Team begins Theys murder probe

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 February, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 February, 2002, 12:00am

A government team flew to Papua - formerly Irian Jaya - yesterday to investigate the murder three months ago of independence leader Theys Eluay.

Led by ex-police general Koesparmono Irsan, the team has been attacked by rights activists since it was set up by presidential decree on February 5.

Irian Jaya police chief Inspector-General Made Mangku Pastika was one of the first to point to military involvement in the murder, saying the police could go no further because of that.

The abduction and murder of Theys on November 11 is proving hard to 'solve' because the Indonesian military's special forces, Kopassus, are implicated. Finding an explanation plausible enough to persuade Jakarta it can wash its hands of the issue may take time.

A key question is whether the Kopassus forces were ordered by the highest levels of government in Jakarta first to invite Theys to dinner, then abduct and asphyxiate him, or whether the Kopassus personnel involved were freelancing for other interests.

Rights groups such as the Papua-based Institute of Human Rights Study and Advocacy (Elsham), led by John Rumbiak, insist the murder is a political crime and needs international investigatory support.

One theory, proposed by business and intelligence sources, is that Kopassus soldiers were hired by a business competitor to Theys.

This theory suggests that a handful of elite soldiers can be bought for about 10 million rupiah (HK$7,650). Some who advance it allege Theys' ambivalent personality and complex business profile were more than enough to prompt such a contract hit.

Few people expect a clear answer, and certainly no previous government investigation of a sensitive political crime gives any cause to assume answers will be found.

Two Papuan members of the team have already quit, one claiming medical reasons and the other saying the problem is political.

'Basically, I think that institutions formed according to the law are already there and the police investigation is already quite comprehensive. What is now needed is the support of the state,' said Simon Patrice Morin, a native-Papuan legislator of Indonesia's formerly ruling Golkar Party. President Megawati Sukarnoputri should use her power 'to back up the police findings'.

In what some observers liken to a farcical 'whodunnit', military investigators recently conducted a search of the Kopassus compound outside the Papuan capital, Jayapura - three months after Theys had dinner there.

The 25-man team looked through the troops' dormitory and checked the dinner hall where Theys ate before being abducted on his way home.

More chilling is the repeat of the terminology used about previous rights abuses.

Just as the military murder of hundreds of mourners at the Santa Cruz cemetery in East Timor in November 1991 was merely called an 'incident', so too is Theys' murder being called an incident rather than a crime.

The London-based Tapol rights group says the investigations appear geared to conclude that the murder was carried out by 'rogue elements' in the military. But other rights activists see the entire armed forces as a rogue institution.

At least three Papuan-based, non-governmental organisations - Elsham, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence and the Legal Aid Institute - say the presidential probe team and the separate military team should be disbanded. 'Apart from a lack of credibility, the establishment of the teams are not legal,' said Elsham's executive director, Johanes Bonay.

He and his colleague, Mr Rumbiak, have received death threats for advocating human rights, and their supporters fear their days are numbered.