Faleomavaega receives Humanitarian Award for Defense of Human Rights in West Papua

Washington, D.C. —FALEOMAVAEGA RECEIVES HUMANITARIAN AWARD FOR DEFENSE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN WEST PAPUA

Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) has named him the 2011 recipient of the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award.  Faleomavaega was presented the award on Thursday July 7, 2011.

In honoring Faleomavaega, WPAT stated:

The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) is pleased to announce that it is awarding the 2011 “John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award” to the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Congressmember Faleomavaega has been an articulate and effective advocate for the defense of human rights in West Papua, and has long worked for a peaceful resolution of the serious problems confronting Papuans.

His extensive knowledge regarding West Papua and his manifest sincerity and good will have enabled him to draw on the respect accorded him by his Congressional colleagues and members of successive Administrations to alert them and the U.S. public more broadly to justice, good governance and development concerns in West Papua.

On September 22, 2010, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Congressmember Faleomavaega convened the first hearing in the history of the U.S. Congress to include testimony from West Papua’s traditional and religious leaders. The hearing, Crimes Against Humanity: When Will Indonesia’s Military Be Held Accountable for Deliberate and Systematic Abuses in West Papua, also included testimony from scholars and administration officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense.

Driven by a sense of personal responsibility to carry forward the work of his Samoan relatives who are buried in West Papua and in honor of all those who have lived the struggle, Congressmember Faleomavaega continues to do all he can to hold the Indonesian government accountable so that a better way forward may be found for and on behalf of the people of West Papua.

Past recipients of the award include Carmel Budiardjo (UK) and TAPOL (2008); John M. Miller (U.S.) and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) (2009), and Andreas Harsono (Indonesia) of Human Rights Watch (2010).

The award includes a plaque and a financial prize which Congressmember Faleomavaega has directed be donated to a charity selected by him. The award is named in honor of Papuan John Rumbiak, a renowned champion of human rights and founder of WPAT.

“I am humbled by this award,” Faleomavaega said.  “I do not feel worthy of it, and this is why I have donated the prize money to the Papuan Customary Council (Dewan Adat Papua) in honor of the men, women and children of West Papua who are the true heroes.”

“Over the years, the men, women and children of West Papua have suffered at the hands of Indonesia’s brutal military and police forces.  In fact, Indonesia’s military has committed indisputable crimes against humanity through the murder, torture and rape of more than 100,000 West Papuans.”

“It should also be noted that Freeport Mining company, now located in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, was the first foreign company to do business with Indonesian President Suharto, one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century.  Freeport’s association with Suharto led to Freeport operating the Grasberg mine in West Papua — one of the biggest gold and copper mines in the world.”

“With little regard for the people of West Papua, Freeport has callously stripped West Papua of its natural resources and pays Papuan workers less than $1.80 per day, or about $0.20 cents per hour.  Papuan workers went on strike in protest saying their counterparts working for other units of Freeport operations around the world are paid approximately $15 per hour.  All Papuan workers are asking is to be paid at about $3 per hour.”

“To put this in perspective, the CEO of Freeport was paid almost $40 million in 2010 alone.  In my opinion, this kind of disparity is shameful.  An American company should know better, and do better.  And until Freeport makes it right and stops exploiting Papuan workers, I will make my views known on the House floor for the sake of history and for the sake of the American public in hopes that Freeport will one day be held accountable for the environmental and economic horrors it has wrought in West Papua.”

“For history’s sake, I also want to commend past winners of the John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award, including Carmel Budiardjo, the 2008 winner, who founded and has chaired TAPOL since the 1970s.  TAPOL (which means political prisoner in Indonesian) is a small UK-based NGO that campaigns for political prisoners and for human rights in general in Indonesia and East Timor.  Carmel Budiardjo was herself a political prisoner, in the late 1960’s at the time that the dictator Suharto came to power.  She was imprisoned for three years and then founded TAPOL upon returning to the UK in 1971.  She won the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ in 1995 and has several times been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Carmel is now 86 but still very active.”

“John Miller and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, the 2009 winner, has long been involved in human rights advocacy in East Timor and Indonesia.  John Miller is the National Coordinator for ETAN.”

“Andreas Harsono, the 2010 winner, is an Indonesian journalist and human rights advocate who in 2010 worked closely with Human Rights Watch, particularly on West Papua.  He is still associated with HRW but also is an independent journalist and human rights advocate.”

“I also commend my good friend, John Rumbiak, a West Papuan human rights advocate, who has worn out his life in the service of his fellowman.  I wish John a speedy recovery, and my thoughts and prayers are with him.”

“Once more, I thank WPAT for the work it is doing to champion the cause of West Papua, and I share this honor with all those engaged in the struggle,” Faleomavaega concluded.

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