Jan 30, 2002

Papuan leader murdered

The UNPO was greatly shocked by the murder of well-known and respected Papua leader, Theys Hiyo Eluay. The following article (translated into English) appeared in the West Papua Courier, 5th edition of 2001:

“ In the night of 10-11 November 2001, Theys Hiyo Eluay, chairman of the Papua Presidium Council (PDP), was abducted in Jayapura and murdered close to the Papua New Guinea border. The main witness, his chauffeur Ari Masoka, has vanished. It was Mr. Masoka who called Theys wife in panic, with the message that they had been abducted by `orang amber` (non-Papuans). No other witnesses have yet come forth in fear of reprisals. Everything points to the involvement of the Indonesian elite-forces unit Kopassus, as being responsible for the attack.
The Indonesian army denies any involvement in the attack. There are even rumours that the OPM (Papua Freedom Movement) are behind the attack, because they found Theys views too moderate. Nonsense`, according to vice-chairman of the Papua Presidium Tom Beanal, ´Papuans don’t kill their own leaders. From the army we are used to it`. Cynically it was Theys himself who said at the second Papua Peoples Congress in May 2000 about Indonesia: ‘A people that kills its own is a demonic people’. Demonic or not, Indonesia reached another historic low with the murder of Theys Eluay.

Theys Hijo Eluay, 64 years old, was the chairman of the Papua Presidium Council (PDP). This flamboyant Papua loved a stunt from time to time. For example, he proclaimed himself chairman of the Papua Peoples Congress in May 2000. Because of his long-time membership of Suharto’s Golkar party, he was controversial, but his outspoken views for independence of West Papua made him a credible leader of the Papuan independence struggle. For many he was the voice of independence and therefore a threat to the military. It was this same military that invited him, the night of his kidnapping, for a dinner in celebration of ‘Heroes day’. At ten o’clock he called his wife, Yaneke Ohee, to let her know that he is on his way home. Fifteen minutes later his wife receives another phone call, this time from They’s chauffeur. According to Yaneke, the chauffeur cried and he could barely say: ‘Mamma, you have to pray. Bapak and I have been kidnapped by orang amberi (non-Papuans). I have escaped.’ Then the connection was broken. Theys chauffeur Ari is able to get away and without hesitation stops a taxi to drive back to the Kopassus unit, from which they just left, to inform them of the kidnapping. Witnesses (who wish to remain anonymous) say that he arrived there, and since then he hasn’t been seen again.


Riots broke out in Sentani, following the murder of Theys. A spokesperson for the human rights organisation, ELSHAM, told the press the people were outraged by the news of Theys’s death on Sunday. The anger was aimed at the biggest market of Sentani. Eight shops and buildings near Theys’ home were targeted; Hotel Ratna, buildings of the statebanks BRI (Bank Rakyat Indonesia) and BPD (Bank Pembangunan Daerah) were set on fire. There were no reports of casualties.
The national headquarters in Jakarta decided to send three special investigation teams to Jayapura as support. Syachruddin Pagar Alam, responsible for police operations, made it clear that a special police unit is on standby in case the situation in Papua gets out of hand.

The morning after the news of Theys’s death, calm returned to Sentani. There is virtually no traffic, many taxi drivers are afraid of attacks by Papua’s. The streets are filled with men from the mobile brigade (Brimob), who are now more restrained than the day before when they fired live ammunition at the outraged crowd. Around eleven o’clock the march to the government building (DPR) in Jayapura gets under way. Hundreds of people participate in the march, which has grown to thousands of people in the evening. On the way to the government building, food and water is given by bystanders to the participants of the march, which consists of Papuans and Indonesians alike. The Papua flag is flown and only a few members of the mobile brigade come close to the parade. A young Papua man dares an officer of the mobile brigade when he points the officers’ gun to his stomach: ‘Kill me colonialist!’ The shocked officer pulls back his gun. In the afternoon the body of Theys is placed in a coffin draped with two Morning star flags and brought from the hospital to the government building (DPR). Outside the building there is screaming:’ The blood of Theys is the last blood that has been spilt!’ His coffin was placed in front of the door of the building where Minister Herman Saud demanded that the DPR gives a special declaration on behalf of the Papua people to the Indonesian government: ‘The government has to sign an agreement in which they guarantee the safety of the other members of the Presidium.’ The hysterical crowd screams that there must be action NOW. When the coffin is brought in the crowd gets emotional, the people sing, pray and cry. On Tuesday December 13 tens of thousands of Papua’s come from all over West Papua to pay their final respect to Theys Eluay. Around 20.000 mourning Papua’s accompany Theys coffin on foot to Sentani. His body is buried on the special burial ground for heroes who died for the independence of West Papua.

Army denies involvement

The investigation into Theys his murder lies in the hand of the police. Until now there is no trace of the most important witness, Theys chauffeur, Ari Masoka. According to the national head of police, General Da’i Bachtiar, the police has searched for Ari all the way to the Papua New Guinea border and questioned 45 civilians and seven military personnel who were possible witnesses. The regional military commander Major General Mahidin Simbolon denies all accusations. He said to the Jakarta Post of December 4th: ‘in reaction to rumours we immediately started an investigation into involvement of the military with Theys Eluay’s murder. The investigation showed that there is nothing to indicate the army’s involvement with the murder.’ The same Simbolon is highly controversial. Only appointed this year, he has been responsible for the military operations ‘Sweeping and clampdown’ in the Wasior district (Manokwari region) that has seen a spiral of violence since June, after an attack of the OPM on the plantation CV Vatika Papuana Perkasa on June 13. In this attack five policemen were killed. Since that moment the area has been closed for human rights organisations in order for the army to carry out its well-known retaliation attacks. Wasior has been the stage of arbitrary arrests, torture, disappearances and murders.


In the meantime, the PDP has set an ultimatum to the Indonesian government: if the perpetrators are not found before December 10th, the Papua Presidium Council will cancel its trust in the Indonesian government. Tom Beanal and other members of the delegation have pleaded for a parliamentarian investigation into Eluay’s murder. Tandjung promised to pass on the proposal to the Parliament. Besides the police, the National Human Rights Committee (Komnas HAM) has put together a team to investigate the murder of Theys Eluay and to look for his missing driver. Jayapura’s legal aid association is pessimistic about the efforts of the team: ‘The committee has no credibility when it comes to the human rights violations in Irian Jaya’ according to Demianus Wakman in an interview with The Jakarta Post. ‘The committee has not been able to solve a single case in Irian Jaya.’ Demianus pointed to several human rights violations, which the committee investigated that delivered nothing. ‘So, if they failed in the past, it is not surprising that the local population has doubts about their ability to solve the murder.’ It remains to be seen if the government will take measures if the military is responsible for the murder. It is clear, however that President Megawati Soekarnoputri’s government has to come up with results on the identity of the perpetrators. If not, the situation in West Papua might get out of hand. The outlook is as yet gloomy”