Australia must show leadership on West Papua: Speech by Senator Richard Di Natale in Australian Parliament

From the Hansard, 20 June 2012. 


Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (13:17): I rise today to express my grave concerns about a tragic situation that is unfolding on Australia’s doorstep at this very moment. I speak of the issue of West Papua, where alarming abuses of human and democratic rights are occurring. It appears that there has been a significant escalation in politically motivated violence over the past month. So it is timely to reflect on what is happening in a place that is one of our closest neighbours and the role we can play in ending the conflict and protecting the rights of the people who live there.

West Papua presents a challenge for Australian diplomacy and for the global community. It is a challenge that this nation and indeed the world is yet to meet. Although it is the world’s second largest island, New Guinea is a part of the world that rarely makes the nightly news. The western half of the island is West Papua. The situation faced by its people is something that deserves our urgent attention.

West Papua was one of the last parts of Asia to be decolonised. The Dutch retained control of the region when Indonesia gained its independence in 1949. The Netherlands took steps to prepare the territory for independence, which included the development of a national anthem and a national flag, called the Morning Star. Sadly, this independence was not to be. Indonesia had always claimed the province, and conflict between the Netherlands and Indonesia over West Papua resulted in armed conflict in 1961. In 1963 the New York agreement passed administration of West Papua over to Indonesia. West Papua was formally annexed to Indonesia in 1969, following what was then called the Act of Free Choice. Papuans call this the ‘Act of No Choice’. A true act of self-determination should have occurred, but it did not. The Papuans were denied their chance to vote on their future. Instead, there was an atmosphere of violence and intimidation, with 1,022 hand-picked Papuans assembled, cajoled, bribed and threatened into voting to become part of the Republic of Indonesia.

I am sorry to say that the people of West Papua have been waiting ever since for the chance to express their desires to chart their own future. Self-determination, a right belonging to all people, was denied to them. Indonesia fought long and hard for its own independence, so the Indonesians do understand the desire for self-determination. Indeed, they would consider themselves as the liberators of West Papua from colonial rule, which in my view is a sad irony, when we consider what has happened there since 1969.

The people of West Papua are Melanesian. They are ethnically, linguistically and culturally distinct from the majority of Indonesians. They are ruled from Jakarta by a government that often seems more interested in their resources and in what can be gained from the region than in their welfare. They have had to endure a new form of colonisation, and Melanesian Papuans are already a minority in some parts of West Papua. In fact, they may soon be a minority in the province as a whole if current trends continue. Papuans now face the outrage of being discriminated against in their own land, with the public service, business elites and security forces now dominated by non-indigenous Papuans.

The Papuans must watch powerlessly as their land is exploited. The Grasberg gold and copper mine, the world’s largest, is an environmental disaster but provides very few benefits to the people of West Papua. The Papuans have to watch as their land is patrolled by the Indonesian army. They are nominally Indonesian citizens, yet the army is not there to defend their rights—in fact, in many cases quite the opposite occurs. The results are as predictable as they are tragic. Tension grows daily, ethnic division is rife, oppression leads to violence and the Papuan desire for the right to choose their own future has never been stronger.

In October last year, the Third Papuan People’s Congress was held in Jayapura. Five thousand Papuans attended to have a say on their future, and it was a peaceful gathering. The right to gather and discuss their future is guaranteed by the Indonesian constitution, yet the meeting was disrupted by a military crackdown. At least three people were killed. Five leaders were arrested and have since been jailed for three years. There was not a word of protest from the Australian government.

Since then, the situation has worsened. In the past two to three weeks, there have been shootings, killings and military violence in Jayapura. There have been a number of separate attacks, with several people having been shot or stabbed. The accounts filtering through indicate that no arrests have been made. Police and the military blame Papuan separatists, but human rights defenders in Papua point the finger squarely at Indonesian security forces. The perpetrators of this violence must be identified through a transparent process.

