Indonesia: protest slaying of West Papuan independence leader

Indonesia’s National Police announced Dec. 16 that they had shot Kelly Kwalik, leader of the Free Papua Movement. Authorities said Kwalik was killed as he resisted arrest during a police raid on a house in Timika, Papua. Five others, including a 10-year-old boy, were also arrested in the raid. Authorities charge that Kwalik was behind a 2002 ambush of a convoy of buses that killed a US national near the Freeport McMoRan gold and copper mining operation. They also claim Kwalik was behind a string of armed attacks in the Freeport area that left eight people dead, three of them foreigners, between June and November this year.

But local leaders in West Papua deny these charges. “Kelly has never done anything criminal to disrupt the security in the region. This is pure fabrication by people working with those wishing to ruin the region,” said Andreas Anggaibak, former chair of the Mimika District Legislative Council. “I have spoken with Kelly and he said he was not the one who carried out the terrorist acts,” he added.

Forkorus Yobiosembut, chief of the Papua Traditional Council, likewise asserted that neither Kwalik nor the Free Papua Movement have been involved in the terrorist acts around the Freeport mine.

Markus Haluk, secretary general of the Papua Central Highland Students Association, said in a statement that the shooting jeopardizes the peace process in Papua, where a pro-independence movement has been waging a low-level insurgency since the 1960s. “The government of Indonesia has not shown goodwill in solving the Papua problem peacefully,” he said. (Jakarta Globe, Dec. 16)

The East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) charged in a statement: “The evidence clearly points to Indonesian military involvement in the 2002 attacks, which resulted in the deaths of three teachers, including two Americans, at the Freeport mine. Recently, Kwalik in a meeting with security officials categorically denied that Papuan pro-independence fighters were behind this year’s attacks near the mine. His denial of responsibility was supported by police officials, who countered initial claims by military officials that the attacks were the work of the pro-independence fighters.”

The statement adds that Kwalik has in recent years endorsed a Papua-wide effort to seek a negotiated settlement with Jakarta by creating a Zone of Peace in the region. It notes violent protests by Papuans angered over the killing of yet another Papuan leader, and warns: “The killing could lead to further hardening of Papuan attitudes toward cooperation with Jakarta.” (ETAN, Dec. 19)

See our last posts on Indonesia and the struggle in West Papua.