Tensions Rise as Kwalik Body Awaits Positive ID

The police-announced death of Papuan pro-independence rebel Kelly Kwalik has inflamed supporters, leading analysts to worry about a rise in violence in the province. Hundreds of Papuans turned out to greet the body at the airport in Timika, where it was flown following an autopsy in the provincial capital, Jayapura. “This incident will create a new problem with the Papuans,” said Father John Jonga, the recipient of the 2009 Yap Thiam Hien Award, Indonesia’s most prestigious human rights honor. He said police should have captured Kwalik alive. Police claimed to have killed Kwalik, 60, on Wednesday but by Friday they had yet to officially identify the body. The family of the self-proclaimed military leader of the outlawed Free Papua Organization (OPM) declined to provide DNA samples and no fingerprint or dental records appear to exist. A former Mimika district police chief recognized the body, National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri said in Jakarta on Friday. Preliminary identification was also made through videos and photos of Kwalik. Bambang said the police action was justified because Kwalik had used violence. Bambang accused Kwalik of being behind a series of attacks, starting with the abduction of a research group in central Papua in 1996. A rescue attempt in that incident left two Indonesian hostages dead. Kwalik was also involved in the 2002 ambush of a convoy of buses that killed a US national near the huge gold and copper mine operated by the Indonesian subsidiary of Freeport McMoRan and in a July shooting that killed an Australian project manager for Freeport, Bambang claimed. In a Web site posting, Kwalik had called himself a “general” of the West Papua National Liberation Army, the military wing of OPM. He also denied being involved in the shooting incidents, calling them a “pure conspiracy between the Indonesian police, the Army and Freeport.” In Sentani, near Jayapura, a rally held to mourn Kwalik’s death turned ugly when journalists covering the event were chased and harassed by some in the crowd of about 100. “I am worried that this incident will have a negative impact, like Kwalik’s supporters staging a riot,” said Johanis Harry Maturbong, the director of the Papua chapter of the Commission for Disappearances and Victims of Violence (Kontras). Harry said is was impossible to assess the impact on the OPM, since the group’s strength is unknown and the poorly armed rebels are split into several decentralized factions. Forkorius Yabusembut, head of Papua’s Traditional Council, said that “inhumane” killings of Papuans could “evoke a burning spirit” to fight for independence. Bambang said he expected calm and there was no need for the police or Army to send reinforcements to the region.

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