As President celebrates ‘Sail Raja Ampat’, one of his critics is abducted, killed and dumped at sea
On 19th August, Martinus Yohame in his role as the chair of the Sorong
Branch of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) held a press
conference, explaining his organisation’s opposition to the Indonesian
President’s visit to the area to open the Sail Raja Ampat event aimed at
promoting tourism to Papua. He also raised the issue of illegal logging.
The next day he disappeared.
As friends and colleages spent the subsequent days searching for him,
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono opened the sailing regatta, where he
once again promised extra funds to develop infrastructure for
infrastructure in Papua, and also inaugurated a statue of Jesus Christ
on Marsinam Island near Manokwari. Then on the 26th, a fisherman found
the body of Martinus Yohame floating by the shore in at Nana Island,
near Sorong. He had been shot in the chest, his face smashed up, and
with another wound in his stomach. He had been placed in a sack, with
his arms and legs tied. His abductors remain unknown.
This story has not yet received widespread coverage in the Papuan media,
and at the time of writing the KNPB had yet to issue a statement on its
website. Tabloidjubi however has picked up the story – here is a
translation of one of their articles:
Deceased Sorong KNPB Chair believed to have been disappeared.
Jayapura, 26/8 (Jubi) – Martinus Yohame, Chair of the Greater Sorong
area branch of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) was found found
dead floating near the shore of Nana Island, in the Doom Island area of
Sorong. He is believed to have been diasppeared.
A spokesperson for the Papua-wide KNPB, Basoka Logo made this clear
to tabloidjubi.com. He said that previously on the evening of Wednesday
20th August, the KNPB had received information that Martinus Yohame had
“But we can’t be sure yet who his captors were. Now today we have
heard the news that he has been found dead.. We cannot yet say which
group is responsible for his diasppearance. At the current time we are
still unsure,” Basoka Logo said via his mobile phone on Tuesday (26/8)
He explained that the late Martinus Yohame was responsible for the
Bird’s Head peninsula area of West Papua. He could not give any further
information at the time as he had not receieved a full report from his
colleages in Sorong.
“Just now we only received a short report about the death of the
Sorong KNPB Chair – what I know is that he was found near the Kota Baru
area, and his body is currently lying at the Sorong KNPB secretariat”,
At present, according to Logo, colleagues in Sorong are still
collecting data and statements about the death of the Chair of the KNPB
in Sorong. “Only when this is done will we be able to give a full
statement. The First Chair of the KNPB central organisation, Agus Kosay
just arrived in Sorong by plane. It was him that officially reported to
us that it was true the Chair of the KNPB in Sorong had been found,” he
The chair of the KNPB in the Bird’s Head region, including Greater
Sorong, Martin Yohame, was tragically found dead some time before, His
body was discovered by a fisherman on Tuesday morning (26/8) at around
7.00 am local time floating near Nana Island, not far from the Doom
Island area. When found, Martinus’s body had been tied up tightly in a
sack. Both his legs and arms had also been tied, presumably hoping his
body would sink to the bottom of the ocean.
According to the Sorong City General Hospital’s examination, a
gunshot wound was found on the left side of his chest. The victims face
was also smashed up by being hit by a hard object, “We found a gunshot
wound in his left chest. His face was destroyed,” said Yori, a worker at
The Sorong police chief Adjunct Commissioner Harri Golden Hart
confirmed that a body had been found. “We are still in the process of
identification, and finding out whether it is true that he was killed,”
After the autopsy, the victim’s family and KNPB members brought the
victim’s body to be laid out in the house of mourning in Malanu village,
in the Papua Christian Universtiy complex.
From data collected by tabloid jubi, the external examination
conducted at the Sorong Ctiy General Hospital revealed a hole in the
left chest 1x1cm, and another in the right side of the stomach of around
2x3cm. The man’s height was 179 centimetres and he had dreadlocks.
