Indonesia: Secret and Lies
December 2002 1655
REPORTER: Ginny Stein
The modern world is centuries away in much of West Papua. Warriors of the independence movement, the OPM, still fight the Indonesian military with bows and arrows in a largely unnoticed insurgency. Out of sight and out of mind, it takes more than your average murder to place the spotlight on this forgotten corner of the globe.
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA, POLICE COMMANDER, WEAT PAPUA: We found 134 shoot marks on the vehicles, mostly in the body of the minibus, two minibus, some are in the trucks and some in the trailer. We saw that this shooting was very brutal.
The slaying of three teachers, two of them American, in West Papua, near the giant Freeport copper and gold mine has highlighted the very thin hold Indonesia has on law and order.
MAN AT CRIME SCENE: The driver was killed, went into the bank and this vehicle was behind and it also stopped.
Gunned down in a hail of bullets by a group of as-yet-unidentified gunmen, the convoy stood no chance on the mist-covered mountain road. Police returned to the scene the day after the shooting to re-enact it for clues to find that they, themselves, had become fresh targets.
POLICEMAN (Translation): I rushed up here. I was shot at.
INVESTIGATOR: How many times?
POLICEMAN: I heard one shot.
Papua's Police Chief, Made Pastika, believes that this shooting sent a clear and disturbing message.
REPORTER: Who do you think shot at you?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: Yeah, that's still that group who doesn't want to be investigated by the police.
It was a warning to police to back off?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: Yeah, something like that, yes.
Weeks after the attack on the teachers the authorities appear no closer to determining who did it. But, in the minds of many Papuans, there can only be one suspect - Indonesia's military. The military has long been accused of some of the worst crimes here, including the murder one year ago of Papua's would-be first president, Theys Eluay. Three officers from the nation's elite special forces unit, Kopassus, and nine subordinates are awaiting court martial for his murder. Dateline has discovered that included in the Kopassus 12 is one officer who spent time in Australia on a young officer exchange program. But, given the perilous state of justice in Indonesia, it is unlikely Theys Eluay's murderers will ever be brought to trial.
SIDNEY JONES, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: If we look at the Theys Eluay killing in November 2001, that's a case where they actually have the gunmen and we have no idea who gave the order or why.
REPORTER: Why is it that it's possible to get away with murder in Papua?
SIDNEY JONES: I think there's so many different parties in Papua, and also elsewhere in Indonesia, that have interests in fuelling ongoing conflict, that people who are in power have a great capacity to cover things up.
The people with real power in Papua are the military, shown in all their glory commemorating Armed Forces Day. Australia cut military aid to Indonesia following the devastation of East Timor. But, in the wake of the Bali bomb, it is Kopassus that Australia is considering assisting once more. Indonesia's number one military man in Papua is Major General Mahidin Simbolon. He's a special forces hardliner. He earned his stripes during a number of tours of duty in East Timor, where he was in charge of providing logistical support to the murderous militia. Not surprisingly, he is standing by his men over the teachers' murders.
MAJOR GENERAL MAHIDIN SIMBOLON (Translation): We don't know it was Kopassus. How do you know it was?
REPORTER: Then who did it?
MAJOR GENERAL MAHIDIN SIMBOLON: That's what we're investigating. The police are trying to find out.
REPORTER: Was it Kopassus?
No... Not Kopassus.
Dateline's presence clearly made the general uneasy. When it came time for him to depart the military parade, he gave one last order concerning footage filmed this day.
MAJOR GENERAL MAHIDIN SIMBOLON: She must go to military HQ. She wants to send the tapes. Hello... you want to send cassettes to Australia?
REPORTER: Yes, I do.
Getting videotape out of Papua and, indeed, Indonesia, looked like becoming a challenge. Armed Forces Day is the military's big day but, in the West Papuan provincial capital, this was a party to which very few but the military came. Such is the armed forces' popularity here.
INDONESIAN SOLDIER (Translation): We are the knights of Indonesia who serve the one God and defend honesty, truth, and justice.
But claims of truth and justice sit at odds with most Papuans' experience of military rule. This province may not be at war, but there is virtually no Papuan alive who cannot name at least one relative who has been beaten, tortured, raped or killed by the armed forces. The widespread view here is that the military were in some way responsible for the attack. Thom Beanal is the acting chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council.
THOM BENEAL, ACTING CHAIRMAN, PAPUAN PRESIDIUM COUNCIL (Translation): Most community members suspect that soldiers killed the teachers.
There is a man claims to hold the key to who did it.
WITNESS (Translation): It was done by either Kopassus or the military. Some say they were Papuan, but they weren't. I have proof.
For the past 10 years, this man worked for Kopassus. He claims to have been with them, and within earshot, when the attack took place. One part of the group had travelled up the hill. He'd stayed behind. And he heard a warning issued on a walkie talkie as the teachers' convoy passed by.
