Telly Nathalia, Jakarta – Five military personnel who were present at the scene when a mob besieged a boarding house occupied by Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java, on Aug. 17 have been suspended, a military spokesman said on Monday. The incident triggered violent protests in Papua and West Papua last week.
The five military officers are from the Tambaksari military regiment, including their commander, Maj. N.H. Irianto, said Lieut. Col. Imam Hariyadi, the spokesman of the East Java Brawijaya Military Command.
The officers are suspected of being involved in the incident, during which some in the crowd had called the Papuan students, who were unable to get out of their compound, "monkeys" and asked them to leave Surabaya, Imam told the Jakarta Globe.
"They were all at the location [when the mob surrounded the boarding house]... They are suspected of being involved in the incident. We're continuing our investigation of the case," Imam said.
The officers have been suspended since Friday and put in Military Police detention to be interrogated. Two of the officers, including Irianto, are at an "advanced stage" of the investigation while the other three are detained as witnesses.
"We will continue the investigation to figure it out what exactly happened," Imam said. "As their commander, [Irianto] should've have reined the other officers in [but did not do so]," he said.
Police have already questioned 54 people, including 42 Papuan students, in their own investigation of acts of racism that occurred during the siege of the boarding house on Jalan Kalasan in Surabaya.
No suspect has been declared and the motive behind the racist calls is still unknown.
Meanwhile, police in Papua have charged 10 people with damaging public facilities in Timika in Papua and Manokwari in West Papua during a series of violent demonstrations on Aug. 19.