Netherlands aims for sustainability in West Papua
The Netherlands government notes progress in a community policing programme it is funding in West Papua and takes stock of central problems around the involvement of West Papuans in development.
The deputy head of political affairs at the Netherlands Embassy in Indonesia says a socio-economic approach is not enough to address the problems of West Papua.
Maarten van den Bosch has just visited the Papua region where he checked on the progress of a Dutch-funded community policing programme.
The programme began in 2013 and has been training over five thousand personnel in community policing across three provinces: Papua, West Papua and Maluku.
Mr van den Bosch told Johnny Blades the emphasis of the programme is on fostering community participation.
MAARTEN VAN DEN BOSCH: The response that we've received especially from the government side is that they understand that providing security is a joint responsibility; and that it will take some time before it will actually show its impacts. But at the same time, for that reason they understand that they have to support it as well. That's not simply something you can do for a few years and then it comes by itself - it takes time. But I guess in the end it will benefit Papua, I think, also because it's more stability which will mean better conditions for social and economic development.
JOHNNY BLADES: So when you say that the government has seen the merits of this programme, is that sort of a recognition that the way policing has been conducted in Papua has been part of the problem there?
MVDB: That I don't know because I think that the problem is from both sides. Often you hear that there are problems with demonstrations, that they're being stopped
by police. But when you both the civil society and police, have you been in touch with each other before you organise a political rally or event, then that's often not the case. But the point of view of police often is that these rallies block the roads and form a threat for public order. In my country, it's quite normal that if you want to organise something, you have to notify the authorities and see if that fits into the schedule for the week. Communication is crucial for these kinds of things. Community policing is about communication.
JB: Netherlands has this huge history in Indonesia, and Papua region is of special interest to your country, I suppose, because it wasn't so long ago a part of your country?
MVDB: Yeah it has a different history than the rest of Indonesia. It was only in, I think, 1961 or 1962 that the sovereignty was transferred to Indonesia. No, indeed we have ba long history with Indonesia and Papua and recently we have been working there on a number of development issues: basic education, also through UNICEF, we also support a programme to strengthen local governments in terms of their budgeting and planning. But it's quite challenging to work in Papua given the remoteness of many areas, lack of infrastructure and complicated political situation as well. We know that in Papua there are people who have different opinions on this, and try to have a dialogue with the government of Indonesia. Often it's a bit unclear what the objective of the dialogue should be, but for the Dutch government it's important that it comes from both sides and not just one side.
JB: How does your government consider the situation there?
MVDB: I think the Indonesian government tries through a socio-economic approach to improve development in Papua. At the same moment I think other issues should also be addressed. A more inclusive approach. But I think that's something between the Papuan government... Papua and the central government.
JB: Did you get any feeling that this programme has been helping restore confidence in the system and in police amongst West Papuans?
MVDB: I think this programme is a bit different in the sense that we really aim to make it sustainable. So that's why we are engaging already for some time with the authorities in Maluku, Papua and West Papua, to explain about this programme and the whole concept and philosophy behind community policing. Often people think it's just a police project, but they seem to understand more and more that security and safety is a joint responsibility and not just simply a police responsibility. But of course, especially for Papua, it is quite a challenge with the political context in which you work. That makes it difficult. At the same moment, people see that you need to invest in and it will take some time. And we hope that others will continue supporting it, together with the authorities in the different provinces. But it's important also for the Indonesian police to also integrate local culture. Often there are people, police men and women who come from different parts of the country, who do not understand the local (Melanesian) culture. That's quite relevant for community policing.
JB: And that's part of the problem as well, isn't it: these people coming from other parts of Indonesia to Papua, in fact there's so many of them coming from other parts to Papua that the Papuans are probably a minority now, so Papuan culture is maybe increasingly the minority as well so there are problems stemming from that too, aren't there?
MVDB: Yeah indeed, that is what people often say. At the same moment, the numbers of the population and census numbers seem to be also a bit questionable at times. What is obvious is that a socio-economic approach towards Papua is not enough. You should try to come to an inclusive policy where also cultural and political issues are being addressed so that Papuans feel at home in their own place.
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