Arie Firdaus, Jakarta – The Indonesian government on Thursday threatened to deploy the army to remove supporters of the Papua governor who have gathered outside his house to stop his potential arrest as a suspect in a bribery case.
Hundreds of residents in the restive province in Indonesia's far east, who have rallied in recent days in support of Gov. Lukas Enembe, say the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has targeted him with trumped-up charges.
"If they are under the influence of Lukas Enembe, the TNI [the Indonesian Armed Forces] may need to be deployed if necessary. What else can we do?" Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko told reporters in Jakarta.
Enembe had failed to answer two summonses from the KPK in connection with a case in which he is charged with accepting 1 billion rupiah (U.S. $65,798) in bribes tied to a government project, according to Mohammad Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.
Enembe's lawyers said he did not answer the summonses because he had been ill, adding the governor had had strokes, and heart and kidney problems. Moeldoko said Enembe should respect the legal process instead of mobilizing his supporters to obstruct the investigation.
On Wednesday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urged Enembe to "respect [the] summons and the legal process at the KPK" after Enembe failed to show up for questioning for a second time.
"This is a purely legal issue, not political. Anyone must be held accountable before the law. There are no exceptions," Moeldoko said.
One of Enembe's attorneys, Stefanus Roy Rening, said Tuesday that charges against his client were politically motivated. He added that his client had rejected a candidate for vice governor proposed by two close aides of Jokowi after his deputy died last year.
A spokesman for Enembe did not immediately respond to a request for comment. KPK spokesman Ali Fikri said investigators would again summon Enembe for questioning. "We hope that the suspect will cooperate," Ali said.
Ali said if Enembe was ill as claimed by his lawyer, he still could still come to Jakarta and undergo medical checks with supervision from the Indonesian Medical Association.
Separately, the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Center (PPATK) said it had frozen 71 billion rupiah (U.S. $4.7 million) in Enembe's bank accounts after it found that U.S. $55 million had been transferred through overseas casinos in a suspected money laundering scheme.
Enembe's lawyers have dismissed the accusations as fabricated.
"The public statements by Mahfud MD and the PPATK chairman are tantamount to defamation against Governor Lukas Enembe and are hoaxes," Enembe's legal team said in a statement Monday.
Last week, thousands of people took to the streets of the provincial capital Jayapura in a show of support for Enembe.
Papua has been the scene of a separatist insurgency since the mainly Melanesian region was incorporated into Indonesia in a United Nations-administered ballot in the late 1960s.
Only about 1,000 people voted in a 1969 U.N.-sponsored referendum, which locals and activists said was a sham. But the United Nations accepted the result, essentially endorsing Jakarta's rule.
Human rights groups have accused Indonesian authorities of intimidation, arbitrary arrests, torture, extra-judicial killings and mass forced displacement in Papua.
'An inappropriate threat'
Moeldoko's statement was not well thought out and could fuel hostilities against Jakarta among Papuans, according to Ujang Komarudin, a lecturer in political science from Indonesia's Al Azhar University.
"Moeldoko did not consider his statements carefully. It was an inappropriate threat," Ujang told BenarNews.
"Although I think deploying troops is unlikely, it can increase negative perceptions of the government. Relations between Papua and the government can become increasingly uncomfortable," he said.
Another analyst criticized Moeldoko's "poor" communication.
"The [statement] about deploying troops may be spontaneous, but it is a bit excessive because it is vulnerable to politicization," Wasisto Raharjo Jati, a political analyst at the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), told BenarNews.
In addition, officials shouldn't have been commenting publicly on Enembe's case, said Adnan Topan Husodo, an activist with NGO Indonesia Corruption Watch.
"Now it's getting more chaotic because some members of the elite in Jakarta have waded into the legal matter, resulting in strong reactions in Papua," he told BenarNews.