Police chief: On high alert for election period, warnsagainst mass meetings in Papua

Police chief: On high alert for election period, warnsagainst mass meetings in Papua

Cenderawasih Pos
Abridged translation by TAPOL

In anticipation of disturbances during the election campaigning period, the chief of police has announced that starting today, 30 March, the police are on Stage 1 alert in the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

'This doesn't mean that the situation is serious,' he said, but the police need to stand ready in the days leading to the election,' he said.

He said that some groups were calling for the election to be boycotted, as well as a statement by Goliath Tabuni who said he would try to disrupt the election . Police chief Bagus Ekodanto said that police were being deployed to guard a number of polling stations, including those in remote areas.

He said he has also issued a special regulation about ensuring that the right to freedom of speech used in public is exercised calmly. 'This regulation bans the holding of demonstrations, rallies and the delivery of speeches that could attract a large number of people. The regulation will remain in force from 30 March until 13 April which is after the votes have been counted. '

Views could be expressed, he said, but without mobilising masses of people, while not violating Law 9, 1998 regarding freedom to express opinions in public. 'Basically, I am not prohibiting people from expressing their opinions in public as long as it does not attract large numbers of people or disturbs public order.'

He said that he had informed the governor of this decision which is in accord with the Special Autonomy Law and that the governor was in agreement.

'To make it quite clear, if there are groups that try to force their opinions and mobilise a large number of people, we will take firm action, in accordance with the laws in force,' he said.

He said that action would be taken against those who violate the law, and the penalty will be increased by one third of that established in the law. [This is surely a gross violation of the rule of law, proclaimed by none other that the chief of police!]

There are reports circulating about a move to boycott the election in Papua.

Meanwhile the governor Barnabas Suebu, has called upon the OPM not to do anything that would disrupt the election. 'I call on those still fighting in the forests to come down and integrate with the rest of society to build Papua in accordance with the Special Autonomy Law,' he is quoted as saying.

Responding to information that there might be a lot of voters who don not turn out to vote (golput), the governor said that at the last election in 2004, the turnout in Papua was 90% and he hoped that this time, it would be higher than that.

[Comment: Needless to say, mass rallies are currently going on all over the country. In Papua as well, national parties such as the PDI-P (Megawati's party) and Gerindra (the party of Prabowo), have held rallies attended by thousands of people. Presumably, the police regulation means that those who hold large public meetings not under the banner of any of the national parties could face severe penalties for using the 'the festival of democracy' to put their ideas across in public. TAPOL]