APSN Banner

Bodies at Biak 'may be shooting victims'

Jakarta Post - July 30, 1998

Jakarta – Church officials and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) expressed their belief yesterday that a number of bodies found recently near Biak island, Irian Jaya, might be related to the military's shooting on pro-independence activists earlier this month.

John Rumbiak of the Human Rights Advocacy Team for Irian Jaya – which is under the auspices of province's three main churches and Jakarta-based NGOs – said there were "strong indications" that the bodies found or sighted by locals were related to the July 6 shooting incident in Biak Kota.

Rumbiak rejected claims by local authorities that the bodies might be victims of the July 17 tidal swells in Papua New Guinea (PNG) who were washed ashore to Irian Jaya. The distance from Biak to the border of PNG is 600 kilometers.

"There should have been autopsies and the Papua New Guinea Embassy should have been notified. They (the local authorities) didn't do this," he said. "This raised suspicion of something fishy going on ...and we suspect that it has something to do with the Biak case," Rumbiak said.

Military personnel opened fire July 6 on some 500 pro-independence activists hoisting officially outlawed West Papuan flags in Biak. The National Commission of Human Rights and the Armed Forces said one activist died in the incident. He was identified as 27-year-old Ruben Orboy.

Rumbiak's team – which was established by the Irian Jaya Biblical Christian Church (GKII), the Indonesia Christian Church and the Irian Jaya Archbishop – said yesterday at least nine people were still missing.

Local newspaper Cenderawasih Pos reported the finding of at least 15 decaying bodies Monday and Tuesday washed ashore in Biak Timur. A fisherman, identified only as YY, 32 – who talked to The Jakarta Post from Jayapura – claimed to have also seen six bodies adrift in nearby waters July 9 and July 11. He also claimed that some of the bodies had bullet wounds. An 18-year-old student who identified himself as WS claimed to have been a survivor of alleged military abuses that day.

The Post was unable to reach Irian Jaya regional military command spokesman Lt. Col. Herry Risdiyanto, or Armed Forces (ABRI) spokesman Maj. Gen. Syamsul Ma'arif, for comment.

Also yesterday, Antara reported that two noted Christian women activists had urged members of a fact-finding team from the House of Representatives in Jayapura until this weekend to uncover the truth over the killings in the Biak Numfor regency.

Accompanied by heads of the Irian Jaya Biblical Christian, Synod Rev. Herman Saud and Jayapura Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar, Beatrix Koibur-Rumbino of the Irian Jaya Christian Women's Congregation and Agustina Iwanggih of the Synod also called for the release of at least 180 people arrested following the July 6 unrest. The local newspaper said the bodies had already been buried.

Agustina also called on the rights commission, which sent a fact-finding mission to Irian Jaya from July 14 through July 16, to again probe the case.

Antara also reported that Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar did not believe that the seven bodies found in Biak Timur on Monday had been tsunami victims. He encouraged the House to help reveal the identities of the bodies, which were buried without postmortem examinations.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been denied access to the province to visit victims of the Biak incident, Antara reported yesterday. "We've filed our proposal to the Indonesian government via the foreign affairs ministry but have yet to receive a reply," ICRC spokesperson Sri R. Wahyu Endah was quoted as saying.