The Papua Police says it will not reduce the number of police officers guarding the gold and copper mine of US-based PT Freeport Indonesia in Papua despite the recent fatal shooting of a local separatist leader.
Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Bekto Suprapto said over the weekend the police could not see any improvements in the security situation around the mining site although they had shot dead in mid-December Kelly Kwalik, the alleged leader of the armed wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM).
The local military had blamed Kelly for masterminding a series of attacks on Freeport employees, accusations that Kelly had strenuously denied.
Kelly’s shooting sparked protests from both Papuans and national observers.
“We’re not reducing the number of personnel safeguarding the company because of a number of factors, such as Kelly Kwalik’s men who remain armed and can again cause disturbances in the area,” Bekto was quoted as saying by Antara in Jayapura.
In an incident last Thursday evening, several houses in Mimika Regency, where Freeport operates, were attacked by churchgoers in New Mimika District in what was seen as retaliation after firecrackers were thrown into the church compound.
No one was injured in the attacks, but tensions had been high in the surrounding areas as people prepared to celebrate New Year’s Eve, local officials and residents said.
Bekto said the attacks were proof the security situation in the area was still volatile.
He added, however, the police would not increase the number of its personnel, saying the forces already deployed were sufficient.
Bekto said the police would cooperate with local people to arrest other OPM leaders should they be suspected of disrupting security and order in Papua.
“With the partnership between the police and the communities, we hope we can maintain the security and order of the area,” he said.
Kelly was assassinated on Dec. 16 during a Papua Police raid on a house in Timika.
Bekto also said the police predicted an increase in the number of attacks by armed people against police stations and local communities in 2010.
“The occurrence of attacks on local communities is predicted to increase in outlying areas,” he said, adding that vulnerable regions included Merauke, Paniai and Jayapura in Papua and Manokwari in West Papua.
The Police, Bekto continued, also predicted an increase in the number of people staging rallies to protest the government’s policies.
Widespread smuggling of marijuana and other crimes committed by foreigners such as illegal poaching were predicted to remain high, Bekto claimed.
“We believe the drugs will be smuggled in from Papua New Guinea. Papua is a transit point for the contraband before it’s delivered to destination countries such as Australia,” Bekto said.
He said the local police would improve patrol and security measures in vulnerable areas such as crowded spots.
Bekto added the police would look to improve its professionalism to speed up handling of cases in
Earlier on New Year’s Day, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono conducted a spot inspection of the National Police headquarters in Jakarta to check the results of police measures to maintain security during the Christmas and New Year holidays across the country, referred to as Operasi Lilin (candle).
After being briefed by National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri, who said the operation was a success, the President held a teleconference with 30 provincial police chiefs, during which he told them to improve measures to maintain high levels of security in their respective regions.