military police suspects
Two air force military police personnel have been named suspects after conducting excessive force against a Papuan man. Courtesy of Jubi.

Air Force dismisses two chiefs following racial abuse by members


Jakarta, Jubi – The Indonesian Military Air Force (TNI AU) has dismissed two commanders in Merauke Regency following the recent unlawful conduct by two of its members against a Papuan man.


Air Force chief of staff Air Chief Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo said in a written statement on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, he would replace Johannes Abraham Dimara Airbase chief Col. Herdy Arief Budiyanto and the Military Police Unit chief of the JA Dimara Airbase Maj. Antariksa Irawan.


Previously, TNI commander Air Chief Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto told journalists he had ordered the Air Force chief of staff (KSAU) to remove the two commanders.



“I have ordered the KSAU to dismiss the Airbase chief and the Airbase’s Military Police Unit chief,” Tjahjanto said on Wednesday, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.


Tjahjanto said he was furious. He considered both commanders were unable to manage and educate their members that two of those members, Second Sgt. Dimas Harjanto and Second Pvt. Rian Febrianto, allegedly committed violence against a civilian. Moreover, the victim, named Steven, is a person with a speech disability.


The two officers accused Steven of being drunk, pinned him down, and stepped on his head while he was unarmed and showed no resistance, as shown in the video going viral on social media since Tuesday. The video has triggered another debate about racism against Indigenous Papuans and has been compared to the footage of the police brutality against George Floyd, a black man, in the United States last year.


Tjahjanto, however, did not mention anything about the military police action being racist.


“[These commanders] don’t raise their members to be sensitive, why treating a person with disability like that? That’s what makes me angry,” he said.


Meanwhile, the Military Police Unit of JA Dimara Airbase has named both Harjanto and Febrianto suspects of criminal acts of violence by investigators.


“The suspects are detained for the next 20 days for further investigation,” said TNI Information Service chief Air. Cdre. Indan Gilang Buldansyah.


Papuan lawmaker Yan Mandenas of House of Representatives Commission I appreciated the TNI’s quick response in holding the suspects accountable before the law. However, Mandenas said, legal proceedings and dismissal of the commanders from their posts were not enough. He said the TNI needed an internal reform to educate each of its members with the human rights perspective, in order to combat racism and discrimination.


“This is not the first time such incident [of police brutality against Papuans] happened. It only indicates the perpetuation of racism [against Papuan people],” Mandenas told Jubi on Wednesday.


According to him, the two Air Force officers committed their actions because they felt entitled to do so. “This is an illustration of a racist thought, wherein a person feels they are superior that they have the right to oppress other people they consider as inferior,” he said.

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