Police chief says soldiers killed Theys

The accusation is certain to widen the rift between the police and the army, which has brushed aside the charges.

In a move certain to ignite fresh conflict with the Indonesian army’s top brass, the country’s newly-appointed police chief has accused rogue Special Forces elements of complicity in the murder of Irian Jaya independence leader Theys Eluay.

General Dai Bachtiar told reporters over the weekend that his officers were also having a difficult time cracking the case because of barriers being put up by the military.

He refused to comment further on details of the investigation.

But a police intelligence source said that seven members of the elite force were being held as suspects in Jayapura, the capital of Irian Jaya.

“We have evidence to prove that they killed Theys,” he told The Straits Times yesterday. Kopassus commander Amirul Isnaeni brushed aside the charges, saying that the seven who were being held were not members of Irian Jaya’s Trikora military command or from Jakarta.

Reflecting the sentiments of other top generals, he maintained that the military top command would never have sanctioned the murder of the 64-year-old Theys.

“They are only suspects. They have not been charged,” he said.

Major-General Amirul’s polite rebuff was but the tip of the iceberg of growing military resentment that their counterparts were taking steps to “demonise” the Kopassus further and push the military into a corner.

Said an army general: “How can we take seriously any police findings? They can never seem to get the facts right.”The police are claiming that they have done their homework this time but are being constrained by the army generals in prosecuting those responsible.

According to a report submitted to President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the police investigation revealed that the team of seven soldiers had ambushed Mr Theys after returning from a meeting held in the Trikora command.

He was waylaid, forcibly taken out from his car and strangled. His badly beaten body was found under the car by a search party close to the border with Papua New Guinea.

The police intelligence source said that eyewitness accounts and the modus operandi pointed to military involvement. Even prior to Gen Dai’s statement on the matter, it has been an open secret that the military elements were behind the murder.

Observers said that the motive behind the killing was clear: political.

Mr Theys, they said, was perceived to be too involved in a separatist struggle, which some hawkish generals felt could be heading in the direction of that the other restive province – Aceh.

Army chief Endriartono Sutarto, already feeling the heat on allegations of the military’s involvement, has been repeatedly denying the accusations. But he did not rule out the possibility of it having taken place outside his command.

He said recently: “There was no single army policy on Theys. Even if something was done by any of my men, it was done without official orders.”

Political observers said that it is easy in Indonesia to order an assassination these days. A team of hit men from either the military or police could cost as low as 10 million rupiah (S$1,800).

Said the US official: “It is murder for cheap and these soldiers do a very professional job buffered by layers of protection from being caught.”

Several legislators said that they would call for the army and police leadership to explain the sordid affair to a parliamentary hearing.

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