Papuans protest Indonesia police slaying of leader

Associated Press
2009-12-17 06:30 PM
About 300 people on Thursday protested the police killing of a separatist leader accused in the deaths of 11 people in Indonesia’s restive Papua province and demanded his body be released for burial.

Many wore tribal dress, sang patriotic songs popular with secessionists and danced outside a government building in the mining town of Timika where Kelly Kwalik, a militant leader in the Free Papua Movement, was shot Wednesday while fleeing a police raid.

Police had suspected Kwalik of ordering a series of shootings this year near the Freeport gold mine _ a symbol of Jakarta’s rule of the province and a common target of rebels.

Police flew Kwalik’s body to the provincial capital Jayapura, where his identity was confirmed, Papua Police Chief Maj. Gen. Bekto Suprapto said Thursday. He did not say when the body would be released.

Kwalik’s followers want the body returned to Timika for burial; their protest ended peacefully.

The police assertion that they shot Kwalik because he was armed with a revolver and resisted arrest has been met with skepticism in Papua.

His followers accuse the police of undermining the prospects of a peace dialogue between Jakarta and separatists in Indonesia’s easternmost province by intentionally killing the leader, who was in his 60s.

“The problems in Papua cannot be solved by weapons because that will only result in new violence,” the Rev. Sofyan Yoman, a Baptist Church leader in Papua, said on Thursday.

He called for Jakarta to agree to a brokered peace dialogue similar to that which led to the province of Aceh becoming semiautonomous.

Indonesian military spokesman Rear Marshal Sagom Tamboen welcomed the prospect of a peace dialogue and congratulated police in tracking down Kwalik.

Police accuse Kwalik of ordering ambushes from July to November on the road to the world’s largest gold mine, which is in central Papua and is operated by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona. The attacks killed eight people, including an Australian, and wounded 37.

They also allege Kwalik ordered a 2002 attack on a vehicle convoy headed toward the Freeport mine that killed three teachers _ two American and an Indonesian.

Independence activists have been protesting Indonesian rule in the impoverished province since a United Nations ballot placed the former Dutch colony under Jakarta’s control in 1969. Police have been accused of brutality against the secessionists.

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