Indonesia has axed a multimillion dollar police training program in West Papua because police intelligence reports suggested there were “hidden motives” behind the New Zealand-funded program.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) confirmed late last month that the $5.4 million project, which was scheduled to start early this year, had been put off, but refused to answer specific questions about the issue.
On Tuesday, however, the deputy chief of the Indonesia National Police, Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti, cited concerns about the program’s motives as the reason for its cancellation.
“We refused it based on the input from head of [the] Police’s Security Intelligent agency, Comr. Gen. Suparni Parto, that there could be a hidden motive behind the aid,” he said.
The three-year program, funded by the New Zealand Aid program and run by the New Zealand Police, followed a pilot project in Papua and West Papua in 2009-10.
It would have seen two full-time New Zealand police staff deployed to the Indonesian National Police office in Jayapura for three years, as well as short-term specialists, and aimed to provide training for up to 1,000 Indonesian police officers.
In October last year, New Zealand foreign affairs minister Murray McCully said the training program would help support the Indonesian National Police to improve community policing skills in the Papua, West Papua and Maluku.
But the supposedly political nature of the aid was said to have caused concern among the Indonesia National Police, who have faced persistent criticism for their human rights record in the country’s easternmost regions.
Badrodin said that New Zealand had insisted on training police in the restive provinces, and had rebuffed offers to train members of Indonesia’s police force elsewhere.
“They refused when we offered to change the training location to our training center in Makassar or in Java island. So what is going on?” he said.
When approached by the Jakarta Globe for comment, New Zealand’s foreign affairs ministry declined to say anything beyond a limited three paragraph statement.
The statement said that the future of the program, or whether funding would be reallocated, would depend on “priorities for development assistance” agreed upon by New Zealand and the incoming Indonesian Government.
The New Zealand Police would continue to work with their Indonesian counterparts in other areas, the statement said, including the provision of trainers to the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation.
News of the training’s cancellation has been met with relief in some quarters.
One member of New Zealand’s Parliament has said the country should never have been providing aid that perpetuated “an oppressive status quo.”
“We need to have a positive relationship with Indonesia and engage with them respectfully on the West Papua issue, challenging them to negotiate for peace,” Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty said.
She said the community policing model — which emphasized community engagement — was successful in countries where the government had a “robust and genuine commitment to human rights” and communities that could trust police.
“The opposite situation exists in West Papua where the rhetoric of human rights is undermined daily,” Delahunty said.
Andreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Indonesia, said the training program had “sent the wrong message,” because widespread impunity among security forces in the provinces persisted.
He cited two examples of alleged police abuses in Papua: the possible use of unnecessary lethal force by police against rock-throwing protesters in Papua in September 2013, and the crackdown of the Papuan People’s Congress in October 2011, where at least three people were killed and dozens injured.
“We repeatedly asked the Indonesian government to investigate abusive police officers in Papua but there’s no positive response from Jakarta,” Andreas said.
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