Jayapura, Jubi – Four activists of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), who were arrested during the protest commemorating the death of Mako Tabuni in Jayapura City on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, were released by the police at 9 p.m. local time. They were released after being questioned at the Jayapura Police Headquarters for several hours.
Previously, Wene Kilungga (23), Vara Iyaba (21), Edi Tabuni (19) and Ferry Molama (22) were arrested at Waena 3 Housing, Jayapura City, around 2:30 p.m.
"The police immediately dispersed us, then beat, shot us with rubber bullets, and shot tear gas," Kilungga told Jubi.
Kilungga said he did not fight the police but was still taken to the Jayapura Police Headquarters anyway. He and three of his friends were then questioned about their motives for participating in the commemoration of Mako Tabuni's death.
"The police asked, 'Who invited you, why did you do something like that?'. That was a question from the police," he said.
The general secretary of the KNPB for the Numbay Region, Benny Murib, said that the commemoration of Mako Tabuni's death was a peaceful act. However, up to three trucks of security forces came and fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. "Some of our friends were hit by rubber bullets, some were hit and kicked," said Murib to Jubi.
Murib said the police's repressive approach would only add to the long list of police brutality. He hoped that the Papua Police chief would take firm action against it. "There must be a legal process against the police officers who carried out the shooting," he said.
Meanwhile, director of the Papua Legal Aid Institute or LBH Papua Emanuel Gobay said that the disbandment of the commemoration of the death of Mako Tabuni showed the police were not professional in handling peaceful protests. "It only shows how brutal the police are. No space for dialogue was created, they instantly dispersed the mass," he said.
Contacted separately, Jayapura City Police chief Sr. Comr. Victor Mackbon said in a written statement that the police would not tolerate any form of KNPB activities. Mackbon said the police dispersed the commemoration of Mako Tabuni's death in Jayapura City on Tuesday because it was held without a prior notification letter to the police.
"It was an act of remembering one of their sympathizers who had died. The KNPB continues to try to provoke and incite the public to support their agenda of a national civil strike," said Mackbon.
He said that the disbandment done by his party was in accordance with the regulations. "We have asked them to disperse themselves but because our appeal was not heeded, we took measures to disperse the mass that disturbs public order," he said.