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Suspend military ties with Indonesia: Greens

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Posted on 20. Oct, 2011 by RichardDiNatale in Media ReleaseWest Papua

Australian Greens Senator and spokesperson on West Papua, Richard Di Natale, is calling on the Australian government to suspend military cooperation with Indonesia.

Last night the Indonesian military (TNI) opened fire on the third West Papuan People’s Congress, arrested community leaders and hundreds more. There are reports from a single witness of nine delegates shot while trying to flee.

“This is the latest in a series of escalating acts of repression by the Indonesian military in West Papua,” said Senator Di Natale.

“The Australian government cannot sit on its hands while these appalling acts continue to occur.

“The Minister for Defence should immediately announce a suspension of defence cooperation with Indonesia, until this matter is properly investigated and the President has committed to open dialogue with Papuan leaders.

“The government should also pressure the Indonesian authorities to allow access by foreign journalists. The best protection the Papuans can hope for is the light of international scrutiny.

“In the meantime, the Australian government should send a fact-finding mission to the area and find out for itself what is going on.”

The Greens have sought full detail on the millions of dollars spent on Australia’s defence cooperation with Indonesia in the past.

“The government also needs to come clean on support for the Indonesian military. Australians would be horrified to know their money and their government supports human rights violations in West Papua, one of our nearest neighbours.”

Media contact: Andrew Blyberg 0457 901 600

Tunisia… Egypt… Libya… Let’s look closer to home

by Daniel Scoullar

originally appeared at http://www.onlineopinion.com.au

The mass uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other nearby countries have put despotic rulers, human rights abuses and self-determination into our nightly news bulletins and daily conversations in a way that happens very rarely.

The seemingly contagious way these movements for freedom have spread from country to country makes them particularly fascinating, but there is another reason why they have captured the public imagination. It’s because Australians recognise the ‘fair go’ principle, which can also be put in terms of the human right for every person to be safe from harm, to have control over their lives and to have a say in how their country’s run – regardless of whether they live in Bundoora or Benghazi.

In turn, many of us would also be surprised to hear that we have state sponsored violence and political exclusion much closer to home. They would be further surprised to hear these abuses are taking place within Indonesia, a case study for positive social, economic and political reform.

Despite holidaying in Bali, seeing Jakarta on the news or even watching a wildlife documentary shot in the Sumatran jungle, you could be excused for never having heard of West Papua. It comprises the western half of the island of New Guinea (the eastern half belongs to Papua New Guinea) and a collection of small islands.

West Papua’s landscape is one of tropical islands, coconut strewn beaches, impenetrable rain forests and rugged snow capped mountain peaks. It is home to around three million people, including some of the last remaining humans still untouched by the modern world.

West Papua’s modern history is marked by exploitation and resilience. Colonial explorers claimed it as Dutch territory in the 1600s, the Japanese and Americans made it a key battleground of World War II and the newly independent Indonesian nation invaded and forcibly occupied the territory in 1962, just 13 years before they would do the same in East Timor.

In the 50 years since then, West Papua has been ruled as a country-apart within Indonesia. This is somewhat ironic given West Papua is physically, culturally and historically separate from the rest of Indonesia. Its traditional ties run east and south to Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, northern Australia and the Pacific.

Where military and police abuses were curtailed elsewhere, they were encouraged in West Papua. While ‘unity in diversity’ was the national motto, West Papuan traditional culture was violently suppressed and almost a million ‘transmigrants’ were shipped in and given the reigns of local government and the economy. Even as the post-Suharto human rights reforms resulted in greater freedom of speech for those in Jakarta, incarceration or death are still the standard penalties for raising the Morning Star flag in West Papua. An estimated 100,000 local people have been killed during the occupation.

In 2007 I travelled from East Timor through Indonesia, West Papua and Papua New Guinea on my way back to Australia. My lasting memories are of friendly West Papuans inviting me into their homes to practice English with their children and heavily armed military personnel/police stopping me in the street for seemingly random questioning. When I returned to Melbourne, I met members of the West Papuan refugee community here and learned more about the extent of the abuses taking place in their homeland.

A recent example captured on video and shared on the internet, shows two Papuan men being cruelly tortured by security forces, including one having his genitals burnt. Other examples include activists being shot at demonstrations – or just disappearing. Local prisons are full of political prisoners who have committed no crime other than raising their voice.

