Soldiers shot and killed four people in Indonesia’s insurgency-stricken Papua province during a riot reportedly started by anger over their candidate’s failure to win a seat on a local regency council, police and military officials said Tuesday.
Protesters attacked the home of a rival candidate from the same political party in the Fayit district of Asmat regency on Monday, believing he had stolen votes from the politician they supported, local police chief Andi Yoseph Enoch said.
“The soldiers fired shots because the crowd tried to attack them,” he said.
Police identified the four victims as Xaverius Sai, 40, Nikolaus Tupa, 38, Matias Amunep, 16, and Frederikus Inepi, 35.
Muhammad Aidi, the Indonesian military spokesman in Papua, said the army had invited police and the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to investigate.
“Yesterday afternoon, after the commander received the news, he immediately contacted the provincial police chief and the local representative of Komnas HAM to form an investigative team. The team traveled to Asmat this morning,” Aidi said.
“The service members will face the legal process. We will not cover things up,” he told BenarNews, adding that the team would work for three days to collect evidence and question witnesses.
Monday’s violence in Papua followed two nights of unrest last week in the Indonesian capital Jakarta triggered by the defeat of opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto. Eight people were killed in the rioting. Prabowo rejected the result of the April 17 election and accused President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s government of systematic fraud at the polls.
On Tuesday, calm returned to Papua after 25 soldiers were sent from a neighboring district, according to officials.
Meanwhile, Papuan Legislative Council member Laurenzus Kadepa, called for an independent investigation without the involvement of the military and police.
“Any team that involves the security forces, who are suspected to be the perpetrators, will not produce anything satisfactory. Based on experience, perpetrators only received lenient punishment,” he told BenarNews.
The head of the Asmat electoral commission, Feronikus Ate, declined to comment while community leader Paskalis Kossay said Papua was no stranger to such incidents.
“Unfortunately, incidents of violence like that have hardly been resolved in accordance with the law. As a result, the military and the police feel they can act brutally and kill with impunity,” Kossay told BenarNews.
A low-level separatist conflict has been taking place in Papua, a region where the population is predominantly Melanesian, since the 1960s.
In December, separatist rebels killed 19 members of a crew working on a highway project in Nduga regency, prompting soldiers and police to hunt down insurgents.
Papua declared its independence from Dutch colonial rule on Dec. 1, 1961, but that was rejected by the Netherlands and later by Indonesia.
In 1963, Indonesian forces invaded the region and annexed it.
In 1969, the region held a controversial referendum in which security forces had selected slightly more than 1,000 people to agree to Papua’s formal absorption into the archipelagic nation, according to human rights advocacy groups.