Police officers disperse residents with water cannon in Jayapura - one person dead

A Papuan man identified as Justinus Silas Dimara (35 years old) died as members of the police forcefully dispersed a group of residents in Hamadi, Jayapura city, on 25 May 2020 (see intro image, source: Jubi). Previously, the Governor of Papua and the Jayapura Municipal Government announced a lockdown due to the growing number of COVID-19 infections, calling upon the residents in Jayapura to stay at home between 2.00 pm and 6.00 am. However, the group of local residents gathered in front of a closed restaurant to drink alcoholic beverages as the police arrived around 5.30 pm. The police officers claim that the group refused to follow the instructions to return to their homes. Hence they dispersed the group using the water cannon of the police vehicle.

According to media information, Justinus Dimara ran away from the powerful water jet, but fell on the ground when the jet hit him. His head bounced on the paved road - he instantly lost consciousness. The police officers hospitalised Justinus Dimara in the nearby Hamadi Navy Hospital, where the victim died shortly after admission. A first medical examination showed that Justinus Dimara died as a result of a strong impact on the head causing a bleeding in the right ear and left nose. The medics allegedly confirmed that the victim was intoxicated. According to the spokesperson of the Papua Regional Police (Polda Papua), Ahmad Musthofa Kamal, the police officers participating in the operation are currently under investigation by the police Internal Investigation Unit Propam.

Angry residents set up a roadblock in Hamadi and burned tires in response to the incident. Multiple activists in West Papua condemned the use of excessive force by police officers to enforce social restrictions in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. They emphasized that there was no legal framework to set clear guidelines for such harsh measures. The Indonesia Health Ministry has not yet officially declared Jayapura a hazard zone where residents must follow the Government’s Social Distancing Policy (PSBB).