We have also heard reports of Indonesian security forces sweeping the Papuan highland town of Wamena. They have caused at least two deaths, injured at least 11 people and torched at least 70 houses. This was apparently retaliatory action—police were retaliating for the killing of one of their officers by Papuans. The killing of the police officer, however, was prompted by his killing, on his motorbike, of a Papuan child. Unless those inflicting violence are held accountable, this cycle of violence will continue and worsen.

We have now heard news of Papuan leader Mako Tabuni being shot and killed by police on Thursday last week. He was walking on the street near a housing complex in a suburb of Jayapura. Mako Tabuni was the deputy of the KNPB, a group which has called for a referendum on Papuan self-determination and a movement which has publicly identified itself as a peaceful one. The Australian Greens are deeply saddened to hear of the killing of Mako Tabuni. We extend our condolences to Mako Tabuni’s family and we confirm our solidarity with the people of West Papua whose human and democratic rights continue to be violated.

Police say Mako Tabuni was resisting arrest and armed with a weapon he had taken from his arresters, but eyewitness accounts say that Tabuni, as he walked by alone, was suddenly and unexpectedly shot by a gunman in one of several cars on the street. Tabuni’s killing prompted angry scenes in Jayapura as Papuans protested his death. All of this has been taking place while many Papuans languish as political prisoners in Indonesian prisons, charged with treason for raising their flag, singing their traditional songs or expressing their political views. One example is Filep Karma, who has been in prison for over a decade for doing nothing more than peacefully protesting. I again call on the government to urge our Indonesian neighbours to take action to ensure that democracy and human rights are upheld in this region.

It has been a bloody few weeks in West Papua, adding to the horror experienced by the West Papuan people over many decades of Indonesian rule over their lands. Australians are now becoming more aware of these atrocities being committed on their doorstep. They know what happened in East Timor under Indonesian rule and they know that we, as a nation, cannot sit idly by while it occurs again in West Papua.

There is a petition due to be tabled next week in the House of Representatives, brought to the parliament by a community activist group based in my home state of Victoria and signed by more than 3,000 Australians. It calls on the Australian government to request that the United Nations review the New York agreement of 1962 and the 1969 Act of Free Choice and conduct a genuine, UN monitored referendum on self-determination in which all adult West Papuans are allowed to vote without duress. The petition also calls on the House of Representatives to stop all Australian financial support to and training of Indonesian military and security personnel until human rights abuses by military and security personnel in West Papua cease. It asks elected representatives to request the Indonesian government to remove the media blockade and allow international journalists free access to West Papua.

I have spoken before in the parliament about the desire of the Greens to see West Papuans free to express their political views without fear of persecution. But this freedom will not be realised until there is more international scrutiny. It is absolutely paramount that the region is opened up to journalists, who must be free to visit and report on the situation on the ground. The story of the West Papuans must be told. The truth must be told. Human rights organisations must also be allowed into the region. Until this scrutiny is applied, all we have to assure us that illegal acts are not occurring are the assertions of local authorities. It would not be wise, given the history, to take these assertions at face value.

I will continue to advocate for the human rights of one of our nearest neighbours until we see this important change. People should never feel the threat of violence or death simply for expressing their political views. We must advocate for a new dialogue between the Indonesian government and the representatives of the Papuan people. While in theory West Papua has special autonomy, this has failed the West Papuan people. It is time to start discussions afresh.

It is worth noting that Indonesia recently underwent its UN periodic review, a human rights review which occurs for UN member states every four years. This was an opportunity for fellow UN member states to make observations and recommendations about the human rights record of Indonesia. The review was held on 23 May and the Indonesian government accepted 180 recommendations from 74 countries. Indonesia adopted 144 of these, with the remainder to be brought back to Indonesia to be considered and decided upon in September 2012 during the 21st session of the UN Human Rights Council. Of the recommendations yet to be adopted, it remains to be seen whether Indonesia will address those relating to the protection of human rights defenders. It has been called on to free those people detained for peaceful political protests. It is unacceptable that someone like Filep Karma be detained for decades simply for expressing a right that all of us should be granted.