It is also important to differentiate this critique of state sponsored human rights abuses and a lack of self-determination from a more general attack on Indonesia as a nation or its culture.

As someone who speaks Indonesian moderately well and has lived and travelled in the region, I know first hand the beautiful diversity within Indonesia’s awe inspiring 17,500 island archipelago. The majority of its 240 million people are not disputing their place in this nation state and democratic, social, economic and political progress continues in most areas.

Nevertheless, acknowledging Indonesia’s strengths is not the same as writing a blank cheque to the worst elements within its military and government. After 24 years of silence, Australia finally found the moral and political strength to take a stand on behalf of the East Timorese people and this is what is needed again, not just from our Prime Minister Julia Gillard, but from other world leaders within our region and right across the globe.

We all know that international diplomacy can be a dirty business where economic and political interests take precedence over doing what is right. We should acknowledge that it is politics and economics that are the key barriers blocking the Australian government from advocating on behalf of the West Papuan people. There is no easy villain such as Muammar Gaddafi to hold up as a symbol of evil. It’s more complicated than that.

International diplomacy can also be a powerful force for improving lives. While East Timor remains poor, I didn’t meet a single person there who wanted to go back to Indonesian rule. Australia is a regional leader, particularly in the areas of good governance and human rights protection, and we should not shy away from this role. We have the power to make a difference in West Papua and, in turn, we carry the corresponding responsibility to do so.

If we simply cast our gaze to distant parts of the world, where people are paying with their lives for basic freedoms, we will overlook those closer to home paying with their own lives for those same freedoms.

Broadcasting Papua’s Songs of Freedom: Why the international community must support West Papua’s citizen media development

FREE THE PEOPLE? FREE THE MEDIA!

by Nick Chesterfield

A Paper presented at the University of Sydney Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies “Comprehending Papua Conference”, February 22-23, 2011.    This paper will form a chapter of the forthcoming book “Comprehending Papua”, to be published in early 2011 by the University of Sydney Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

———

It is almost a cliché today that peoples wishing to free themselves from tyranny are turning in huge numbers to citizen journalism both to tell their stories to the outside world, and to put a formidable brake on the out of sight, out of mind mentality that allows state organs to conduct constant abuse with impunity. The rise of citizen media is giving mainstream journalism the kick it needs to remember its core business of giving voice to the voiceless.  In West Papua, the Voiceless are slowly discovering they can roar.

Just a few weeks ago an event occurred in Tunisia that was to be the spark for the pan-Arab awakening which has just seen yet another dictator ousted, now in Egypt.  After a local trader immolated himself in protest against the Tunisian regime, citizen media succeeded in viralizing the news of this event.  “We could protest for two years here, but without videos no one would take any notice of us,” said a relative of the martyred 25-year-old.

For media activists and journalists reporting Papua, this truth is self-evident, and its acceptance hopefully could ignite the spark of uprising in Papua.  The opportunities presented by the Pan-Arab (and other) awakenings are not being lost on the young generation in Papua.  Social media in Papua is buzzing, unafraid, with vibrant discussions of implications for Papua of the pan-Arabic revolutionary success.  The reality is that a spontaneous awakening and mass politicisation of ordinary Papuans is completely inevitable, and it is being ably assisted by switched-on local people developing their capacity to tell the story to the world.

In researching for several stories over the last few months, my sources have told me in no uncertain terms that they are all ready for a trigger to explode the situation.  The only thing holding back sustained mass action – revolution even – across occupied Papua is the constant bickering between exile groups, the actions of the collaborator elites, desperate to cling to the illusion that Jakarta is not there just to steal their land and send them to the moon, and for those who will put their own interests ahead of those surviving under occupation.

What is a mystery is how this mass consciousness will survive the elite and exile power games that are evident in most transitional polities throughout recent history (and is certainly present in West Papua today); whether those exiles will hijack the efforts of the young generation or listen to the actual wishes of their people; and if Jakarta can be trusted not to unleash the truly evil and deeply entrenched habitual brutality that is its only constant in becoming the new colonialists; or that they will claim their place amongst the civilised by not slaughtering those who want peace. History is a wise teacher, and its lesson is never trust the evil or greedy to reform of its own accord.

To keep these ugly realities in check, West Papua (and the international community) needs a determined, effective, vibrant and fearless citizen and professional media to deliver real-time accountability both internally and internationally.

Real time advocacy is vital for the international community to act to end Papua’s suffering.  Human Rights advocates conduct scientific research into abuses, but because this information does not get out easily, the problems in Papua are only now getting known to the world.

