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No Densus 88 in Papua, at least not yet, police say

Jakarta Globe - June 20, 2012

Farouk Arnaz & Markus Junianto Sihaloho – The National Police denied on Monday that it was planning to send counterterrorism unit Densus 88 to Papua, saying the recent spate of deadly violence there qualified purely as criminal activity.

The statement was a response to concerns raised on Saturday by Indonesia Police Watch, which accused the police of preparing to send in the elite unit.

"Densus will be deployed if terrorism occurred there," National Police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution said. "Densus has a lot on its plate, so for now we will not send them. We're just going to wait for instructions from the regional police chief, because the regional police chief understands the conditions there better."

On Saturday, IPW chairman Neta S. Pane said police were set on replacing the current Papua Police chief with Brig. Gen. Tito Karnavian, the former Densus 88 head and now the deputy chief of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).

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, Neta said.

"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.

Saud said the National Police would only send Densus 88 to Papua if the Papua Police chief could explain his suspicions of terrorism there. "It would be a waste if we sent Densus just like that," Saud said. "[The perpetrators in Papua] are purely criminal. We will develop [the case] once we capture all of the perpetrators."

Saud, also a former Densus 88 chief, claimed the situation in Papua was returning to normal. Police officers there were making sure of that, he said. "Regarding mysterious shootings there, the National Police's criminal unit is assisting the Papua Police's special team with the investigation," he said.

House of Representatives Commission I, which oversees security and foreign affairs, said it would take special measures to solve the problems in Papua.

"We, the leaders, agreed to set up a working committee," Commission I deputy chairman Tubagus Hasanuddin said in Jakarta on Monday. "We will discuss what [the current situation] is like. The solution that needs to be pushed by all of us is to find a peaceful and dignified solution by not using firearms."