14 Jun 2014

NZ ambassador defends Papua programme

12:43 pm on 14 June 2014

New Zealand's ambassador to Indonesia has defended the intent behind a planned police training programme in Papua region.

David Taylor has responded to concern expressed by Indonesian police chiefs that New Zealand had a hidden motive behind the planned the US$5.4 million community policing training programme which Jakarta recently shelved.

The Jakarta Globe reports Mr Taylor saying New Zealand has only ever worked at the request of the Indonesian government.

Ambassador Taylor says Indonesian police informed their New Zealand counterparts several months ago that the project would be pulled.

However, he says the cancellation was not expressed in terms of concern about motives but rather in proximity to Indonesia's elections this year and related security concerns.

Mr Taylor acknowledges that New Zealand turned down an offer to train Indonesian police in Java or Makassar but said that was because the programme stressed practical training.

Meanwhile, a journalist and academic specialising in West Papua says New Zealand's efforts to train police in the province were a genuine attempt, but were doomed to fail.

Paul Bensemann, who travelled to Indonesia's Papua region to research his thesis last year, says that while that kind of policing may work in New Zealand, it's naive to think that it would have worked in Papua.

"There are still people being shot on the streets for raising independence flags, so it's a long way from walking the beat in a small country town."

A pilot version of the programme was held in Papua in 2009 and 2010, and deemed a success by New Zealand police.

Paul Bensemann says the West Papuans he spoke to about the police training programme were worried that Jakarta was using the programme as a way of appeasing the international community while security forces were mounting another crackdown on Papuan separatists.

West Papua is the scene of a separatist conflict that has seen thousands killed since the former dutch colony was controversially annexed in the 1960s.