Blame game starts in Nabire following deadly boxing riot

As the National Police revised downward the number of victims in the Sunday night stampede to 17 from 18, the blame game has started over who is responsible for the riot that began during a boxing championship in Papua’s Nabire regency.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto on Monday ordered a thorough investigation into the deadly stampede, which was prompted by a riot that broke out after spectators protested the match’s decision.

Djoko, however, implied that the organizer of the match could be blamed for failing to provide an appropriate venue.

“It is sad that spectators struggled to get out because only one exit door was opened. This should be a lesson for event organizers, not only those who arrange sporting events,” Djoko told reporters at the State Palace on Monday.

The riot broke out inside Kota Lama Sports Stadium on Sunday evening after supporters of the opposing boxers clashed due to a scoring discrepancy.

The victims — 11 of them women — were trampled to death as about 1,500 spectators scrambled out of the overcrowded stadium to escape the riot that broke out just before midnight on Sunday.

Kota Lama Sport Stadium had a maximum capacity of 500 to 600 people, he said.

Police said it had only two working exits.

A total of 84 boxers participated in the Bupati (Regent) Cup Championships that commenced on July 9 in the Papua province town of Nabire, Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo said.

The riot occurred after the final match of the 58-kilogram (128-pound) division between Alvius Rumkorem and Yulianus Pigome, who were said to be from different tribes, Roy said.

Points awarded by a panel of judges to Rumkorem triggered protests from Pigome supporters, he said.

The losing boxer’s supporters threw chairs at the judges and the winner’s supporters responded by throwing bottles and broken chairs, igniting spectator panic, the Associated Press reported.

National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said that nine of the 39 injured victims currently being treated at Nabire Regional Hospital were children.

Indonesian Amateur Boxing Committee chairman (PP Pertina) Reza Ali blamed the incident on the overcrowded stadium.

“Spectators flooded the stadium because Nabire Regent Isaias Douw told organizers to give away free tickets,” Reza said.

Following the incident, Isaias pledged that he would compensate victims.

Papua Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta said Isias pledged to give Rp 20 million (US$2000) to the family of each person killed in the incident.

“Those who sustained injuries will get free hospital treatment,” Gede said in Jayapura.

Meanwhile, Papua Pertina official Carol Renwari suspected that drunk spectators incited the riot.

As of Monday evening, the Nabire Police have questioned 12 witnesses, consisting of seven spectators and five officials from the boxing match’s organizers.

Security in Nabire returned to normal on Monday, with 1,250 police officers and soldiers deployed to secure government offices and other public facilities.

Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian visited Nabire, which is located on Cendrawasih Bay on the north coast of Papua with a population of around 170,000.

Indonesian Police Watch (IPW) issued a statement on Monday calling for Tito to resign from his post for failing to improve security conditions in the region.

IPW chairman Neta Pane said there had been too many incidents of violence under Tito’s watch, most of which had gone unresolved.

“In light of recent events, it is clear that it’s time for the Papua Police to be evaluated,” Neta said.
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