MAC/20: Mines and Communities

II. The Shootings at Mile 62-63

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

II. The Shootings at Mile 62-63

(a) Background of Events Leading Up to the Shootings & the Peace Mission

In the months leading up to the August 31 shooting, the Indonesian military had initiated many efforts to create a conflict-conducive atmosphere. Plans of an attack on Freeport issued by indigenous Papuan leader and former school teacher Kelly Kwalik to his TPN/OPM group at the beginning of August had put Freeport Security, under chief security officer Lexy Linturan's orders, on high alert.

At the same time, since March 2002, indigenous Papuans' concerns about the escalating threat of an Indonesian military and police crackdown led civil society groups including ELSHAM to pursue urgently an initiative on conflict resolution. The groups set up a Peace Task Force in July 2002, inviting Indonesian civil and military authorities as well as TPN/OPM leaders to enter a dialogue to establish Papua as a Zone of Peace. The culmination of the first stage of the Zone of Peace process was a conference on peace for Papua, co-sponsored by the governor, police chief and the provincial parliament together with ELSHAM and other civil society groups and held in Jayapura, October 15-16, 2002. Major General Mahidi Simbolon[9], regional commander of the Indonesian military in Papua, was the only official who refused to participate in the initiative.

As part of the Zone of Peace initiative, the Task Force separately met with Papua's police chief, chairman of the provincial parliament, and governor as well as all TPN/OPM leaders, including Nico Hipohauw, Hans R Yoweni, Melkianus Awon, Tadius Yogi, and most importantly, on August 25, 2002, with Kelly Kwalik, all with very successful responses. As a result of these discussions, Kwalik called off attacks on Freeport and showed his commitment to creating and maintaining a peaceful Papua.

Regardless of the peace initiative or its results, there had been an increase in military activity, with certain groups within the Indonesian military manipulating and promoting Kwalik's plan of attack. Indeed, the day before the shooting, on August 30, there had been a joint armed forces operation including the army (Kostrad), special forces (Kopassus), marines and police special forces (Brimob) in the area. There was also terror and intimidation of the local community at the hands of military, police and other groups operating in the area. Such terror and intimidation was in the form of rumors of Dracula sightings[10] in Timika and other violent criminal acts perpetrated by unidentified armed groups suspected of links with Laskar Jihad, Red and White Militias, and elements of Satgas Pam[11]. These incidents directed at Freeport personnel and local indigenous Papuans had been escalating since December 2001, including:

Despite the fact that all of these cases had been reported to Freeport security, company management took no action to investigate and apprehend the groups perpetrating these crimes. It was in this atmosphere of total impunity that the August 31 attack took place.

(b) Chronology of the Shootings

At noon on the afternoon of Saturday, August 31, 2002, a convoy of trucks carrying teachers and children from Timika's International School was seen by two Freeport employees stopping at mile 62-63 on its way back to Tembagapura. Minutes later a Freeport employee and his wife arrived at the scene and, seeing the convoy under attack, quickly returned to the mile 64 security checkpoint to call for help. The shooting killed two American citizens and an Indonesian citizen, and injured 12 others. Directly following the shooting, the military blocked off the road between mile 50 and 64.

Decky Murib[12], an eyewitness to the attack and a former member of the TBO (Tenaga Bantuan Operasi or Operational Assistance Force, an indigenous Papuan civilian group enlisted by Indonesian Special Forces to assist with covert operations), has told ELSHAM investigators that Special Forces (Kopassus) members were involved in the shooting. Eye witnesses have also confirmed that a Freeport company vehicle from its Grasberg mining site arrived at the scene just prior to the attack. The vehicle was driven by a Freeport employee and was transporting members of the armed forces. According to standard Freeport policy, all company vehicles from the Grasberg site must be checked out, in writing. Review of vehicle documents from the morning of August 31 should provide important information about the perpetrators of the attack.

On the night of August 31, there was a meeting and agreement made between TNI and the police to patrol and protect the area of the shooting. The next day, Sunday, September 1, at 8:00am, while police were conducting a search of the area, they were fired on. They took cover and later, personnel from Kostrad 515 approached, claiming that they were guarding the ambush site and had just shot one of the alleged August 31 gunmen. The military brought the body of the victim, Elias Kwalik, to the side of the road, where police investigators took over the case. However, the results of a medical examination on Kwalik revealed that he had been dead for approximately 12 hours prior to the September 1 shooting, suggesting that the September 1 attack was fabricated and the body planted in an attempt to scapegoat the TPN/OPM. According to the medical examination, Kwalik also suffered from a disease that enlarged his testicles and would have made it impossible for him to participate in the August 31 attack. In addition, a Freeport employee informed ELSHAM investigators that he saw Kwalik at Mile 38 at 3:00pm on August 31, waiting for a ride, and had recommended to Kwalik that he return to Timika because of the military operations farther up the road.

