Villager Killed in Clash at Contested Site

KLUNGKUNG

A long-running land dispute between villagers in Klungkung claimed its first life on Saturday, when a 52-year-old man was apparently killed by a stray police bullet during violent clashes.

The conflict over access and usage of a temple complex and a graveyard has led to a number of confrontations between residents of Kemoning and Budaga in Semarapura district over recent months, with a number of police officers on permanent duty at the site since July to prevent violence.

Saturday’s trouble erupted after villagers from Budaga erected a signboard declaring the contested sites to be within their customary boundary.

On Saturday afternoon clashes took place, resulting in dozens of injuries and the death of one man. According to witnesses dozens of rival villagers through stones and petrol bombs at each other.

When officers from the National Police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob), who had been tasked with maintaining order, attempted to separate the villagers they also came under attack, and fired warning shots in an attempt to disperse the crowds.

Several people suffered bullet wounds, including 52-year-old I Ketut Ariaka from Budaga who allegedly suffered a gunshot to the head. He was taken to hospital but died of his injuries.

Two police officers were also injured during the violence.

Speaking on Sunday chief Bali Police spokesman Hariadi said that the situation was now under control, and that seven people had been detained for questioning over the clashes.

“The situation is safe once more,” he said.

Hariadi said that officers had only fired rubber bullets during the violence, and that the autopsy on the dead man had failed to recover a bullet from his head wounds. He said that all shots were fired according to protocol, and had not been aimed directly at the crowd.

“It was not a stray bullet. The shots that were fired by the officers at the time were aimed downwards to dispel the crowds, so maybe some bounced upwards,” he said. “It’s still not clear whether the victim was hit by a police bullet or not, because the bullet was not found by the doctors,” he said.

Hariadi urged locals to remain calm and to work to solve the dispute through discussion rather than violence. He added that the trouble would mar Bali’s tourist image as “paradise.”

The disputed site remained calm over the weekend. Speaking on Monday, Klungkung Police Commissioner I Gede Suwahyu, said that there had been no further reports of trouble.

“The situation and conditions appear to be back to normal, and the people of Budaga and Kemoning appear to be carrying out their usual daily activities,” he said, adding that a number of officers were still on duty at the site.

“Officers are still maintaining tight security. We will withdraw them only if the situation is totally normal,” he said, adding that various homemade weapons and petrol bombs had been seized from local residents following Saturday’s clashes.

Bali Police chief Totoy Herawan Indra and Governor I Made Mangku Pastika visited Klungkung on Monday to discuss the issue and to visit 28 wounded villagers who were undergoing treatment in hospitals in Semarapura.

Pastika said he called for tough measures to prevent further clashes.

“When I say tough measures I don’t mean that violence is justified. But strength is required to ensure there is no wider or repeated trouble,” he said, adding that he felt that no apologies or assistance should be offered to the wounded villagers.

“If they require medical treatment, they won’t be covered by any health insurance. They’re hurt because they went looking for it,” he said.

Meanwhile, family members of Ariaka in Budaga said that they had had little information about his death, and that the body was still being held in the forensics department of Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar. Ariaka’s son, I Gede Suardana, is currently overseas working on a cruise ship, relatives said.

“The information is still confusing about the cause of death of I Ketut Ariaka,” said relative I Wayan Parwata while speaking to reporters in Budaga on Monday. “We have not received information about the cause of death.”

Parwata said that Ariata was a law-abiding man who had never previously been involved in trouble.

“The victim was known as a quiet man, but a good worker. All this time he had very rarely done crazy things,” he said.

Other locals claimed that the police had used excessive force during the trouble.

“The officers were very cruel toward the people. There were many victims because of the police’s actions. Some were injured by bullets shot by the officers and some were wounded after the police kicked them,” said Nengah Sudarya, uncle of the dead man.

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