Jakarta – On Monday October 26 combined units of Indonesian military (TNI) and police (Polri) conducted operations against an armed criminal group (KKB) in Jalai village, Sugapa district, Intan Jaya regency, Papua.
The operations were conducted to apprehend the perpetrators of the shooting attack on the Intan Jaya Joint Fact Finding Team (TGPF) on October 9.
During the operation, a person alleged to be a KKB member named Rubinus Tigau was shot dead in his honai (traditional Papuan hut). Aside from Tigau, the joint TNI-Polri forces also apprehended two other people during the operation.
However news circulated later that Tigau was a religious figure in the village and a katekis – a professional religious educator or teacher – who worked at the Jalae Catholic church diocese.
Joint Defence Area Command III spokesperson Colonel Czi IGN Suriastawa however denied this claiming that before the attack by the joint TNI-Polri forces they had conducted extensive reconnaissance of the area.
"That the target had been observed for some time, as well as being based on accurate information that the person concerned was active in the activities of a KKSB [armed criminal separatist group]. This was also admitted by the person's family and other witnesses", said Suriastawa in a press release received by CNN Indonesia on Tuesday October 27.
The terms KKB and KKSB are used by Indonesian law enforcement agencies to refer to militant groups that call themselves the Free Papua Organisation-West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB-OPM).
Suriastawa explained that after the incident in Hitadipa district, Intan Jaya, when Pastor Yeremia Zanambani was shot dead, there has been a tendency for KKB members who are killed to be cited as being religious figures.
He then explained that other than the Hitadipa incident there have been three other cases where KKB members have been cited as being religious figures.
"Including on October 19, when there was massive intimidation by the KKSB to fly the Morning Star [independence] flag and to gather a houses of worship", he said.
Church refutes TNI claim
Quite different from the TNI, Timika Catholic church diocese administrator Pastor Marthen Kuayo said that Tigau is in fact a church employee.
"The Timika diocese explained that Rufinus Tigau (in the TNI version they refer to him as Rubinus) is quite correctly a katekis who works at the Jalae Catholic church diocese", said Kuayo.
He explained that Tigau is understood to have worked as a religious teacher at the Santo Michaelel Bilogai parish since 2015. Tigau was officially appointed as a religious teacher by the pastor of Santo Michaelel Bilogai and Pastor Yustinus Rahangier.
Tigau was also cited as frequently assisting other pastors who are having difficulties communicating with local people and on a daily basis helped pastors at the Jalae diocese because those assigned there are not local people.
Pastors at the Jalae diocese still do not understand the language or other matters related to local cultures. This is what makes Kuayo explicitly deny Tigau's involvement in the activities of criminal armed groups.
"The accusation that Tigau was involved in a separatist group or an armed group as he has been accused of is untrue", he said.
During Monday's attack during the joint TNI-Polri operation, a person by the name of Hermanus Tigapau was arrested while Tigau was killed during an exchange of fire.
Papua regional police public relations division head Senior Commissioner AM Kamal said that the armed separatist group was using home-made firearms and that the police are investigating the perpetrator who was arrested. "The two KKB members were involved in the earlier shooting of the TGPF team", said Kamal.
Kamal said that this group was one of those who often carried out terrorist attacks in the area of the Freeport gold-and-copper mine in Timika and are often involved in banditry and shootings on the road to Freeport. (tst/kid)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Beda Suara TNI-Gereja Usai Penyergapan ke Warga Diduga KKB".]