Yeremia Sukoyo & Banjir Ambarita, Jakarta/Jayapura – The Indonesian Military and National Police continue to blame each other for last month's Batam altercation between the rival forces that left four soldiers shot, in a report released on Tuesday detailing the findings of their joint investigation.
The skirmish began when police attempted to inspect a storage facility in the Cipta Asri housing complex in the Batu Aji area of Batam, Riau Islands province, on suspicion that it was being used to warehouse illegally diverted subsidized fuel.
Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Fuad Basyar admitted on Tuesday that the soldiers were indeed guarding the premises, but maintained they did not know that the facility was used as to store pilfered petrol.
"From our investigation, yes, there were two military members from the 134th Batalion assigned to secure the location," he said without explaining who ordered the two soldiers to guard the facility.
An argument ensued between the two soldiers and police officers trying to raid the facility. The situation quickly escalated. Police opened fire, shooting the two soldiers in the legs. Two more soldiers were shot in a similar fashion when they allegedly stormed the nearby police station.
Fuad denied that the soldiers were seeking retaliation for the earlier incident, saying they were only "seeking explanation into why their friends were shot."
Fuad further blamed the police for using excessive force. "There was so much noise [police] felt the soldiers were attacking. Afterward Brimob [police Mobile Brigade] officers rushed out [of the police station] fully armed. Then there was more shooting," he said.
Speaking at the same press conference, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie maintained his officers only fired warning shots into the air during both incidents, without explaining how the injuries occurred.
Fuad said the military was urging police to investigate the conduct of its officers in both encounters, including that of the raid's leader, identified only as O.Y.P., "so that the shooters can face justice." "There were 12 fully armed [police] officers at the time," he said.
Fuad said the two soldiers guarding the facility that stored the illegally diverted fuel would face a military tribunal.
The military earlier said that Chief Pvt. Eka Basri, First Pvt. Ari Kusdiyanto, First Pvt. Eka Syahputra and Second Pvt. Hari Silistiyo were hurt in the incident, but it is unclear which of the soldiers were shot at the illegal fuel hoarding facility and which were shot in front of the police station.
Police spokesman Ronny confirmed the police would not charge the soldiers for obstruction of justice, and named only five civilians as suspects who acted as the facility's owners, operators and buyer.
"They will be charged with Article 55 on the Law on Oil and Gas," he said. The charge carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a maximum fine of Rp 60 billion ($4.9 million).
The investigation's contentious conclusion will likely fuel further tensions between police and the military.
On Monday, an Indonesian Military official in Papua said a beef with local police escalated into a firefight. The local police chief and the military's post commander were both shot, Maj. Gen. Fransen G. Siahaan, head of the Cenderawasih military command, told the Jakarta Globe.
"It happened in Pirime, Lany Jaya district," Fransen said, adding that the fight broke out when members of the National Police's Mobile Brigade were conducting a raid in Pirime subdistrict.
One member of the Indonesian Military happened to pass by in a truck. The patrolling Brimob officers insisted on searching the soldier, despite his insistence that he was with the military.
"There was a misunderstanding. The Brimob officer scolded the soldier and said, 'I am not afraid of soldiers!'?" Fransen said.
The argument escalated and the soldier, whose identity has not been disclosed, stepped out of the truck and walked to the TNI post in Pirime to report the incident to his commander.
The post commander, Lt. Ali, along with several of his men, and the chief of the Pirime Police, headed to the site to restore calm.
"But when they approached with the truck, the commander and the police chief were shot. Maybe the Brimob members thought they came to retaliate and therefore they opened fire," Fransen said. He added that Ali was shot in his leg, which apparently is a thing with the police here.
Fransen said the situation in Pirime was under control after the gunfire. He said he had coordinated with the chief of Papua Police to disarm all involved.
Papua Police Chief Insp. Gen. Yotje Mende, however, denied the incident in Pirime altogether. "It is not true that there has been a shooting between the police and TNI," he said.
Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial), said an independent team must reopen the Batam investigation to ease tensions between the two bodies.
"The [House of Representatives] with its oversight powers must oversee [the investigation] of this case," she told the Globe on Tuesday.
Poengky also urged lawmakers to revise the Law on Military Tribunals, which stipulates that only the military has the authority to investigate its own officers.
"Criminal cases conducted by military members must be tried in normal courts," she said, adding that military tribunals should be limited to disciplinary cases such as insubordination and desertion.
Poengky said President-elect Joko Widodo had a huge task at hand in reforming the military.
"[The military's] argument that the soldiers didn't know they were protecting an illegal operation makes no sense at all. [That soldiers were] guarding a private facility indicates the military is still in the protection racket, which is barred under the Law on the Indonesian Military."
[Additional reporting by Nivell Rayda.]