Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – Tolikara Legislative Council member Husia Yosia Karoba was beaten to death by a mob at a polling station as Papuans elected a governor on Tuesday.
Papua Police deputy chief Brig. Gen. Paulus Waterpauw said on Tuesday that Husia apparently made a political joke that enraged the people waiting to vote in the Gilibandu district of Tolikara regency.
According to Waterpauw, Husia said: "Have you voted for candidate No. 3?" referring to Lukas Enembe and Klemen Tinal, who were backed by the Democratic Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). "I'm a Golkar member, I voted for No. 6," Husia said, referring to Habel Melkias Suwae and Yop Kogoya.
Those assembled at the polling station had apparently just agreed to back Lucas and Klemen, casting their ballots in a traditional noken woven bag, when Husia arrived and loudly made his comments, the deputy chief said. "It turned out that [Husia's] comments angered the crowd, who later mobbed him," Paulus said.
Husia died before he could reach the nearest hospital. The councillor's body was taken to a hospital in Karubaga regency for an autopsy.
Paulus said that Papua Police criminal investigations and intelligence unit head Comr. Bambang Priambodo was leading the investigation of Husia's death. "The election proceeded, despite the homicide," Paulus said.
The councillor's death capped a gubernatorial election season that has been marred by extreme divisions between the candidates from the province's interior and its coastal regions.
Six candidates are running to lead Papua, where US-based miner Freeport McMoran operates the world's largest gold mine.
Of 2.7 million eligible voters in the province, 2,492 voters at nine polling stations reportedly have yet to cast their votes as of press time due to a failure of ballots to arrive.
Two of the polling stations with 454 registered voters are in Supiori regency, while seven other stations with 2,038 voters are located in Megan, Central Mamberamo.
Papua Police spokesman Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta Jaya said that the shipment of the ballots was stymied by a fire on the boat carrying the supplies from Supiori City. No injuries were reported in the blaze and the ballots were not damaged.
"Poll workers and ballot logistics will be sent to both polling stations [on Tuesday]," Sumerta told reporters at Papua Police headquarters in Jayapura.
Separately, Supiori Legislative Council speaker Adolf Mamoribo said election day would be pushed back due to the fire.
Shipment of election supplies bound for Mamberamo regency was also hampered, this time by bad weather, with the ballots and poll workers sent upriver by boat, as opposed to helicopter or truck.
The police spokesman said that other than Husia's death at the hands of a mob, the fire on board the ship and the other delays, election day in Papua proceeded without incident. More or less.
"As of this moment, there have been no reports from other regencies regarding election disruptions, except for several polling stations which have been unable to hold election due to bad weather," Sumerta said.
According to reports from several polling stations in Jayapura, two of the six campaigns in the gubernatorial race have pulled ahead.
"In nine polling stations in Whaimworock subdistrict, campaign No. 3 of Lukas and Klemen and campaign No. 6 Habel and Yop are competing head to head to garner the most votes," Frans, a poll worker in Kotaraja, said.
The other campaigns comprise Menase Roberth Kambu and Blasius Adolf Pakage of The People's Conscience Party (Hanura) and the National Mandate Party (PAN); Alex Hasegem and Marthen Kayoi, backed by a coalition of smaller parties; and two independent campaigns: Noak Nawipa and Johanes Wob and Wellington Wenda and Weynand Watory.
No quick counts were available from survey groups as of Tuesday. The Papua Regional General Election Commission (KPUD) is slated to announce the results of the election on Feb. 14.