Ex-Antiterror Chief Set to Be New Papua Police Chief
The former head of Indonesia’s elite
anti-terrorism unit is set to become the new Papua Police chief,
according to a copy of the decision letter obtained by the Jakarta
Brig. Gen. Tito Karnavian, 47, was head
of Densus 88 from 2004 until last year, when he was appointed deputy
chief of the recently formed National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).
Under his watch, Densus 88 was able to arrest or kill several key
members of the Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization Jemaah
Islamiyah, including Noordin M. Top and Azhari.
Tito is replacing Insp. Gen. Bigman
Lumban Tobing, who critics say has failed to secure Papua, which has
seen increasing violence since late last year.
The decision letter was dated Sept. 3,
2012. The official handover ceremony is usually held one week after
the decision letter is signed.
Rumors that Tito was being considered
for the Papua post have been circulating since June in response to
the escalating conflict in the restive region.
Indonesia Police Watch chairman Neta S.
Pane has previously voiced opposition to the move, saying the police
should choose someone who could consolidate the security apparatus in
Papua and engage the citizenry in dialogue, not clamp down with
increasingly harsh force.
“We strongly reject the efforts of
the National Police to deploy Densus 88 in Papua because the problem
in Papua is not terrorism but prolonged socioeconomic gaps,” Neta
said in June.
Police have said the violence in Papua
was the work of the separatist Papua Free Organization (OPM). On
Sunday, Papua Police successfully arrested 22 OPM members, including
its leader Daniel Kogoya, who is said to have claimed responsibility
for several spouts of violence and shooting incidents in the past
Densus 88, frequently criticized by
human rights organization for its harsh treatment of terrorism
suspects, has been involved in a number of crackdowns against
separatists in Papua and Maluku, with officers saying their
participation was justified because the nation’s Law on Terrorism
categorizes armed insurgence as an act of terrorism.
August last year, counterterrorism officers were deployed in Papua
after four people were killed in an ambush by suspected armed
separatists in Nafri village, on the outskirts of Jayapura.
Last week, the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation ran a story on Papuans testifying that Densus 88, which
is trained and supplied by the Australian government, was involved in
the June killing of Mako Tabuni, then-chairman of the
pro-independence West Papua National Committee (KNPB).