On Thursday, September 12, at the request of Freeport Security to the Head of TNI for the Freeport area, Lieutenant Colonel Togap Gultom, military presence in the Freeport area was increased with the arrival of more troops.

On Friday, September 13, at approximately 3:00pm, a shooting occurred in the vicinity of mile 64, but there were no victims and the target was unknown.

At around 12:30pm on Saturday, September 14, there was gunfire in the area of mile 62 directed at a police and military convoy that was passing along the road. The police began to return fire towards the source of the shooting. The unidentified shooter wounded a Kostrad officer, who was part of the convoy. The same day, the police found undetonated explosives (generally used for underground mining operations) under a bridge at mile 58.

Reacting to this discovery, regional military commander Major General Mahidi Simbolon made a statement that, based on the evidence recovered from the site of the bridge (a surplus of ammunition left at the site, detonators and cable), TNI suspected a connection between Freeport management and the OPM. He backed this statement with information of internal problems within Freeport which could have caused an attack on the TNI. Recently there had been a re-structuring of Freeport security resulting in a change of power between Tom Green[13] and Lexy Linturan[14] which left Linturan in higher command. Simbolon suggested that there was also cooperation between Freeport, particularly Tom Green, and TPN/OPM guerrillas in the area and that he was sure that the August 31 shooting was carried out by the TPN/OPM.

Despite a lack of evidence, Indonesian military and governmental officials - as well as senior Freeport management - publicly attributed responsibility for the August 31 attack to the OPM. Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Ryamizard Rycudu made public statements denying any military involvement and suggesting that Kelly Kwalik's TPN/OPM group had been responsible for the attack because they are known for operations in the Freeport area. Minister for the Coordination of Political Affairs and Security Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also later commented that the military and police in the Freeport area would take stern action and were stepping up operations against the groups responsible for the shooting, stressing that factions of the TPN/OPM were responsible and had to be wiped out.

Although no real and authentic evidence had been put forward, and before an effective investigation had been made, TNI had blamed the TPN/OPM and the local tribal communities for the shootings. Such unfounded allegations put the local community at risk of violent reprisals (e.g., arrests, torture, disappearance) by the military and intelligence agents and affected the objectivity of the investigation. The attack was clearly being used by military and government officials to justify violent action against the TPN/OPM as part of the wider governmental policy of wiping out so-called separatist movements[15].

In response to such accusations, Kelly Kwalik issued a statement on September 17 stating that he and his group were not responsible for the shooting, as all members were present in the group's village at the time of the attack. He reiterated his earlier statements that he had cancelled any plans to attack Freeport and reaffirmed his commitment to establishing Papua as a Zone of Peace.

(c) After the Shootings: Terror and Intimidation of Investigation Teams

In addition to the testimonies of Decky Murib and Freeport employees outlined above, military involvement in the August 31 shootings is also evidenced by military intelligence's efforts to terrorize and intimidate the police and civil society teams investigating the incident. ELSHAM and Timika-based police investigation teams have continued to receive death threats and been terrorized and intimidated by those suspected of being involved in the shooting of Freeport employees at mile 62-63 on August 31, 2002.

In the most disturbing occurrence, four members of ELSHAM's investigation team were almost killed after being attacked by residents of SP 9[16], who were provoked to attack by three military intelligence personnel. This attack occurred on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 15, when the ELSHAM team members attempted to approach a citizen for confirmation as to the whereabouts of the family of Elias Kwalik, the victim of the September 1 Freeport shooting incident.

The police also received death threats, were terrorized and received other forms of intimidation. On Sunday, September 1, a police officer was shot at by an army security officer, when the police attempted to approach the location of the August 31 shootings at mile 62-63. One week later, a police vehicle was attacked. Assailants threw stones and rocks, smashed the vehicle's windows, and pierced the tires with nails that they had placed on the road at mile 31.

Furthermore, members of the Kamoro community[17] living near the SP 6 residential area have sought refuge in coastal areas because they were being terrorized and intimidated by masked black ninjas.

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