Ongoing repression on peaceful dissent and acts of torture on civilians by Indonesian police (Polri) in Yapen has drawn a sharp reaction from West Papuan pro-independence guerrillas, who have captured and carried out an arrest of the local Police chief for human rights abuses committed under his watch.
Details have emerged from the remote island district that the North Yapen Sector Chief of Police (Kapolsek), Bripka (Chief Brigadier) Saimima, was apprehended in Yobi village outside Serui just after 9pm local time on Wednesday March 13 by a small group of men led by local pro-independence West Papua National Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional or TPN) commander Ferdinand Worabay.
Local human rights sources have reported that the action, which is being treated as a hostage taking action by Indonesian security forces, was carried out as a lawful arrest under international law for crimes committed under the Kapolsek’s command, and is being claimed by TPN sources as a legitimate assertion of both Papuan sovereignty and the rule of law on alleged human rights abusers.
The apprehension of Bripka Saimima was carried in retaliation for his alleged involvement in continual violence against Papuan community members, carried out by Indonesian police officers on duty in the Yapen archipelago, according to TPN spokespeople.
There are unconfirmed reports from local human rights sources that at least 100 heavily armed police have been sent into the area to free Bripka Saimima. It is believed that a tense stand off between the highly mobile guerrillas and heavily armed police and army is continuing, though heavy exchanges of gunfire were reported in the area from 9.15 pm Thursday night (local time).
More unconfirmed reports on March 17 claimed that the Kapolsek has been freed after three days in TPN custody , though further details have yet to surface, and no reports of attacks on civilians have been received at time of writing. Most armed assaults by Indonesian security forces result in significant civilian casualties.
The captured police officer, Saimima, is well known in Yapen for his alleged human rights abuses. Whilst under the command of notorious torturer, the former Yapen Police Chief Roycke Henry Langie, Saimima was allegedly involved at a command level in the systematic torture, arbitrary arrests and repression of local nonviolent activists and civilians, including the brutal torture and disappearance of political activist Lodik Ayomi in October 2012.
According to TPN sources, another reason for his apprehension is the detention and torture carried out by Polres Yapen officers against members of the TPNheld at the Polres Yapen station.
Local activist sources have told West Papua Media that the demands surrounding the release of Saimima are nothing more than basic bail conditions for any criminal suspect. It is not known if Worabay’s men have demands to hand over Kapolsek Saimima to human rights prosecutors, an unlikely tactic given the lack of trust Papuan people have for human rights violations being successfully or honestly prosecuted under Indonesian law.
However, Worabay has attached clear political demands to the arrest. Worabay claimed responsibility for the arrest of the Kapolsek of North Yapen, telling West Papua Media stringers by phone that the objective of the hostage taking was to demand the release of all Papuan political prisoners in all prisons in Indonesia, including particularly a local activist Decky Makabori, who is imprisoned in Sarmi Polres.
Worabay also demanded that both Polri and the Indonesian Army (TNI) immediately halt the violence in Puncak Jaya, Paniai, Wamena and other districts, and for the Indonesian government to “immediately enter into dialogue with the transitional Government of West Papua.”
“If these demands are not responded to seriously in order to be resolved …. there will be effects on the situation which will be worse,” Worabay told WPM stringers.
Meanwhile, at 5am on March 15 in a separate incident on Jalan Pasir Putih (White Sands Road) in the Serui sea village, an exchange of gunfire occurred between police and members of Rudy Orarei’s local TPN Yapen unit. The TPN unit were surrounded and ambushed by three members of the Brimob from Yapen police headquarters, but Rudy Orarei returned fire from his house, according to local sources. Two police were injured in the shootout, with Orarei reportedly fleeing the police cordon into the bush. The area remains tense under heavy police occupation, according to witnesses.