Among the remaining items that Indonesia has taken home to discuss, it has also recommended that they address issues of impunity and immediately take action on reports of human rights violations committed by the military and by police, particularly in Papua. I will be watching those responses with interest.

Beyond the UN periodic review, the world will be watching West Papua. There is new scrutiny on this region, with new technologies now enabling Papuans to convey messages, photos and video to the outside world. They are sharing their experiences of brutality and conflict despite the restrictions that prevent outside journalists from reporting in the region.

Here in Australia a group of young West Papuan activists are using online media and music to create awareness of the oppression their families are experiencing back home. I have met with many members of this group. In fact, I enjoyed their music. A group called the Rize of the Morning Star deserve to be commended for their advocacy and activism on this hugely important issue. It is a project that is capturing the hearts and minds of many Australians through music, telling the traditional stories of West Papua and asking us all to sit up and listen to what is happening in the region.

The petition that will be tabled next week is a notice to this parliament that thousands of Australians are outraged at the human rights abuses occurring in West Papua. I urge the foreign minister, Minister Carr, to take the concerns of these Australians to his Indonesian counterpart. I am also pleased that with several of my colleagues I will be inviting all members of this 43rd Parliament to join us in establishing a parliamentary friends of West Papua group. It will be an opportunity for us to collaborate across party lines on the complex issues facing our neighbours.

West Papua is a chance for Australia to show real leadership. It is a chance for us to show that we will stand up for the values of peace and democracy we so readily espouse. We can argue for a peaceful and optimistic future for Papua and remain a good friend of Indonesia. But it starts with facing the truth. We must face this truth before more blood is spilt.

ABC Radio: ‘Free West Papua’ message at Bluesfest

11 April, 2012

Pro-West Papuan activists took the Byron Bluesfest stage to spread their message of wanting independence from Indonesia


The Byron BluesFest got a little political this year when thousands of people yelled out the words ‘Free Papua’ during one of the headline performances.

Blue King Brown used their show to highlight the issues facing Indigenous Papuans wanting independence in the Indonesian-run country.

Pro-West Papuan activists took to the stage with dance and drumming and then did something unimaginable in West Papua and in fact illegal in Australia – they waved the West Papuan flag.

The dance duo was Ronnie Kareni and Sam Roem and they were joined by Papuan drummer Airileke Ingram.

Sam was one of a canoe-load of West Papuans who made it to Australian shores in 2006.

He then applied for asylum in Australia.

ABC north coast journalist Elloise Farrow-Smith spoke with Sam and Ronnie before they took to the Bluesfest stage.

New Matilda: Australia’s Money Helps Kill, Intimidate And Torture

from our good friends at



23 Mar 2012

Our Money Helps Kill, Intimidate And Torture

By Marni Cordell

Bob Carr and Stephen Smith

Australia plays a key role in training and funding elite Indonesian counter-terror unit Detachment 88 – but wants to distance itself from the unit’s violent reputation, reports Marni Cordell

Bob Carr and Stephen Smith with

their Indonesian counterparts.

There’s been a terror threat in Jakarta. A group of hardliners claim they intend to bomb the city’s transport system, just days before the UK prime minister is scheduled to arrive for a state visit. Indonesia’s counter terror agencies scramble to respond to the critical incident as the population goes into lockdown.

I’m sitting in the Control Room at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Co-operation (JCLEC) alongside international police trainers Bob Milton and David Gray.

On the screens in front of us, Indonesian police are acting out roles in this imagined terrorism scenario — and Milton and Gray are the puppet-masters.

Inside the JCLEC Control Room. Photo: Marni Cordell

“Basically the scenario develops into a more and more complicated problem,” explains Milton, a former Metropolitan Police commander from the UK.

“We try to make it as real as possible. We’ll have things such as pictures, audio, taped phone conversations, anything that we can try and get the information to them in a more interesting way.”

“We then challenge the students and ask for quite a lot of detail about how they are going to respond, and how they are going to deal with it.”

Fake terror scenarios like this one are a regular part of the immersive training that goes on at the Australian-funded police training centre.