WITNESS (Translation): They contacted the men on the hill to say the cars were coming. The men said, "We're on standby." That meant they were ready.
Not long after that command, he heard shooting.
WITNESS (Translation): I heard three shots. First, a single shot. The second and third times it was rapid gunfire...
REPORTER: So would three bursts of weapon fire
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: Yeah, it can be three or four or two.
REPORTER: So it could have been all over in three bursts of gunfire?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: Yes, I think so.
But, while some of the information he has provided appears to hold true, much of it does not add up. For this key witness appears to be Papua's everyman.
REPORTER: But he was someone that the army paid, the military paid, that police paid?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: According to him, that he was the informant for everybody. The CID chief in Timika said that, among 100 words that he said, we can believe only about 20 or 25.
The mystery over who killed the teachers was further deepened by the discovery of a body close to the crime scene. Known as 'Mr X', police are still trying to identify him.
REPORTER: How crucial is finding out who he is?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: Yes, of course, this is very crucial. What I said always, I say always that he is the clue of this case. So we are now still doing the investigation to find out who is he and why he was there.
The military claimed to have killed this man one day after the teachers were shot. As he was a Papuan, the military claimed it was proof the OPM was responsible.
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: We saw the body on the right side of the road and everybody feel very happy, because we get one of the shooter - what we think at the time. And it was a very great, it was a success of our troops who shot one of the OPM.
But there was one small detail everyone but Papua's police chief overlooked that day. Mr X was dead long before the military claimed to have shot him.
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: But one thing that I saw at that place, that the body was already stiff. It was already stiff.
The autopsy has since confirmed this.
REPORTER: So is the soldier who showed you the body who claimed to have shot him one of your number one suspects? He's obviously lied.
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: We cannot make that conclusion so far, because I think it needs more, more interview with him.
REPORTER: But, if the military plants a body - that is your suspicion - plants a body at the scene of the crime to say that this is what happened, doesn't it make the military look very guilty?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: I think we cannot make that conclusion that fast, because maybe that body was shot the day before at that place.
REPORTER: So the soldier got it wrong?
GENERAL MADE PASTIKA: Yeah, maybe he just say that, maybe he want a reward from, from, from his superior. He just proudly said that "I shot that, that body." But, of course, this is one of the things that needs more examination.
Made Pastika, who has just been appointed to head the investigation into the Bali bombing, is faced with a sensitive task in attempting to identify the teachers' killers.
SIDNEY JONES, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: He's walking a very thin line and we've seen across Indonesia how the hostility between the army and the police can erupt in deadly gunfire. And I think there is a danger of that kind of eruption in Papua as well. This particular police chief is a very committed, hard-working individual who, I think, is indeed serious about trying to get to the bottom of this and find out who did it. I think it's probably impossible for him to do so.
REPORTER: And to get to the bottom could put relationships between the military and police at extreme odds?
SIDNEY JONES: If this police chief comes up with information or witnesses leading directly to the military, I would say that we would see new levels of hostility not yet seen in the country.
For their part, the military maintains it was these men who were behind the killings, the guerrilla fighters of the Free Papua Movement known as the TPN/OPM.
NURDIN WENDA, OPM COMMANDER (Translation): The TPN/OPM want independence by 2002. That's all we want. The commanders, and everyone, want independence.
These men came down from the mountains to speak to Dateline. They took the risk because they wanted the chance to put forward their story. Their staff commander is Nurdin Wenda.
NURDIN WENDA (Translation): Indonesia says it was the OPM who killed the Americans, but that's not true.
Nurdin Wenda's boss is Titus Murib, a senior commander for the Timika region, where the killings took place. Murib has been named by the Indonesians as a primary suspect, because he's armed and active in the region. The OPM is a heavily fractured movement. Supreme Commander Mathias Wenda is currently in exile across the border in Papua New Guinea. These men claim allegiance to Mathias Wenda, but they've been known to operate independently, such as when Murib chose to kidnap two Belgian film-makers last year.
TITUS MURIB, COMMANDER TIMIKA REGION (Translation): So why do they call us a gang of terrorists? Calling us terrorists. We are not terrorists. We want independence.
Held for two months, the release of the hostages almost fell through at the final hour when a dispute broke out between the kidnappers and one of the men who came to rescue them.
MAN: Sorry. Sorry. I apologise. I apologise. I'm only human too.
MAN: That's enough, enough!
They eventually got out, but without their camera or this tape, which was handed on to SBS. For the OPM, there's a new sense of urgency in their fight for independence. They fear, unless they achieve it soon, Papuans will be swamped in their own land.
SIDNEY JONES: And it's almost now the case that Papuans have become a minority in their own land. It's about 50/50 migrants and indigenous people at the moment.
Even though the official transmigration program has been stopped, Indonesian migrants continue to pour in from mainly Muslim and overcrowded Java. Whoever is responsible for killing the teachers, it's clear that, until there's a political resolution to the question of independence, violence and injustice under Indonesian rule will continue.