Indonesia Human Rights Commissioner Concerned About Papua

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Abuses blamed on police inability to adapt to democracy

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 18, 2014) – The chair of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights has blamed police abuses in Papua province on the failure of the force to "adapt" to a democratic Indonesia.

Dr Hafid Abbas said he is "deeply concerned" by reports of police using excessive force in the troubled province, which has a long history of violent civil unrest, and he has raised his concerns with new president, Joko Widodo.

Five people died from gunshot wounds after a clash on December 8 between security forces and protestors in the Papuan town of Enarotali.

Police and military personnel fired live ammunition at about 800 demonstrators, including women and children, according to Human Rights Watch.

Meanwhile, a report this week by Kontras, an Indonesian rights NGO, found that 27 of the 67 human rights violations reported in Papua this year were committed by police.

"That's my deep concern - the excessive force by the police," Dr Abbas told the ABC's Pacific Beat program.

"The police [spent] 30 years under [former president and dictator] Suharto, 32 years under the military system. The separation of military and police was made just over a decade ago, so it's in transition.

"The mindset of the police has not comprehensively moved from the old system, the old paradigm, the old habits to the new one.

"Indonesia now is a new Indonesia. We have democratised our system. We transformed our system from an authoritarian regime to democracy.

"The police have not yet fully recovered and have not fully adapted to the new Indonesia."

Province faced decade-long insurgency

Under Suharto's rule from 1965 to 1998, the country's armed forces committed numerous human rights abuses in the provinces of Aceh and Papua, as well as in East Timor.

A separatist insurgency has been waged for decades in Papua, Indonesia's eastern-most island and home to one of the world's biggest copper mines.

President Widodo, who visited the province during his election campaign, has pledged to deliver a more equitable share of the province's mineral resources to its people, most of whom live in poverty.

"We cannot create security without development, because people need hospitals, people need electricity, need water, need transportation," Dr Abbas said.

He said he shared his concerns with the president before the violence last week.

"We discussed the need to reform the police and I had the very strong impression from the new president, the new administration, there's quite a strong commitment," Dr Abbas said.

"There should not be any violence. There should be appropriate justice. We need to solve the existing human rights and the past human rights cases in Papua."

President Widodo plans to visit the province next week to celebrate Christmas with the Papuan people, according to the Jakarta Post, despite calls from local church leaders for him to cancel because of the recent violence.

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