies, about 200 new officers, were sent in to Jayapura on Sunday, National Police Spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said.

National Police Chief Gen. Sutanto has also replaced Papua's Mobile Brigade Commander, Snr. Comsr. Tatang Hermawan with Snr. Cmsr. Roby Kaligis.

The National Police reportedly have faulted Tatang for failing to follow the appropriate procedures that could have prevented the loss of life during Thursday's clash.

Meanwhile as of Sunday 12 were named suspects after police questioned around 60 people. One suspect was Selphius Bobbi, the secretary of the West Papua Referendum Front, police said.

Anton said that the Brimob return order was aimed at allowing police officers involved in quelling the unrest to "calm down and recuperate" in their barracks.

His statement came amid public concern over reports that police officers had launched a major security operation to conduct random raids in search of people involved in the rioting, which claimed the lives of four security personnel - three Brimob officers and one Air Force officer.

Police officers have reportedly resorted to harsh measures to vent their anger over the death of their colleagues. A 10-year-old girl was injured, reportedly by a stray bullet, and a student boardinghouse was raided.

The Association of Indonesian Television Journalists (IJTI) also reported Saturday that four reporters from RCTI, TV7 and AnTV had been beaten up by officers separately on Friday.

Endi Muhammad Saputra of RCTI, Gogor Pambudi and Dominicus Aryo of TV7 were stopped on their way from Sentani Airport to Jayapura by Brimob soldiers. IJTI said the reporters were beaten with rifle butts and had their cameras and laptop computers destroyed.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono welcomed the National Police plan to rotate out many of the men affected directly by the rioting.

"I support the police chief's plans to bring back normalcy and I understand how members of the Mobile Brigade feel about the deaths of their colleagues," he said.

Three policemen and an Air Force officer were bludgeoned or stabbed to death in the clashes. Reports said another man died Friday from his injuries sustained during the riot.

Police spokesman Sr. Comr Kartono said Selphius, one of the suspects, would be charged under Article 160 on provocation against security officers, while the other 11 under Article 170 on aggravated assault against the officers. Other charges include the destruction of public property, he said.

Three "co-conspirators" are still at large, Kartono said.

Thursday's slayings highlighted the simmering anger among many Papuans over the massive gold mine - which they say brings no benefit to the local community - and for the Indonesian security forces tasked to quell a separatist movement.

Jayapura on Saturday was still tense, however many residents have resumed their daily activities after staying at home Thursday and Friday. Shops and supermarkets in the Abepura section of town, where the riots took place, had also been opened. Traffic resumed and police seemed to have stopped their search for suspects.

The Papua People's Assembly (MRP) issued an announcement, appealing the entire community against being easily provoked to resort to excessive actions that tended to hurt the public.

© Jakarta Post

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