Indonesian military police officers step on Papuan man’s head during humiliating assault

Screengrab from the now-viral video, which shows two officers from the Indonesian Air Force using excessive force against a Papuan man.
Screengrab from the now-viral video, which shows two officers from the Indonesian Air Force using excessive force against a Papuan man.

Two members of the Indonesian Air Force (TNI AU) are facing sanctions after footage showed them assaulting a visibly unarmed person with a disability, the clip of which has been widely circulating since last night.  

In the video, a Papuan man, who has been identified by his initial S, appears to be in the middle of an argument with the owner of a food stall. Two uniformed military police officers soon arrived at the scene before one of them aggressively put S’ arm in lock, while demanding S to explain himself and accusing him of being drunk. 

S, who did not react aggressively and clearly had a speech disability, was then dragged out of the stall to the sidewalk, where he was forced onto the ground with one officer’s knee on his back. As S was being threatened, the other officer placed his foot on S’ head in an apparent show of arrogance.

S was not killed in the incident, which took place on Monday in Merauke, Papua. But images from the viral video are eerily reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd, a Black American man who suffocated to death when a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck last June. 

Floyd’s death triggered anti-racism protests around the world, including in Indonesia, where it inspired virtual solidarity for Papuans, who have been subject to grave injustices throughout Indonesian history. 

TNI AU has moved swiftly to address the viral video, with top officials offering an apology and promising that the officers involved will be “punished accordingly.”

“As the Air Force Chief of Staff, I want to convey my sincere apology to all our brothers and sisters in Papua … This incident is entirely the fault of our members and there are no underlying intentions whatsoever, especially not official instructions,” Air Force Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo said in a video published last night.

“We will evaluate all of our members and take firm action against the perpetrator at fault.” 

The incident has also caught the central government’s attention, with President Joko Widodo’s Chief of Staff Moeldoko issuing a statement this morning, expressing “regret” over the incident, which they described as unlawful conduct and a form of excessive force.  

Yet what happened to S was “not the first time” such an incident has occurred, as pointed out by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) in a series of tweets. 

“This shows how racism against Papuans has been planted in the minds of authorities,” LBH Jakarta wrote. 

Also Read — Anti-racism protests in the US are shining the light on racism against Papuans in Indonesia

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