Military member opens fire at indigenous fishermen at Poumako Port, Timika

The ICP has received a report by the Justice and Peace Secretariat of the Timika Diocese regarding the allegedly killing of Theodorus Kamtar by members of the Indonesian armed forces. Two of his tribesmen were injured by bullets during the attempt to dissolve a brawl at the Poumako Port, Timika. The incident was related to a dispute over customary fishing grounds between an indigenous local fisherfolk and migrant fishers from other parts of Indonesia. The indigenous community felt their livelihood threatened by  the better equipped migrant fishermen whose advanced catching methods had resulted in a decrease of fish population in the area.

The affected indigenous communities had discussed their concerns with the migrant fisherman in several meetings, which took place throughout June and July 2017. On 7 August 2017, the Head of the Mimika Marine and Fisheries Agency, Leentje A.A. Siwabessy, held a closed meeting with several officials in which the agency officially approved the migrants’ fishing operations. However, the local fisher communities, the Kamoro People’s Customary Institution (Lemasko) and other stakeholders were not invited to the meeting.

On 9 August 2017 several indigenous fishermen saw that the migrant fishers were leaving the harbor to catch fish. At 1.00 pm a froup of indigenous fishermen left the harbor in several long boats to approach the migrant fishers at sea and prevent them from carrying out the fishing operations. Around 3.00 pm the boats came back to the port, together with their indigenous escorts. Some members of the indigenous fisherfolk had confiscated the fishing equipment to ensure that the fishing operations were temporarily stopped. Thereupon,  two of the migrant fishermen' s leaders accompanied by a crowd of migrant supporters went to the harbour police office to report the incident while a group of indigenous fishermen gathered outside the police post premises.

After a short while one of the migrant fishermen's leaders named Sami Werinusi left the police post. He approached one of the indigenous fishermen, snatched the bottle he was holding and struck him with the bottle on the head. Upon seeing this, the indigenous fisherfolk got angry and tensions rose towards Sami Werinusi and the group of migrant fishermen. Chief Brigadier Yusuf Salasar, a member of the intelligence unit of Military Command Post 174/ATN who had monitored the brawl from a corner outside of the police post building, released three aimed shots at the crowd. Theodorus Kamtar was deadly hit by a bullet. Meanwhile, two other young men, Rudi Safan and Gerardus Namipok, were shot in the arm and hand respectively.

Seeing this, the indigenous fisherfolk became angry and started to attack the police post, destroying facilities both inside and outside the office. One military member of the intelligence unit of Mimika District Military Command 1710 named corporal Andi sustained stab wounds. According to the Justice and Peace Secretariat several members of the indigenous fisherfolk allegedly received phone calls from different sources, including members of the Water Police Unit of Mimika Police HQ, members of the intelligence unit of Mimika District Military Command and the military police unit, in attempt intimidate the indigenous fisherfolk.