JCLEC was set up in 2004 as a result of a bilateral agreement between Indonesia and Australia to strengthen Indonesia’s counter-terror effort in the wake of the Bali Bombings.

I visited the centre last week as part of an investigation into Australia’s funding and training of Indonesia’s crack anti-terror squad, Detachment 88 — the unit responsible for capturing or killing most of Indonesia’s terrorism kingpins since the 2002 Bali attack.

Detachment 88 employs a controversial brand of policing in which suspects are shot dead rather than arrested — like a soldier would shoot an enemy combatant. The high profile counter-terror raid in Bali last Sunday, in which five suspected terrorists were killed and the police were hailed internationally as heroes, was just the latest in a long line of lethal operations.

The unit is funded and trained by Australia and while the Australian Government might not endorse their paramilitary-style tactics, it’s been willing to turn a blind eye because Detachment 88 has been extremely effective at disrupting Indonesia’s extensive terror network.

JCLEC itself is deep within the grounds of the Indonesian National Police Academy, in the city of Semarang in Central Java. When I arrive at the centre I’m met by AFP federal agent Brian Thomson, a friendly, middle-aged cop from Canberra who is nine months into a two-year stint here. I’m the first Australian journalist he has hosted in that time.

JCLEC is touted as an international police training centre but in fact its students are over 90 per cent Indonesian — 9 per cent of whom are Detachment 88. The centre hosts trainers from Indonesia and across the globe, predominantly from Australia, Europe, and the UK.

Students undertake computer-based training courses – this one tests their knowledge of the difference between intelligence and information. Photo: Marni Cordell

Its core funding for more than 130 staff on six hectares of well maintained grounds comes directly from the Australian Federal Police’s own budget.

The self-contained centre — complete with student accommodation, lap pool and gym — couldn’t stand in greater contrast to stories that abound in Jakarta about Detachment 88’s operations.

JCLEC’s shtick is about “learning and understanding through shared experience” — and teaching best practice terror investigation techniques and proper use of the judicial process. Detachment 88, an elite and highly skilled unit with unique powers of surveillance in Indonesia, seems to operate above the law.

As I reported earlier this month, there is growing evidence to suggest what was once solely a counter-terror unit is now moving into counter-separatist operations. Activists in West Papua claim the squad is being deployed to hunt down civilians aligned with the independence movement in a growing campaign of intimidation.

According to Eric Sonindemi, a participant in last October’s Third Papuan People’s Congress, says Detachment 88 personnel were involved in the deadly attack on Congress in which six people were killed and many others wounded.

“Most of the security forces were in plain clothes, but they weren’t really concealing their weapons — they were sort of showing off,” Sonindemi told me when I met with him in Jakarta. “Detachment 88 was there,” he said, explaining that he “saw their equipment and riot shields”.

“Hundreds of people were detained [by police] that night and many of them were beaten in detention,” Sonindemi said. “I spoke to one person who had a gash in his head, a broken nose and bruises on his face. He had been beaten with the butt of a rifle by a policeman.”

“He was subsequently released and never charged with any crime.”

So exactly how closely does Australia work with the deadly unit?

According to a Jakarta-based security analyst who asked not to be named, “There was a big push after the first Bali Bombing, to the point where Detachment 88 actually had Australians with them on [counter-terror] operations.”

“It’s been a long time since that’s happened,” the analyst continued. “The AFP says that sometimes Detachment 88 doesn’t even share information with them any longer. There’s a real pride in doing things themselves now without relying on the Australians.”

But a diplomatic source in Jakarta confirmed that the relationship remains extremely close — and that the AFP continues to work with the Indonesian National Police, of which Detachment 88 is a part, at head office in Jakarta.

Australian Federal Police agent Brian Thomson at JCLEC, with an Indonesian colleague. Photo: Marni Cordell

Details on our financial support for the unit are harder to come by. The Australian government committed $36.8 million over the first four years of JCLEC. Now Thomson tells me the Australia’s support for JCLEC comes out of the AFP budget, which continues to provide “roughly the same amount” of funding to the centre. We also assist the unit directly — although just what that assistance entails is a closely guarded secret.

