The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has voiced public concerns that no one in the Indonesian security forces has been held accountable for the shooting dead of indigenous Papuan Mr. Opinus Tabuni over a year ago in Wamena during a celebration of the UN International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The shooting took place after a peaceful demonstration took place. The event was held to bring attention to the Papuan campaign for self determination and the human rights atrocities related to it.
According to local human rights organisations, around 20,000 indigenous Papuans from different Wamena Regency highland tribes gathered on the Sinapug field near Wamena city on the morning of August 9, 2008, to celebrate the United Nations International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The celebrations were attended by visitors from several other countries.
At around 2pm, after welcoming remarks from the Papuan Customary Community, a group of unknown persons appeared and ran through the crowd before raising a UN flag, an SOS flag, the Papuan Morning Star flag and an Indonesian national flag. The act wasn’t scheduled, but rather an unofficial attempt to turn international attention to the problems facing the indigenous communities in Papua and urge more UN commitment on the issue. The Morning Star has been outlawed in Indonesia.
After 28 minutes armed police officers and agents from the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) started firing their weapons into the sky, while standing about 3 to 4 metres from many of the protestors. Only some of them reportedly wore a uniform. The participants dispersed in panic, and the firing continued for approximately 5 minutes, during which Opinus Tabuni was shot dead (his grave is pictured, left). Tabuni, 49, was a civilian who lived in the nearby Pyramid area, in sub-district Assologaima.
By 3pm all police and BIN staff had left the area, and a group of participants took Tabuni’s body to the local office of the Customary Council, Dewan Adat Papua (DAP). The following day local human rights groups and the family of the victim helped take the body to the General Hospital in Wamena for an autopsy, where it was revealed that the bullet passed through the ribs and into the victim’s heart. Following investigations, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) concluded that the bullet was issued by the military.
After 56 years of Indonesian administration–eight under a Special Autonomy Law (Law no. 21/2001 of Indonesia)–and some efforts in Jakarta to increase the province’s budget, there has been no visible improvement in living conditions for Papuans, and this warrants serious international attention. Among the main issues obstructing meaningful development are local corruption, rivalry between the police and the military, and institutional discrimination against indigenous Papuans, which is worsened by the state-encouraged transmigration of millions of Javanese and other ethnic Indonesians to Papua. The education system, medical care, economic development and the public administration are in a shocking condition, given the resource-wealth of the region.