Nethy Dharma Somba and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jayapura/Jakarta – Church leaders in Papua have opposed President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's plan to visit the province for a national Christmas celebration in Jayapura on Dec. 27, citing the absence of a response by the state to Monday's Enarotali shooting incident that claimed the lives of five civilians and injured 21 others.
The opposition was expressed by the Papuan Ecumene Churches Forum during a press briefing in Jayapura on Thursday.
"The reason why the churches say 'no' to the visit of President Jokowi is because the state has not yet done anything about the security apparatus committing slaughter against civilians in Paniai," Selvi Titihawala of the Evangelical Christian Church in Papua said.
Five locals were killed and 21 others were injured when police opened fire on protesters in Enarotali, Paniai, on Monday.
Chairman of the Evangelical Camp Church (Kingmi) Synod, Benny Giay, said that Christmas was supposed to "bring peace from heaven to earth" and he questioned what peace Jokowi could bring to Papua. "The President has not yet made an official statement regarding the Enarotali incident," Benny said.
Chairman of the service body of the Papuan Baptize Church Association Center, Socrates Sofyan Yoman said the churches demanded the government set up an independent team to investigate the case.
Regarding the proposal to set up an investigative team, Papua Peace Network coordinator pastor Neles Tebay said the military and the police should be excluded because Papuans would not trust the results of the investigation if they were involved.
Based on past experience, Neles said, no investigation into shooting deaths by police involving the military or the police had ever identified the perpetrators.
Separately, Papua governor spokesperson La Madi La Mato said the provincial administration had set up an investigation team for the case in anticipation of a possible blaming war.
"Governor Lukas Enembe deeply regrets the incident, especially because it occurred while Christians all over the world were observing the Advent period, waiting for the Christmas celebration," he said.
Meanwhile, Papua Customary Council (DAP) chairman John Gobay expressed the hope that people would refrain from accusing any particular party as being responsible for the shootings. "We regret the Papua Police chief's statement accusing other groups of committing the shootings," John said.
Fransiskus Madai of DAP Paniai concurred, saying that since leaders of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) in Paniai, namely Thadius Yogi and his son John Yogi, had died, no other armed group existed in Paniai.
"Paniai is actually very secure. There are no disturbances from armed civilian groups. I just don't understand why there have been accusations of other armed groups being involved in the shooting," Fransiskus said.
Separately, lawmakers urged the government to take immediate action to resolve the ongoing violence in Papua, the country's easternmost province. Desmond Junaidi Mahesa, a deputy chairman of the House of Representatives Commission III overseeing law and human rights, said it was urgent for President Jokowi to investigate the incident.
"He [Jokowi] must wait no longer. He has conducted many blusukan [impromptu visits] for on-field clarifications on issues, so why didn't he do so as soon as the incident took place?" Desmond, a politician from the Gerindra Party said on Thursday.
Lawmaker Wahidin Halim, deputy chairman of the House Commission II overseeing regional administration, said that conflict throughout the archipelago, including in Papua, was often sparked by problems concerning regional administrations, such as proposals for the establishment of new autonomous regions or regional elections.