Wednesday, August 5, 2015

'Tolikara incident

'Tolikara incident

On Friday the 17 July an incident occurred in Karubaga, the capital of Tolikara district resulting in about 60 kiosks and houses being burned. The fire also spread and burned a nearby small mosque.  One student was killed and 11 civilians were injured when the security forces opened fired to disperse a gathering of residents who according to first reports had attacked a group of Muslims who were about to perform Idul Fitri prayers to celebrate the end of the fasting month Ramadan.  The incident has received a large amount of media coverage in the local and national press over the past few weeks with dramatic headlines such as 'Extremists burn down mosque on Eid"

                    GIDI’s members were injured in hospital after the incident – Jubi (20 July)

The incident is reported to have begun when a group from the Evangelical Church of Indonesia (GIDI) who were holding a conference in a nearby church had complained about the volume of the sound coming from a mosque’s loudspeakers. According to the police the crowd started throwing stones at Muslims performing their outdoor Eid al-Fitr prayers resulting in the worshippers fleeing to a nearby local military office for protection. The military claim they fired warning shots however, one student, Edi Wanimbo (15 years old) was killed and eleven people injured. 

Security forces fired warning shots to disperse a crowd of about 200 after they disrupted an Islamic prayer meeting and attacked a mosque. (SP Photo/Robert Isodorus) Jakarta Globe 22 July

Tempo reported (19/7) that the President of the GIDI, Rev. Dorman Wandikmbo, said the unrest was initially caused by the police shooting indiscriminately at residents who asked Muslims to practice Eid prayers without loudspeakers. Unhappy with the response some people got angry and burned kiosks with the fire accidentally spreading to the nearby mosque.  Natalius Pigai, a commissioner at the National Commission for Human Rights said that the conflict was also triggered by police shootings against Christians. “It seems to have been a misunderstanding that GIDI is being hostile to Islam. In fact, they were not planning to burn the mosque. People were upset because of the police shootings ”(Tempo 18/7). National police chief General Badrodin Haiti admitted that the police had opened fire in the incident in Tolikara.  “The victims were shot because they were pelting stones at Muslims who were just performing Eid prayers," he said after visiting Karubaga. General Badrodin Haiti said the police were still investigating the incident with regard to processing the case including the shooting and the torching incidents. At least 153 residents in Karubaga were evacuated to several tents set up at the Karubaga Military Headquarter on the Saturday The Papua Regional Police chief, Inspector General Yotje Mende, said the victims needed assistance, particularly clothes, since their belongings had all been razed by the fire.

Religious leaders, both Muslim and Evangelical Churches in Indonesia (GIDI) made peace in the yard of the local military command, Karubaga City, Tolikara on Wednesday, July 22, 2015. ( 23 July)

In a Jubi report (20/7) The President of the GIDI, Rev. Dorman Wandikmbo said is not true that GIDI’s members forbid the celebration of Eid Mubarak for Muslims in Tolikara. He also denied that GIDI’s members had set a plan to burn a mushola during the incident. Rev. Wanimbo said, about three weeks before implementing the event, local church officials had issued a notification letter that had been approved and recognized by the local government, army and police. “When the day came, we were surprised that the police and army allowed worship to carried out in the field and using loudspeakers. We have already conveyed (our plans) in the letter,” he said. Therefore, GIDI’s members come to negotiate with Muslims who are preparing to run the Eid prayer. Negotiations had not started and suddenly one of the GIDI’s members was shot. 

An extract from another report in Jubi (20/7).
The Rev. Wanimbo further said on 17 July in the morning, the Muslim did the prayer in the Mushola’s yard and used the speaker. Due to this action, about 15 students came to the Mushola and asked them politely that they should be do prayer inside because the distance of Mushola and venue of seminar is only about 300 meters. It would give bad impression. “But our Muslim brothers were angry and there’s among them carrying a gun and shot a fire. Eventually everyone ran but some got shot. Finally, many people started to come including some guests and myself. But we pulled back because afraid of random bullets,” he said. At that time, Wandimbo said, the crowd scattered and became upset when seeing some have been shot. Their emotions were provoked and they burned the stall instead of mushola that was located in the centre of area. But because the stall was made by wood, the fire spread to resident’s houses and mushola where located behind the stall

Another extract from an article in GIV News, Who Orchestrated the Tolikara Incident? suggests outside interference
External Influence?
All these uncertainties, combined with the loss of life and the fact that this unfortunate incident occurred on the usually highly tolerant Papua, has sparked the theory that the entire conflict was orchestrated by someone outside Papua. This perpetrator is believed to aim for chaos by causing sectarian conflicts in Papua, a region which has only recently started to improve its relationship with Jakarta, under the support and leadership of President Widodo.
The strongest opinion so far came from Fahmi Habsyi, Executive Director of the Trisakti Evaluation Center (Pusaka Trisakti), who believed that what happened in Tolikara was purely an intelligence operation. Habsyi trusts that the Papuan people are tolerant and very polite, and thus the incident cannot be seen on its own. He also thinks that the attack may be related to Widodo’s policy of accelerating development in Papua.
“The sequence [of events] must be seen from several one-sided actions which have demanded a referendum on Papua… Someone is trying to create trouble, and also offers the solution through another motive and aim for a compromise. This is a classic style. Hopefully [President Widodo] can see it. Do not underestimate the incident. Remember the riot in Ambon 1999, it was sparked by a mere fight in a terminal. What happened in Papua is more serious than that,” explained Habsyi to Berita Satu.
Habsyi’s sentiment is echoed by Laode Ida, Chairman of the Presidium of East Indonesia Association (PPIT). “Violence towards a religious group is not the character of Papuans. The Papua people are not like that. They are tolerant and respectful of other people’s religious freedom. We strongly believe there are groups who come from outside Papua and then spread a provocative propaganda.” Ida also demanded the government to mediate a formal reconciliation process in Tolikara to prevent a cycle of revenge, as reported by Kompas.
The possibility of an outsider whispering to the GIDI congregation has not escaped the attention of General Badrodin Haiti, head of the National Police. “Someone deliberately set the riot. However, we can’t confirm yet the existence of a foreign power in the incident. But there are several people from out of the region who were involved in the riot. We are still looking for the intellectual actor.”

