Catholic brother says one person was killed and two injured when police shot at villagers who refused to cut hair and beards.West Papua. Spokesperson for the Papuan provincial police Sulistyo Pudjo told Guardian Australia that the shooting occurred when police tried to disperse a mob that was attacking them. "There were provocateurs who were throwing rocks at the police and military. One military person was wounded," he said.
However, according to Father Santon Tekege, a Catholic brother who lives in the capital Jayapura but hails from the remote village in West Papua's Deiyai regency, the victims were targeted because they refused to cut their long hair and beards during a random police search operation.
Tekege told Guardian Australia that the Indonesian police's mobile brigade (Brimob) was carrying out a "sweeping" operation at the local market on Monday when the incident occurred. "Brimob had scissors to cut people's long hair and beards," Tekege said. "The police always stigmatise those with long hair, dreadlocks and long beards as being separatists."
West Papuans have been agitating for independence from Indonesia since the province was acquired with a sham ballot in 1969. "[The police] were also sweeping for nukens (traditional dillybags) that had designs of the Morning Star flag or had 'Papua' written on them," Tekege said. "Mobile phones were confiscated and Brimob was checking the songs on people's mobile phones."
When locals refused to comply with police they were shot, he said. Alpius Mote, 20, was killed, another was seriously injured, and a third person shot in the arm, according to Tekege. He said police also arrested two people, one of whom had since been released. Pudjo confirmed a shooting had occurred and that people were arrested, but denied the unrest began as an argument over long hair.
"Market day must have security and it just so happened there were lots of drunken people there and people gambling. Our officers reminded them not to get drunk at the market or they would disturb the traders.
"The people besieged the police and army," he said.
After the incident, Tekege said the regional government "put out a letter to the citizens urging them to be calm and not to carry out actions in retaliation".
When Guardian Australia spoke to him on Tuesday, he said: "Today things are still tense. Community members are at their offices as usual but civilians are scared to go out from their homes because Brimob, soldiers and police are still on number one [maximum] alert.
"All activities at the local community markets have stopped. They are still guarding the area."
Benny Giay, the moderator of West Papua's Kingmi Church who has family in Waghete, told Guardian Australia from Jayapura: "[The Indonesian authorities] think that Papuans who have long hair are uncivilised so they go around and try to cut their hair. They did this in the 1980s as well.
"The man who was killed [on Monday] tried to raise his objections and he got shot. It was the actions of the police [that started the unrest] – they were going around with big scissors and cutting hair. If there was [a riot] it was a response to what the police were doing," he said.