Jakarta – Two police officers in Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, were beaten by members of the Indonesian Military on Tuesday, after a routine traffic stop escalated into a full-on fracas, as reported by Antara. The incident is the latest scuffle to strain the increasingly tense relationship between the rival forces.
On Tuesday, the National Police and the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) held a contentious press conference, which itself devolved into finger-pointing, to announce the findings of a joint investigation of a series of clashes in Batam last month that resulted in four shot.
According to East Kalimantan Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Fajar Setiawan, Tuesday's incident started when police officers stopped a vehicle as part of a routine operation.
However, the driver reportedly refused to cooperate on the grounds that he was a member of the TNI stationed nearby. A verbal altercation ensued, but the soldier left and returned to his base.
The unidentified TNI officer allegedly recruited an unknown number of soldiers to travel back to the scene of the argument and extract payback.
By the time the angry military mob reached their destination at around 11 p.m., the police blockade had disbursed, but two officers, identified as Brig. Deni and Brig. Bari, were still at the scene. Outnumbered, the two police officers were unable to defend themselves against the assailants.
"The two traffic officers... are now in intensive care at the Batara Agung Samboja Hospital. Their condition is improving," Fajar said, as quoted by Antara, on Wednesday.
Separately, Col. Totok Surahmat, spokesman for the Mulawarman Military Command, which oversees operations in East Kalimantan, confirmed that "several [military] personnel who had knowledge of the incident are currently being questioned."
The incident in Kutai Kertanegara came just hours after the results of a joint investigation into the Batam fracas were released. According to investigators in charge of the official inquiry, both sides continue to blame each other for the altercation.
Last month's skirmish began when police attempted to inspect a storage facility on suspicion it was being used to warehouse illegally diverted subsidized fuel.
The military admitted on Tuesday that the soldiers were indeed guarding the premises, but maintained they did not know that the facility was used to store pilfered petrol.
An argument ensued between the two soldiers and police officers trying to raid the facility. The situation quickly escalated and police opened fire, shooting the two soldiers in the legs.
Two more military personnel were shot in a similar fashion when they allegedly stormed the nearby police station in what appeared to have been yet another retaliatory strike.
The TNI blames the police for using excessive force and calls for sanctions against the police station's commanding officer Adj. Comr. Oxy Yudha.
National Police Chief Gen. Sutarman, however, was quick on Wednesday to say Oxy "might be innocent," adding that the country's main law enforcement body has not yet launched a criminal investigation into the shooting.
Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) criticized the investigation's contentious conclusion on Tuesday, arguing it would only fuel further tension between police and the military.
On Monday, Maj. Gen. Fransen G. Siahaan, head of the Cenderawasih military command, said an argument between the local police of Pirime, Lany Jaya district, Papua, and members of the armed forces reportedly escalated into a firefight.
However, Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Yotje Mende denied the incident entirely. "It is not true that there has been a shooting between the police and TNI," Yotje said.