Before his body was found, the KNPB had issued a statement with some
further details of the press conference and what happened afterwards,
along with their guesses for possible abductors and their motives. This
is an excerpt from that statement, as published on umaginews.com:
We believe that the Sorong KNPB chair was abducted by Kopassus [army
special forces] or BIN [state intelligence agency] because on the 20th
he received a phonecall from someone and went outside. Now five days
have passed but he hasn’t been found.
Previously on 19th August Martinus Yohame and other KNPB officials
held a press conference at 15.00 Papuan time in front of the Sorong
Mayor’s office, attended by several reporters from the Sorong area, in
connection with the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s
visit to Papua and in particular to the Sorong area to open the Sail
Raja Ampat event in Waisai, on Saturday 23rd August 2014.
Martinus Yohame, supported by the deputy chair of the KNPB, Kantius
H, invited journalists from several print media organisations to use
information from the press conference in their reports about the
president’s visit KNPB used the opportunity to express their
opposition to President SBY’s visit to the land of Papua.
At the same time they expressed their opposition to illegal logging,
exploiting Papua’s natural riches and developing Raja Ampat as a Global
Marine Tourism centre, all of which they judge to be stealing from and
destroying Papua’s ecosystems and forests with no benefit for the people
of Papua as a whole who own the land and resources.
This is why the KNPB and the PRD (People’s Regional Parliament) are
clear in their opposition. We believe he was abducted by the security
forces or the intelligence agency as part of their efforts to secure
SBY’s visit, which the KNPB opposes.
Just two minutes after the press meeting finished at 3.15, a woman
telephoned the KNPB Sorong chair. This woman claimed to be from the
National Human Rights Commission in Jakarta, and she wanted to meet.
Several moments later, she came to meet the KNPB chair and his group
outside the mayor’s office in a red Avanza. Inside was a man with a
large Canon video camera, and they invited Martinus Yohame to accompany
them to the Sorong Mega Mall, at the 9km post. The woman then took them
to eat in a cafe next to the Megamall, and while they ate they held a
meeting, although it is not known what they spoke about in this meeting.
Before the meeting broke up, he and the woman exchanged mobile phone
numbers. The woman then said that “the next meeting will take place on
Wednesday 20th August and we will get in touch”.
Afterwards they maintained communication via telephone and text
message, with the last message on Wednesday 20th at 12.00 Papua time.
That night they told Martinus to leave his house and it was on the
street that they abducted him. He has not been found until now….
Source: Umagi News
The West Papua National Committee is an organisation that believes West
Papua should have the right to self determination. It was formed in
around 2009, but after it gained prominence with a series of large
demonstrations demanding a referendum on independence there was a major
crackdown, with many leaders around Papua jailed or killed, especially
in 2012. Since that wave of repression, the KNPB has found it difficult
to organise, as local leaders are often detained a day or two days
before a planned demonstration or significant event.
If elements of the Indonesian State were indeed responsible for Martinus
Yohame’s disappearance, it is likely that he was targeted for his
pro-independence stance. However, it is worth remembering that in the
press conference before he disappeared Martinus Yohame also spoke of the
problems of illegal logging and the tourism industry, and he is not the
first KNPB leader have raised the issues of natural resource
development that marginalises the Papuan people. At the same time,
indigenous people are threatened by state security forces of being
treated as separatists when they state their opposition to development
projects. The climate of intimidation in Papua is not limited to the
independence movement alone, but impacts all areas in which Papuan
people need to assert their needs and desires for a more just future.
As Martinus Yohame was being brutally beaten, or maybe he was already
dead by that time, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was nearby on Raja
Ampat celebrating the progress made in his development-focussed strategy
for Papua, making statements such as “ lets keep going with the positive
development that has already been achieved in Papua and West Papua”. His
audience of civil servants and tourism executives listened and watched
as a flotilla of boats including 14 Indonesian navy ships as well as
warships from the US, Australia and Singapore joined a sail past. Media
hailed the event as a great success.