Policing Post-Conflict Regions: A New Zealand Initiative: Katie McKone Reports on New Zealand Police Involvement in Community Policing Workshops in a Strife-Torn Part of Indonesia

Article excerpt

A group of military-clad officers, laden with gold badges and lapels, stand to attention in the hot, stuffy room at the police headquarters in Ambon, Maluku. The sound of boots slamming together as they salute those higher up in the hierarchy echoes down the corridors. The ancient air conditioning machine groans in the corner, and the desks--resembling those out of a primary school classroom--are lined around the outside.

At the front of the room on a raised platform sit three New Zealand police officers, looking somewhat in awe of the happenings before them--the military formalities unlike anything seen back home.

Senior Sergeant Anne-Marie Fitchett, from the police training college in Porirua, Sergeant Mark Veale, from Auckland, and Inspector Tim Haughey, based at the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta, were in Ambon for two weeks recently running a community policing workshop with the Indonesian National Police.

The INP welcomed them with open arms--chief Brigadier General Mohammad Guntur stating at the opening ceremony that he was pleased to have 'new brothers and sisters' to share experiences of community policing. 'We have many islands and cultures in Maluku, a similar situation to New Zealand I think, and we hope that this sharing of information will be useful in improving our capabilities.'


Over 120 Indonesian national police officers from the Maluku province attended the workshops, to learn more about a form of policing which aims to pre-empt violence and serious crime.

Maluku experienced five years of continual conflict beginning January 1999, fuelled mainly by religious and ethnic rivalry. The population was segregated into strict Muslim and Christian zones, with murder, rioting and displacement becoming widespread.

Four years on from the end of the conflict and the region has achieved a state of peace. However, the scars are still clearly visible--burnt out churches and mosques remain as stark reminders of the bloodshed, and many villages are still separated on the basis of religion.

It is hoped community policing will help avoid any future conflict of this nature, through capacity development, cohesion and establishing relationships with the people. General Mohammad said he hoped the visiting officers could advise his men about how to diffuse disputes within villages, such as those over land ownership.

   One big challenge here is if there are
   disputes, as the people in Maluku
   often try to solve them through violence,
   and physical confrontation.
   That's why we're trying to implement
   this (community policing) to prevent
   that from happening. I'm afraid
   something like the conflict will happen
   again in the future. There are
   some terrorists and separatists here
   [in Maluku] that would like another

Independent role

The Indonesian National Police was under the military for 32 years, and became independent in 1999 during the reform era. However the military 'power' mentality is proving difficult to shake, with trust between the community and the police still some way from being achieved.

Inspector Haughey acknowledged that the New Zealanders were not experts in the field; rather they were there to 'share experiences'.

   The Indonesian police can take from
   it what they want and adapt it to their
   local needs. There are many different
   versions of community policing out
   there and ours is just one of them.

According to Sergeant Veale, 'Five or six years ago New Zealand police realised they were missing the elements of community policing, but we have turned a corner now. We are not here [in Maluku] to tell them what they should be doing, but to share with the INP what our model of community policing entails. I mean we certainly hope to learn from them as well.'

National manager community policing Superintendent Bill Searle said no country could claim to be perfect at community policing--

   and we are certainly not perfect. …