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Papua authorities under fire for not enforcing liquor ban

Indonesian bishop accuses officials of being culpable for spate of deaths linked to bootleg alcohol
Papua authorities under fire for not enforcing liquor ban

A Shariah policeman canes a man for drinking alcohol, during a public punishment in Banda Aceh, Indonesia in this March 1, 2016 photo. A Catholic bishop in Papua province has accused authorities there, of not enforcing an alcohol ban, which he says has resulted in deaths attributed to adulterated liquor. (Photo by AFP)

Published: September 12, 2016 07:15 AM GMT
Updated: September 12, 2016 07:22 AM GMT

An Indonesian bishop has accused local authorities in Papua of ignoring an alcohol ban they introduced earlier this year, saying their inaction has contributed to a spate of deaths linked to the consumption of bootleg liquor.

Papua governor Lukas Enembe as well law enforcement agencies and officials signed an "integrity pact" on March 30 that included prohibiting the production, distribution and sale of alcohol.

However, instead of making crackdowns, some officials are helping supply people with alcohol, according to Bishop John Philip Saklil of Timika.

He called for authorities to vigorously enforce the ban they put in place.

His call follows a string of deaths linked to adulterated homemade liquor.

One of the most serious cases was in late July when seven young men died after drinking bootleg liquor they bought from a kiosk at a market in nearby Dogiyai district.  

Inaction from local government and security personnel, as well as general ignorance about bootleg alcohol contributed to the deaths, according to Bishop Saklil, who added that because of such ignorance, the consumption of alcohol particularly bootleg liquor in his diocese, has become widespread.

"People sell bootleg liquor freely and openly, despite not having permits to sell alcohol," he said.

The bishop claimed security personnel must have some role in supplying and selling liquor since people living in areas they can access but others find difficult to reach have a steady supply of alcohol.

"It’s impossible they don’t know anything about it," he said, suggesting there was a deliberate policy not to enforce the ban imposed earlier in the year.

"The involvement of military and police in supplying and selling liquor and their reluctance to deal with violators of the ban, resulting in them letting perpetrators of crimes go is valid proof."

He referred to the deaths of the seven young men, saying three out of four people suspected of selling of bootleg liquor in the area avoided arrest, while the other was arrested but released a few hours later.

Papua police chief Inspector General Paulus Waterpauw couldn’t be reached for comment on the bishop's allegation.

Peneas Lokbere, an activist with rights group Solidarity for the Victims of Human Rights Violations in Papua, said that the Papuan people would face a serious threat if local governments failed to show their willingness to seriously handle the issue.

"There’s a growing number of Papuan people falling victim to liquor. This threat must get serious attention from local governments. Ordinary Papuans themselves should be aware of this," he said.

According to Papua police, 86 people have died, 264 have been seriously injured and 839 injured slightly since 2013 in alcohol-related incidents.

 

 

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