The New Zealand foreign minister, Murray McCully, has defended a US$5 million commitment to a three-year community policing programme in eastern Indonesia, including Papua and West Papua.
The programme, which follows a pilot in 2009/10, is to be funded by the New Zealand aid programme and implemented by New Zealand police.
The government's move has been criticised, with the Green Party saying New Zealand should be putting resources into facilitating dialogue between the West Papuans and Jakarta.
Mr McCully told Sally Round why the government chose to go with the community policing programme.
MURRAY McCULLY: It's simply an area that New Zealand has had a long-term interest in providing assistance in. We believe that to the extent that there have been difficulties in relation to Papua, those are best dealt with by encouraging police and others in authority to understand good community policing initiatives. And that's a capability that we're providing through the Indonesian government at the moment. We've got similar programmes in place in Timor-Leste, where with the UN policing project being brought to a conclusion, New Zealand has got a lateral community policing initiative. It's one of the great aspects of New Zealand police that we are world-class at community policing and that's something we're doing in West Papua.
SALLY ROUND: So is it manpower? Funding? Training?
MM: It's training. As i say, we have world-class specialist capability in the area of community policing and that's something that we provide through having good trainers, provide visits, conduct seminars, those sorts of things.
SR: There has been some criticism of the initial pilot project done in 2010 that it's not actually changed anything on the ground in the region, that police violence remains commonplace in eastern Indonesia, West Papua, the Papua region. So why pour US$5 million into this project?
MM: We're doing that over a number of years, of course. I'm aware that the critics will say things are not perfect in relation to West Papua, so we should do nothing. I think the New Zealand view has always been that to the extent that things need to be improved, we should be trying to help, and that's what we're trying to do here.
SR: Some critics say that New Zealand should, indeed, not be doing nothing, but they should actually be facilitating dialogue, like peace talks between those seeking independence and the Indonesian government. Would that be an option for New Zealand?
MM: Well, the whole basis for community policing is training people to be able to use their authority in a way that's going ot engender respect from the locals - precisely the expertise that New Zealand imparts through the community policing project.
SR: And did the pilot project come up with specific proof that that was happening?
MM: I didn't undertake the assessment, that was done by officials. But clearly they didn't recommend that we carry out the project because they were dissatisfied with the pilot. They obviously thought the pilot had gone some way towards contributing to a better environment in West Papua, and that's why the recommendation was made and I accepted that recommendation.
SR: But would you give any thought at all to some sort of intermediary mediatory role, given New Zealand's good record on this?
MM: I'm more broadly aware of a lot of work that is going on in Indonesia at the moment to improve that overall environment and to improve communication in relation to West Papua. I think that the Green Party and others who want to go pointing fingers at difficulties in West Papua need to get themselves updated on the significant amount of work that is being done by parties in Indonesia, in West Papua and Papua New Guinea to achieve better understanding and to try and improve overall relationships. There's a lot of good work being done, and I want to see the New Zealand government play its part in reinforcing that work, rather than simply standing back, as the critics do, and trying to identify problems.
SR: And that will be mostly through this community policing. Anything else that you have in mind here?
MM: No, we're part of a conversation that involves, as I say, a number of players within the region to try and improve the overall operating environment. We certainly are active in Indonesia generally in trying to assist in this space. And I think that we'll continue to do that as opportunities arise.