I need to ask you all today an honest question:  without the hard work of journalists in Papua and those outside assisting them to get their voice to international media, would Papua even be in people’s consciousness today?   So why is the international arena concerned with West Papua falling prey to the disease of factionalism and Big Man syndrome, and not in assisting WestPapuan people to get their stories into the living rooms of the world?

Many loud mouthed exiles claim significant legitimacy, but baulk and splutter when asked to prove it.   This has developed a culture of opacity across the exile movement.  A strong and diverse citizen based media across Papua can easily counter exile’s game playing and false claims by ensuring credibility and honesty in social movements. It benefits and strengthens social movements too by giving the skills and practice for sharpening their message, and creating a powerful argument for international support for their aims.  Strong domestic media also removes international government’s excuses for inaction, by seriously raising the credibility and verification bar.

If the international community is serious about improving the lives of Papuan people, it will help develop the capacity of the West Papuan media to tell the story of what is going on, and press Jakarta hard to allow immediate international media access.  After all, with full accountability, what is there to be afraid of?

Largely in response to years of wilful ignorance and self-censorship of the Indonesian created horrors in West Papua by international media, many sectors of Papuan society spontaneously and independently began a dramatic take-up of social media technology, exponentially increasing since 2008. Blogs, social networking and online media outlets are being utilized all over the country, by a young generation of Papuans impatient for real change.  Today’s mass Papuan movement is mainly urban, educated, innovative, nonviolence based, and embracing significantly the power of citizen and social media as a key plank of civil resistance strategy.

Very occasionally West Papua does get in the news, but only through the co-ordination between committed journalists and human rights workers working together and ear-bashing news editors.

Due to the ongoing ban by Indonesia on international media and humanitarian organisations having access to Papua, allegations of abuse are notoriously difficult to verify.  While this ban remains in place, only the most dedicated journalists make the effort to go in undercover.   West Papua Media has been proud to facilitate undercover trips into occupied territory to meet with many West Papuan people prepare to tell their own story. This is getting more difficult by the day so local people are working for a solution.

Live images, videos and online activism by Papuan people have already created tremendous momentum in action and awareness of Papua.  By creating their own media, and their own narrative, Papuan people are reclaiming self-determination denied for so long.

Reporting in West Papua is a highly risky business.   Journalists, Papuan and outsiders alike, are under constant threats for reporting West Papua, with four journalists dying in suspicious circumstance in 2010 alone.  Anywhere journalists report fearlessly they are targets, but most journalists in West Papua simply put up with it, they have no other option.  What can we do to lessen their risk?

Partly in response to this danger and partly to give local journalists a voice globally, West Papua Media (WPMA) (WestPapuaMedia.Info) was started. It aims to provide a professional service to international media covering West Papua, ensuring high quality, verifiable reporting gets into the international media, directly from the ground, and not from those who seek to distort the truth of daily experience in Papua.  By reporting Papuan campaigns to end human rights abuses and bringing these unreported Papuan issues to the front page, we hope to hold the abusers to account. With an ever growing stable of committed and disparate voices from citizen media to professional journalists, West Papua Media is proud and excited to be part of this movement.

Some of our real time work has assisted directly in the prevention of mass acts of violence by the Indonesian security forces, such as our coverage and media advocacy fixing of the July 8-9 Otsus Gagal demos and occupation of the Jayapura DPRP.

Less than ten minutes before the deadline for dispersal of the 2 day rally of over 45,000 people, Indonesian security forces were forced to back down after a BBC report aired, organised by WPMA, which brought international attention the explosively dangerous situation.  Extensive international diplomacy occurred in that 15 minutes and, together with the extreme discipline of the mass protest, enabled the protestors to peaceably leave the scene of the protest without violence.

WPMA has worked very hard raising the media profile of West Papua, with significant joint investigations with major media outlets breaking several key stories in 2010.  None of this would be possible without deep trust from the people of Papua in reporting their stories.  West Papuan citizen media, in conjunction with several colleagues here today, played a key role in alerting the world to deeply heinous cases of abuse.

One was the sourcing, verification and release of the deeply shocking leaked Kostrad torture videos of civilians in Puncak Jaya. The Kiwo incident neatly captures why the Indonesian military cannot be trusted to reform themselves from the inside, and why the role of a robust media is so critical in Papua.

