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President Yudhoyono's New Cabinet

President Yudhoyono's new cabinet includes a prominent Papuan, Freddy Numberi, who will be Minister of Transportation. Numberi served as governor of Papua from 2001 to 2003. He was Minister of Fisheries and Marine Affairs in the first Yudhoyono cabinet and Minister for Administrative Reform under President Abdurrahman Wahid. In 2004 President Yudhoyono asked the retired Indonesian navy admiral, as former Papuan Governor, to assist in resolving tensions between the Central Government and Papuans. Numberi was a strong advocate of "Special Autonomy."

As Governor, he appointed Papuan political figure Theys Eluay to the Papuan Council, but then tried to have him removed when Eluay, who was subsequently chosen to chair the council, expressed support for Papuan independence. Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) assassinated Eluay in 2001 while Numberi was still Papuan Governor.

Yudhoyono also chose General Sutanto to head the State Intelligence Agency (BIN). Sutanto was served as Chief of Police in West Papua during and following the June 2007 visit of senior UN official Hina Jilani to West Papua. For months after her visit, Papuans, including senior Papuan clergy, who had met with her faced harassment and threats. The intimidation drew criticism from Jilani in her subsequent report to the UN on human rights abuse in West Papua. Calls by international NGO's to Sutanto to investigate the threats went unaddressed.

Sutanto also dismissed claims in a detailed July 2009 Human Rights Watch report of abuse of Papuans by security forces, contending publicly that the human rights environment in West Papua was improving.

Given the violations of human rights that transpired on his watch - as Police Chief in West Papua - his new, more powerful role as chief of an agency which has itself been repeatedly accused of violating rights in West Papua and elsewhere -- including the assassination of Munir, Indonesia's most prominent human rights activist -- raises concerns.


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