“I’ve pursued that question through senate estimates, through questions on notice, I’ve had DFAT briefings, and I can’t get any clarity about the role of Australian support of the Indonesian military and police and specifically whether our contribution benefits Detachment 88,” Greens senator and spokesperson on West Papua Richard Di Natale told NM.

“And it’s very clear that Detachment 88 has been involved in some of the violence that has occurred in the region.”

Details from the Indonesian side are just as shady.

Although some of Detachment 88’s terror raids have been simulcast on television in Indonesia, scratch below the surface and it’s difficult to get any real detail on the unit, says Usman Hamid, advisor to the International Center for Transitional Justice.

“The accountability of Detachment 88 is very low,” Hamid tells me when I meet him in a hotel lobby in Jakarta where he is meeting with other experts to prepare a response to the draft national security bill.

“Detachment 88 has special allocation of the budget and international funding — which has never been explained to the Indonesian public clearly, or even to the parliament for that matter.”

“We hear vague amounts but it’s not under the state budget.”

“It should be accounted appropriately,” Hamid told NM. “To the Indonesian parliament, to the Indonesian public, and of course to the Australian parliament and public … to make sure that the budget Australia gave is really being used for the right purpose.”

As Brian Thomson walks me through the official JCLEC Power Point presentation, I ask how Australia can be sure that the training taught at the centre is also being “used for the right purpose” — how do we know it isn’t being used to crack down on civilian dissent?

He’s silent for some time before asking me to repeat the question, and then ultimately refusing to answer it — handballing to his Indonesian counterpart, Dwi Priyatno, who refers me to the Indonesian law on terrorism, and back to the public affairs branch of the Indonesian police.

I also ask specifically about separatism in Indonesia and whether techniques to quash independence movements are ever discussed at the Australian-funded centre. Thomson again gets nervous.

“I can’t really answer that because my job here as an executive director is to be involved in running the centre, so what’s actually discussed in the classroom, I can’t give full [details],” he says.

“Although separatism…



“Not separatism.

“When you say separatism, in what regard are you referring to it?”

Back in Australia my inquiries about Detachment 88’s operations in Papua and their move toward policing separatism have been met with an almost uniform response. Here’s what I received from the AFP head office in Canberra: Australia has no mandate to tell the Indonesian Police how to run their business. And yes, we will continue to provide “capacity building assistance”.

Meanwhile, Eric Sonindemi says he remains traumatised by the police and military attack on the Third Papuan People’s Congress. He clearly remembers the sound of gunfire, he tells me, and now jumps when he hears loud noises. He is sure he is being monitored by the police. “I’ve been threatened by the police before,” he says, “but this is the first time I’ve feared for my life.”

Other Papuans I met in Jakarta told similar stories — of constant surveillance by the security forces, phone tapping and intimidation. They told me that fear is part of their daily lives.

Australian officials may well seek to disclaim any responsibility for the behaviour of the Indonesian police and particularly from the activities of Detachment 88. Given the close relationship between the AFP and the unit, however, it’s hard not to conclude that Australia is directly contributing to this climate of oppression.

This is the second article in an NM investigation of Detachment 88 and Australia’s role in the Indonesian counter-terror effort. Read the first article here.

West Papua: Senator Richard Di Natale questions Foreign Minister Carr

Video of Question Time in the Australian Senate on Tuesday March 20, 2012, where Senator Di Natale questioned Foreign Minister Carr about his meeting with the Indonesian Foreign Minister.

He asked Senator Carr whether he had raised West Papua in this meeting, and if not, when the Government planned to do so.

The video includes Senator Carr’s response.


Federal parliament yesterday (Australia);query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2Febe16d5f-1452-4285-9104-171295b6d0c4%2F0029%22

West Papua
Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:52): Mr President, my question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Minister, last week you met with your counterpart from Indonesia.