The other was footage of Indonesian BRIMOB police taunting a former political prisoner Yawan Wayeni, having disembowelled him moments before for arguing with them. Both these videos showed the power of citizen media in activating international human rights networks to effectively raise the issue of Papua. Of course, there are many more videos in preparation for release.

A swarm movement cannot have a single media strategy, but media need to understand that it will get media out in its own way too.  The media that had wilfully ignored West Papua’s voice for so long really has no right to dictate how information disseminates, and if it wants to get the stories before others, then it just has to move faster.  Because it is new media techniques that have already, and will propel Papua onto the front page, to make people choke on their cornflakes.

Likewise, evidence dissemination also needs multiple, failsafe distribution routes: Single dissemination routes can easily be shut down or silenced.  West Papuans have tailored their mechanisms to this very effectively; yet this is significantly frustrating outside journalists.  According to many in mainstream media, West Papuans can be their own worst enemy when it comes to disseminating information.  People on the ground do need to get smarter about media distribution strategies, but the media also must adapt to a social and cultural reality.  West Papuan human rights and citizen media are not chaotic: they are maximising the potential audience  for their information.

It is important to understand that no one faction or sector in West Papua can claim dominance or leadership of this mass movement. This is not Congress in India and there is no single Gandhi figure. Rather, this is a movement with thousands of Gandhis.  The civil movement refuses to be based around a single leadership group, and instead features multitudes of groups and tribes all acting autonomously and independently (where everyone knows their role and works their hardest) but which is nevertheless unified under its collective goals.

Such a swarm structure can occasionally present difficulties for those who cannot think outside traditional top-down strategies for national change, which includes traditional media. Rather than being shut out of dialogue by the game playing of unaccountable elites, this type of structure encourages a longer lasting peace by enabling all actors to have their voices heard. It is also a natural strategy to employ in a nation where it is,  for the most part, illegal to congregate in groups.

Other barriers for West Papuan media are much more easily solved with a bit of training, and understanding the enemy (this time the enemy being the unreasonable expectations of media executives far removed from reality).

One issue is the lack of speed with which many West Papuan media activists work, and whilst improving, an event on a day has to be filmed, edited, packaged and disseminated as fast as possible. There are issues of journalistic discipline and professional journalistic practice in new media; safe information gathering, abuse documentation and investigative journalism methodology; information quality assurance; protection of sources, and more.

Effective citizen and professional media training is required to develop awareness of major current and future challenges to safe information dissemination – these are all programs that the West Papua Media network is currently engaged in and it needs help to increase its capacity.

All of this costs money, and requires the international community to understand that the development of indigenous journalism in West Papua is crucial to the protection of human security and peace across the entire Asia-Pacific region.  It requires international institutions in media and academia to get out of their cloisters and get muddy, to actually pool resources and help identify new sources of sustainable funding to start training journalists in innovative new media reportage techniques, and to support their work for the global human interest.  As I said before, West Papua Media already has training programs ready to go, we just need the funds to make them happen.

In West Papua, as across the world, accountability is always the simplest solution to combatting impunity. An aggressive culture of investigative journalism must be encouraged, and the skills to enable it must be developed, to deliver that accountability, be it in human rights, against military business mafias and corruption, human security, environmental protections, etcetera, and to cover (and protect) the desires of a population to determine their own future, in both the current occupation and in any situation for the future.  Both academia and international media must take a strong role in its development, to embed international protections to enable West Papua’s journalists and citizen media to report without fear, hindrance or threat, the stories that are important to West Papuan people and their freedom.

Our hope is that we have a really robust citizen media that can deliver accountability.  We want to stop people from being afraid of speaking out, and we want West Papua’s voice to be its weapon, to broadcast its songs for Freedom.

Nick Chesterfield, editor at westpapuamedia.info, is a human security journalist and activist with extensive experience of the Papua issue through refugee protection, human rights, environmental protection, and citizen media work and safety training. He has conducted many field investigations in the West Papuan region since 1999. Together with citizen media and human rights workers from inside Papua, Chesterfield helped set up West Papua Media in 2008, to counter the wilful lack of coverage of West Papua by the international press.

 

SMH: A Worm Inside the New Indonesia

FYI – Media Information

[With reflections on West Papuan situation.]

The Sydney Morning Herald
February 26, 2011

A Worm Inside the New Indonesia

by HAMISH McDONALD

WITH popular uprisings turfing out rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and perhaps elsewhere in the Arab world, a lot of analysts have focused on fears of ”contagion” in other regions, notably on China’s censorship of news reports about the protest wave in the Middle East.