And in Jubi (31/7) 
 A deputy chairman of the Papua Legislative Council’s Commission I for Politics, Government, Foreign, Legal dan Human Right Affairs, Orwan Tolli Wone, said political interests were involved in the incident that occurred at Karubaga, Tolikara Regency two weeks ago. The councilor from the Tolikara electoral region said both sides need to concentrate on conflict resolution and that the incident had no connection with a particular religion. “It’s only a group of people who have an interest in local and national politics. I suspect the incident involves both local and national issues. I can make this conclusion because for decades Muslims and Christians in Tolikara have lived in harmony. There’s never a problem. Why did it just happen right now?” Wone said on Thursday (30/7/2015).

Prosecution begins: AK (center), a suspect in last week’s Tolikara riot, arrives at the Jayapura Police headquarters in Papua, on Friday. The police have named two suspects involved in the violence that claimed one life, injured 12 and saw the burning down of a market and a small mosque. (Jakarta Post 25 July)

The media including social media has come under some critism for their response in spreading news before clarification. The Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalist (AJI) Kota Jayapura, Victor Mambor said he highlighted more to media coverage when the misunderstanding was occurred in Tolikara. “Tolikara incident became a lesson. At that time, before doing clarification, media has published the news that likely triggered this misunderstanding to be a national issue,” said Mambor. Further, Mambor who is also the editor in chief of and Koran Jubi also regretted the police’s act broadcasting the short message to the press and likely triggered the incident as a national issue. “At the end, we are all getting the impact. The police shouldn’t too rush to send the short message without verification. The sort message was forwarded from Papua Police Spokesperson, and we don’t know what the purpose is,” he said. (Arjuna Pademme/rom)

Papua Youth Chairman, Ridwan al-Makassary said the Tolikara incident that occurred on 17 July 2015 has been wrongly interpreted by most media workers, as they didn’t apply journalistic standards. And when making coverage of such incident that was triggered by miscommunication between interreligious communities, a journalist is expected able to cover it with the perspective of peace journalism. “I see the peace journalism as foundation to get a solution at that point but didn’t executed by journalists,” said the lecturer of Jayapura Science and Technology University who spent most of his life from childhood in Serui during a dialogue ‘Peace Papua, Peace Indonesia’ held by national television station in Jayapura on Saturdary (1/8/2015).

Jubi reported  (4/8) that the president of the Evangelical Church in Indonesia (GIDI) Rev. Dorman Wandikbo visited the Papua Police on Monday (3/8/2015) to be questioned over the incident in Tolikara. He was accompanied by several church leaders and about 30 GIDI congregation members and supporters. He was welcomed by the Chairman of the Papua Legislative Council who had previously been there.  “As a good citizen, today I came to meet the police’s call to convey what did I see and feel. Some church leaders and partisans wanted to come along with me.  Lawyers Gustaf Kawer, Olga Hamadi and Yan Warinussi will stand beside me as attorney,” Rev. Wandikbo said on the way to the police headquarter. After being questioned, the Rev. Dorman Wandikbo and his accompaniers returned to Kingmi Church Synod Office and interviewed only by Jubi.

No reporters interviewed him but some of them interviewed his lawyers to get detail information on investigation. To Jubi, he said in addition to meet the summon, he had two points to be said to the police. “At first, to testify the chronology of Tolikara incident that killed a fifteen years old boy, Endi Wanimbo and injured eleven people and burned dozens of houses and a musholla. The second is to convey the result of agreement to resolve the dispute between GIDI and Muslim communities in Tolikara,” he told Jubi at Kingmi Church Synod Office after undergoing the investigation. Meanwhile, his attorney Gustaw Kawer said the President of GIDI was summoned to testify as a witness. “He was examined as a witness and being questioned with 37 queries for four hours,” said Kawer. (Victor Mambor/rom)

The Tolikara Police chief, Adj. Sr. Comr. Soeroso was reassigned 10 days after the incident.

According to Neles Tebay (in an article in Tempo 31 July) eight government institutions announced they will conduct investigations into the incident, “ The National Police, the National Commission on Human Rights, the Religious Affairs Ministry, Commission II of the House of Representatives (DPR), the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), the Indonesian Christian Student Movement (GMKI), the Tamir Masdjid Silahturrahmi Forum and Mushala Indonesia (Fahmi Tamami), and the Tolikara Papua People’s Committee”. As Neles noted in the article they are all from outside of Papua.  It would appear that the media coverage and investigations into the 'Tolikara incident will be ongoing for some time. 

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