Honourable senators interjecting—


Senator Bob Brown: I rise on a point of order. As you know, it is impossible to hear Senator Di Natale up this end of the chamber. I am sure that the minister cannot hear the question, so he will not be able to answer.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, that is a valid point of order. I had called for order. I had called, in particular, two members of the Senate to order so that Senator Di Natale can be heard.

Senator DI NATALE: I might begin again. My question is for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Minister, last week you met with your counterpart from Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa, and the defence ministers of both nations. Can you inform the Senate as to whether the issue of West Papua was raised as part of those discussions? If not, when do you plan to raise the issue of West Papua with the Indonesian government?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:53): Mr President, it was raised. First of all it was raised by me, when I assured the Indonesian foreign minister that Australia—both sides of Australian politics—fully recognised Indonesian sovereignty over the Papuan provinces. I reminded him that that was recognised in the Lombok treaty, signed by the Howard government with Indonesia in 2006. I underlined that I understood the case that all the governments of the world recognise Indonesian sovereignty. It would be a reckless Australian indeed who wanted to associate himself with a small separatist group which threatens the territorial integrity of Indonesia and that would produce a reaction among Indonesians towards this country. It would be reckless indeed.

I can say this: the Indonesian foreign minister nominated to me the responsiveness of the Indonesian government to oft-expressed Australian concerns about human rights in Papua. Before I could raise the subject, as I was fully intending to, the Indonesian foreign minister nominated that they have a clear responsibility to see that their sovereignty is upheld in respect of human rights standards. I was impressed by that. It reflects the fact that the previous Australian governments—I know it is the case with this Labor government and I assume it is the case with a coalition government—have raised these concerns with Indonesians, and it reflects the fact that Indonesians have listened.

I again would warn any member of the Senate against foolishly talking up references to separatism in respect of the Papuan provinces. That is reckless and it is not in Australia’s interests.

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It does relate to the Lombok treaty and I need to remind the foreign minister—I understand he is new in his role—that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties report of 6 December made a bipartisan recommendation:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government encourage the Indonesian Government to allow greater access for the media and human rights monitors in Papua.

If this is still the government’s position, what has Senator Carr done to further this aim?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:56): I can assure the Senate that the Australian embassy in Jakarta will continue to raise matters of human rights in respect of the Papuan provinces, and will do so in respect of the recent sentencing of five men in Papua province to three years imprisonment for subversion. Australia has a strong and consistent record of upholding the right of persons peacefully to express their political views freely. Australian officials in Jakarta will raise our concerns over these sentences. But we will do so as a friend of Indonesia, absolutely explicit and unabashed about asserting Indonesian sovereignty over the Papuan provinces. The Lombok treaty—I refer again to the fact that the Lombok treaty was signed in November 2006, coming into force in 2008—is based on such a recognition: support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national unity and political independence of each other. Similar language is used in the preamble.

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question, which also relates to the JSCOT report, which I remind the foreign minister is about what the Australian government, not the Indonesian government, has agreed to do. Recommendation 2 says:

… increase transparency in defence cooperation agreements to provide assurance that Australian resources do not directly or indirectly support human rights abuses in Indonesia.

Again I ask the foreign minister: what steps will you take in your role as foreign minister to ensure this recommendation is applied and that transparency of Australia’s role— (Time expired)

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:58): In those full and frank exchanges last Thursday with our Indonesian counterparts, the defence minister and I canvassed Papua and the Indonesian foreign minister referred again to the progress being made by Indonesia in shifting responsibility for law and order in the Papuan provinces from the military to the police. President Yudhoyono—a great friend of Australia’s, by the way—has committed his government to raising the living standards of the people of Papua and reinvigorating special autonomy. Australia believes that this is the best path—the best means—to achieving a safe and prosperous future for the Papuan people. We will give support through our aid programs. We are the biggest aid donor to Indonesia, and a recognition of that is reflected in the Lowy Institute poll, which I recommend members of the Senate read, which says that Australia is held in high standing by the people of Indonesia. We will continue to work on these great tasks.

