Brief Background

The conflict in the Star Mountain Regency or locally known as Kabupaten Pegunungan Bintang started on the 12th of April 2018 during the 15th anniversary celebration of the regency. The root causes of the problem are among other issues the ineffective management of the regency’s finances due to nepotism and corruption. Politicization of all sectors of government departments including unnecessary hiring and firing of senior public servants especially those who were considered as political enemies of the regime.

The result was that most of the local senior public servants were sacked and were replaced by the people from other provinces of Indonesia. In the private sector all the development contracts were often given to the outside contractors who turned to hire their own people who bring in more immigrants to Oksibil causing the local people to experience poverty in the regency. The problems went deeper than the problems mentioned it is obvious that the sentiment for the West Papua freedom is always inside every West Papuan often force them to fight even without weapons.

The problem of 12th April led to the formation of ‘Team 9’ or ‘Tim Sembilan’ led by the University Students and the sacked public servants including some Members of Parliament who took the matter to court in Jakarta demanding the regent to resign from holding the regent position. The regent instead of complying with the court dictates went ahead to form an opposition group that went against Team 9 and general public since the start of the problem in April.

10 AM Tuesday, 02 October 2018

At 10:00 am local time team 9 and some members of Parliament from Pegunungan Bintang arrived by plane. As usual, the public was requested to prepare themselves to meet the VIP at Oksibil airport with a traditional welcome ceremony. Team Nine came with the good news that the Supreme Court ruling in Jakarta went in favour of the people who prepared happily to welcome their leaders with good news. The people have prepared themselves with traditional dances to meet the team at the Oksibil airport at the time unnoticed of the dangers ahead.

Upon arrival, the team was welcomed by the traditional dancers at the airport and were escorted by general public to the grand stand that has been built since April 12, 2018. On the way from the airport to the grand stand, the general public were enjoying and even dancing all the way to the grand stand. After arriving there, the team delivered the good news to the people and informed them about the next step forward. The gathering ran safely and smoothly to its completion.

Most people sat and listened carefully from the beginning to the end. After ending the meeting, people go about doing their own daily activities; some were as usual still crowded at the central location. That was when Costan Oktemka’s supporters armed with bows and arrows, machetes and other sharp objects and attacked the Team 9’s headquarters where all the leaders had gathered.
When the attackers came, the people in the Team 9’s camp did not retaliate because they had no ill will with anyone. They chose to hold back and try to avoid the arrows and other sharp weapons being aimed at them. At that time many people were shot and wounded by arrows from Costan’s supporters.

The battle

The people at the Team 9’s headquarters were generally unarmed civilians who were there to listen to the leaders. However, they retaliated and chased after Costan’s supporters during the attack. Costan’s supporters ran westward and disappeared into the bushes but they were suddenly replaced by the Brimob (Indonesian Task Force Detachment 88) who open fire on the crowd mostly unarmed civilians that were chasing the attackers.
The Mobile Brigade headed towards the Team 9’s camp from the west and shot indiscriminately into the crowd. There were no warning shots but shots were directed at the crowd with intent to kill. People ran in various directions; others were shot or wounded lying helplessly on the ground.

After dispersing the crowd the Brimob in partnership with the supporters of Costan Oktemka burn down houses along the road linking the city centre, the market with YPPK Bintang Timur Middle School and High School. Brimob, did not stop the supporters of Costan instead they stand on the sidelines and watched while the houses were set on fire. Even the general public including homeowners who wanted to secure their properties were prohibited and even shot at by the Brimob so that people flee to the nearest TNI post and into the forest.

The houses that were burnt were Mr. Yance Tapyor’s house, a former public servant and Team leader of the Team 9. Mr. Pieter Kalakmabin’s house, a member of Parliament (DPR), Deputy Chair of DPR in Star Mountain regency and a member of the Team 9. The houses were built in a chain network, many houses and stores also were burnt down between the Oksibil Central market and Middle School and High School, including the house of the former Head of Bappeda (Mr. Spey Bidana).

There were a number of houses belonging to the senior public servants also burnt to the ground. The public burnt Mr. Andy Balyo’s house also who was believed to be the leader of the Costan’s supporters. As one commentator stated and I quote, “I don’t want to keep my aspirations silent, so I move towards the direction of Andy Balyo’s house and burn.” According to all reports from Oksibil the main actor of the incident was Mr. Andy Balyo who was also a Member of Parliament (DPRD) who supported Costan Oktemka aggressively from the beginning.

Casualties

As per the information provided victims of the shooting by Brimob include; Serti Kahipmabin, Dathy Deka, Seber Wimuop and one child whose name was not known had died while 12 others were in critical condition. Seven of the twelve wounded received bullet wounds while five were wounded by spears from the Costan’s supporters.

One police officer and a Brimob were also speared by the people in self-defense. The other Brimob died of spear wounds later in the hospital.

Conclusion

The attack on the people by Brimob and the handful of Costan’s supporters on the 2nd of October in Oksibil was unexpected that caught the people and the leaders of Team 9 by surprise. The Brimob and Costan’s supporters might have planned in advance for the event as shown by the Brimob’s action. The Brimobs aggressively protected Costan’s supporters and open fire on the crowd wounding many even to the extent of assisting them to burn the houses.

People were wounded by bullets from the Brimob more than the spears from the Costan’s supporters during the attack. The law enforcement officers should have remained neutral at the time but they clearly protected one small group over the public who have been demanding for justice since April 12.

Those Brimobs will escape justice as already the mainstream media in Indonesia are covering up big time labelling the battle as tribal war between two tribes in Oksibil. The tribes don’t have guns but why were there bullet wounds on most of the casualties?

The arrival of Brimob into Oksibil at the first place was not even invited officially; it was one man’s decision. Costan Oktemka actually hired the Brimob after the April 12’s incident that included the burning of his house by the demonstrators. The question still linger in the minds of the people of Oksibil whether those Brimobs will face justice for the crimes they committed in Oksibil or will they continue hide under the umbrella of ‘tribal fight’ between two local tribes without their involvement.

The people of Oksibil need outside support to ensure the Police involved are prosecuted under the Indonesian laws.

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