Security force members shoot dead Papuan gold panner in Mimika Regency

Members of the Nemangkawi joint security task force reportedly killed a Papuan civilian inside PT Freeport Indonesia's mining area in the Mimika Regency.. The incident occurred on 21 March 2021, around 9.20 pm in the area around Mile 50. Demianus Newegalen (see photo, source: JPIC Kingmi Papua) was in the forest hunting for cuscus, an animal that indigenous Papuans only hunt at night when the eyes reflect the light. A bullet hit Demianus Newegalen in the left side of the lower back as he was tracing down a cuscus using a flashlight. Relatives found his body in the early morning hours of 22 March 2021. In the late afternoon, the body was brought to the Caritas hospital in Timika for a post-mortem examination. 

Representatives of the Papuan Regional Police (Polda Papua) claimed that Demianus Newegalen was associated with the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN PB) and had allegedly attacked security force members with bow and arrow. After the incident, the Papuan police chief, Mathius Fakhiri, urged all residents to stop activities in the area between Mile 48 and Mile 50 because security force members had launched an operation to arrest a high-ranking TPN PB commander.

The relatives denied the claim of being associated with the TPN PB. They confirmed that Demianus Newegalen worked as a gold panner and was administering the gold panning camp at Mile 50. The relatives demand compensation for Demianus Newegalen’s death and an independent investigation into the unlawful killing.      

The killing of Deminaus Newegalen marks the latest in a series of extra-judicial killings in the area around the gold and copper mine run by the Freeport McMoRan subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia. On 13 April 2020, members of the Gab YR 712 and YR 900 military units reportedly executed Eden Armando Bebari (20 years) and Ronny Wandik (23 years) at Mile 34. The security force members claim they mistook them with TPN PB fighters. About four months later, on 16 August 2020, members of the Nemangkawi task force killed three gold panners named Demiana Wanmang (25 years), Demu Kiwak (28 years) and Uterus Newegalen (18 years) at Mile 69. Neither the police nor the military has taken steps to investigate the cases and prosecute the perpetrators.