AWPA: Increasing tension in West Papua

Press Release

26 October 2011

In light of the dangerously deteriorating situation in West Papua AWPA has again written to the Foreign minister (letter below) urging him to use his good offices with the Indonesian Government to call for the halt to any (or proposed) military operations in West Papua as a way of avoiding further escalation of the situation and avoiding further bloodshed.
We point out that during military operations in West Papua the security forces have great difficulty in distinguishing between civilians and what they term separatists.

We also urge the Government to hold an inquiry into how our aid and training to the Indonesian military impacts on the lives of the West Papuan people and in the short term to immediately halt any aid or training to any military unit found to have committed human rights abuses.


Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, Sydney, Australia 2088

The Hon Kevin Rudd MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House
ACT 2600

26 October 2011

Dear Mr Rudd,

I am writing to you concerning the increasing tension in West Papua. I wrote to you on the 20 October concerning the crackdown by Indonesian security forces on delegates who were attending the 3rd Papuan People’s Congress which was held between the 17 and 19 October. Reports now indicate that the casualties were more numerous than first thought. Six people have been confirmed killed and six charged with treason. A large number of West Papuans received serious injuries as they were beaten by the security forces with batons, bamboo poles and the butts of rifles during the arrest of up to 300 delegates. There may be more casualties as many of those attending the congress fled into the bush in fear of their lives from the security forces.

In other recent incidents around the giant Freeport copper and gold mine, three miners were ambushed by unknown gunmen and two other miners killed in a clash with police. The Mulia Police chief was also shot by unknown gunmen at Mulia Airport in Puncak Jaya regency on Monday and an unidentified group also set fire to the Mulia food resilience office. As a result of these incidents and in an effort to tighten security and to conduct military operations for those responsible for the killing of the police chief, up to 300 members of the security are being sent to West Papua.

AWPA believes that this deployment of extra security will only increase fear amongst the West Papuan people who are already traumatised by numerous military operations that have taken place particularly in the Puncak Jaya region.

A report in the Jakarta Globe (25 October) said that human rights groups believed that there were “strong indications” that security forces committed rights abuses during last week’s deadly crackdown on a pro-independence rally in Abepura, Papua. An extract from the Jakarta Globe article
Ridha Saleh, deputy chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said it appeared likely that officers assaulted and fired at participants at the Papuan People’s Congress, which took place last week. A day after the incident, the bodies of six participants were found near the local military headquarters, reportedly with gunshot wounds. “The participants did not put up any kind of resistance, yet they were taken down, beaten and shot at,” Ridha said. “That this resulted in fatalities clearly makes this a serious rights violation.”

The security forces always try to blame the OPM for many of the incidents that occur in West Papua. However, Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a researcher with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said on Tuesday that it was difficult to pinpoint the cause of the recent spike in violence, but that there were only three elements influential enough to trigger the turmoil: the separatist Free Papua Organization (OPM), the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and the police. “But we can’t really tell which one of them actually started the whole thing because the information coming out of Papua is limited and sketchy,” he said, adding that reports from security forces were also unreliable. In one scenario he points out that “But if it’s the TNI or National Police manipulating events to try to get more troops and supplies posted to Papua, then that’s even more worrying.” 
He added that the tactic of boosting the security presence there by creating unrest was “not a new practice,” having been carried out frequently under the New Order regime. Earlier this year, the military said there was a need to increase the TNI’s presence in Papua, citing the province’s huge energy and mineral riches and increasing potential for secession.

AWPA points out that 300 security forces have just being deployed to West Papua.

In light of the dangerously deteriorating situation we urge you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government to call for the halt to any (or proposed) military operations in West Papua as a way of avoiding further escalation of the situation and avoiding further bloodshed.
We point out that during military operations in West Papua the security forces have great difficulty in distinguishing between civilians and what they term separatists

We also urge the Government to hold an inquiry into how our aid and training to the Indonesian military impacts on the lives of the West Papuan people and in the short term to immediately halt any aid or training to any military unit found to have committed human rights abuses.

Yours sincerely

Joe Collins
AWPA (Sydney)

CC. Indonesian Embassy, Canberra

Australian Embassy, Jakarta

various human rights organisations and the media

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