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New Papua police chief vows to touch the hearts of Papuans

Jakarta Globe - September 21, 2012

Farouk Arnaz – Papua's new police chief vowed to take a grassroots approach to stopping the violence that has plagued this restive province during his swearing in ceremony on Friday.

"I will approach the Papuan society at the grassroots level," Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian said. "This is a matter of hearts that we have to touch. I don't think my background will be a problem because when we talk of matters of the heart, we no longer differentiate between ethnicity, religion or race."

The Palembang, South Sumatra, native was formerly the head of Indonesia's anti-terrorism squad Densus 88 from 2004 to 2011. He was then appointed as deputy chief of the recently formed National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).

Tito, 47, holds a masters degree in strategic studies and a certificate in terrorism studies from the Nanyang Technological University Singapore. He replaced outgoing chief Insp. General Bigman Lumban Tobing in a ceremony at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta on Friday.

Bigman attracted the attention of critics after a series of high-profile shootings grabbed national headlines. Critics say that Papua had gotten increasingly violent under Bigman's watch.

Tito told the crowd that the region's violence can be curbed through enforcement. He declined to detail the department's plan for addressing a recent spate of violent attacks near Freeport MacMoRan's Grasberg mine. "Give me time. This needs to be evaluated," Tito said.

Gunmen have opened fire on Indonesian Military (TNI) and Freeport security vehicles twice in recent weeks.

Indonesia has been fighting against a low-scale insurgency waged by armed pro-independence groups like the Free Papua Movement (OPM) since the resource-rich province was annexed in a 1963 vote that critics say was rigged.

The OPM and pro-independence groups have alleged that the central government has siphoned off the region's riches and committed numerous human rights violations against ethnic Papuans.