Ryan Dagur, Jakarta – Indonesian police shot dead two Papuans and injured four others during a protest against a proposal to break up the province that turned violent in the easternmost region.
An eyewitness said victims Yakob Meklok and Erson Weipa suffered fatal gunshot wounds when police were chasing away the crowds.
Papuan police chief Mathius Fakhiri claimed that the police were forced to "take firm action" against the protesters in Yahukimo district on March 15 for committing an anarchic act by burning nearby shophouses,
"Security officers must take firm action to save other people, including those in the shophouses that were burned. Moreover, the arson acts carried out were spread in several locations," he said in a statement.
Fakhiri said a policeman was also injured while adding that an inquiry will be conducted to ascertain whether the police who shot at the protesters followed the regulations.Meanwhile, the police explanation as to what triggered the shooting was questioned by local people who joined the protest.
David Sobolim from the Yahukimo district capital of Dekai told UCA News: "I was on the scene when the shooting happened. It occurred 20 minutes before the burning of the shophouses," he said.
He claimed a riot occurred when some demonstrators argued with police and objected to officers taking their photos, but suddenly an unknown person threw stones at the protesters as the situation turned into chaos and shootings occurred.
Emanuel Gobay, a human rights lawyer from Papua Legal Aid Institute, said the police should be held accountable for the shooting. "If a demonstration turns anarchic, there are processes and stages that must be obeyed," he said.
He added that the deaths of the demonstrators proved that "the police do not comply with the regulations regarding the implementation of human rights standards and principles in carrying out their duties."
Florianus Geong, a local activist from Dekai, said the current situation was tense and uncertain. "The community has not dared to carry out activities as usual. Today schools and offices are generally closed," he told UCA News.
Papuans continue to carry out protests against the Indonesian government's proposal to break up the country's predominantly Christian provinces of Papua and West Papua into six
On March 10, thousands took to the streets of Wamena in Jayawijaya district a day after similar rallies were held in Jakarta and Papuan capital Jayapura.
The proposed provinces will be called Northwest Papua, West Papua, Central Papua, Central Highlands, South Papua and Papua Tabi Saireri if the government has its way.