Tri Indah Oktavianti, Jakarta – Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD has defended a joint fact-finding team sanctioned by the government to conduct probes into recent killings in Intan Jaya regency, Papua, saying the team is full of professionals with unyielding independence.
He asserted that the team operated based on facts and dismissed accusations that it only followed the government's orders.
"The team has people whose perspectives can't be bought. They cannot be dictated. If they say no, that means no and everyone will believe them," he said in a press conference on Tuesday.
He highlighted four academics on the team whom he believed represented these qualities: I Dewa Gede Palguna, Apolo Safanpo, Makarim Wibisono and Bambang Purwoko.
Established under a ministerial decree signed by Mahfud on Oct. 2, the team comprises ministry officials, members of state institutions, intellectuals and several Papuan figures including church pastors and indigenous leaders.
The government-sanctioned team said on Monday that it had concluded its field investigation into the alleged shooting of Papuan pastor Yeremia Zanambani last month, despite naming no suspects.
"The team has now reported all cases and it just has to combine them into a structured report. They are given until Oct. 17 to make the report and to discuss their findings before drawing a conclusion," Mahfud added.
He also said that the team had managed to "break the existing barrier" of extracting information from armed criminal groups in Papua, something he claimed that no one had ever successfully done until now.
"The family used to be very reluctant in giving their statements. Now, the team can easily meet the family. They want to give statements and share facts, even sign an agreement letter for pastor Yeremia's body autopsy," he said, claiming the success was a result of cultural diplomacy with the help of local figures.
Head of the fact-finding team, Benny Mamoto, said the team had questioned approximately 25 eyewitnesses, including the victim's wife, members of the medical team who provided care to the victim and several security personnel who happened to near the area at the time of the incident.
Benny, who also heads the National Police Commission (Kompolnas), said the team would continuously monitor the case, even after it is dismissed after 14 days – the amount of time it was given to investigate the death of the Papuan pastor.
"So, please, rest assured that we will monitor the process so that it will unfold in accordance with the law," Benny said.
According to the Indonesian Communion of Churches, the Indonesian Evangelical Christian Church (GKII) and local media in Papua, Yeremia was shot by Indonesian Army (TNI) personnel on his way to his pigpen on Sept. 19.
The TNI denied the allegation, claiming that an armed group was responsible for the incident.
In addition to Yeremia's death, the team also investigated other deaths that took place in Intan Jaya at around the same time, including the shooting of civilian Badawi and TNI soldiers Chief Sgt. Sahlan and First Pvt. Dwi Akbar.