Yet the Middle East event that might have the most far-reaching effect is not the awakening of the Arab ”street” against authoritarian rulers, but the vote in a United Nations supervised referendum a month earlier.

The largely African people in the south of Sudan voted overwhelming to secede from their Arab-dominated country and form a new nation – a result accepted by the Khartoum government and its main foreign backers, including China.

This has followed the declaration of independence from Serbia by Kosovo in 2008 that was accepted by most of the world and approved by the International Court of Justice, and Russia’s unilateral recognition of Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign states soon afterwards in retaliation. It has left respect for the ”territorial integrity” of states and post-colonial boundaries somewhat tattered.

Already the example is being applied to an intractable issue right on Australia’s border and forming the touchiest part of what many see as our most important foreign relationship – the question of West Papua, the western half of New Guinea now part of Indonesia.

As Akihisa Matsuno, a professor at Osaka University, pointed out this week in a conference at Sydney University’s Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, South Sudan and Kosovo take West Papua out of the usual context of debate about the rights and wrongs of its decolonisation from Dutch rule in 1962 and ”act of free choice” under Indonesian control in 1969.

Kosovo’s independence was a case of ”remedial secession”: no states claimed the Kosovars had a right to self-determination, there was just no prospect of its peaceful reintegration back into Serbia or the rump Yugoslavia. Protection of people in Kosovo had more weight than Serbia’s territorial integrity.

Sudan became independent in 1956 from British rule, but has been in civil war most of the time since, with a 2005 peace agreement finally conceding a referendum. This suggests lack of integration between territories ruled by the same colonial power can justify a separate state, Matsuno said. ”This means that colonial boundaries are not as absolute as usually assumed.”

Indonesia itself went down this path in 1999 by insisting, for its domestic political reasons, that East Timor’s vote in 1999 was not a delayed act of self-determination that should have been taken just after the Portuguese left in 1975, but a ”popular consultation” with the result put into effect by Indonesia’s legislature. This amounted to conceding a right of secession to its provinces, Matsuno said.

West Papua’s act of free choice was seen as a farce from the beginning. As the historians Pieter Drooglever in Holland and John Saltford in Britain have documented, monitors were kicked out of the territory by the Indonesians in the seven-year interval between the Dutch departure and the ”act” – which was a unanimous public vote by an assembly of 1022 handpicked, bribed and intimidated Papuans in favour of integration with Indonesia.

Revolt has simmered and broken out sporadically ever since. Canberra’s relations with Jakarta went into crisis in 2006 when 43 Papuan independence activists and family members crossed the Torres Strait by motor canoe and requested political asylum.

Richard Chauvel, an Indonesia scholar at Melbourne’s Victoria University, told the conference Jakarta feels Papuan independence is not seen as the threat it was a decade ago when a ”Papuan spring” of breakaway sentiment and protest followed East Timor’s departure. The territory has been broken into two provinces so far, and numerous district governments, Papuan separatists fragmented, and no state bar Vanuatu is questioning Indonesian sovereignty (though the US Congress last September held its first committee hearing on West Papua).

Yet Chauvel says West Papua has become an ”Achilles’ heel” for a democratising Indonesia over the last 10 years. ”Papua is Indonesia’s last and most intractable regional conflict,” he said. ”Papua has become a battleground between a ‘new’ and an ‘old’ Indonesia. The ‘old’ Indonesia considers that its soldiers torturing fellow Indonesians in a most barbaric manner is an ‘incident’. The ‘new’ Indonesia aspires to the ideals of its founders in working towards becoming a progressive,
outward-looking, cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-faith society.”

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called the recently reported
torture cases ”incidents” by low-level soldiers, not the result of high-up instructions. Chauvel says he is probably correct: ”A more likely explanation is that instructions were not necessary. These acts reflected a deeply ingrained institutional culture of violence in the way members of the security forces interact with Papuans.”

Matsuno argues that South Sudan makes Indonesia’s post-colonial claim to West Papua more shaky, since it too had racial, religious and other differences to the rest of the country and had been administered separately within the former Netherlands East Indies. A ”more moral question” behind self-determination is coming to the fore, he said, the factor of ”failure” in governing.

The Japanese scholar sees echoes of East Timor in the late 1980s, when even foreign policy ”realists” started recognising the failure of Indonesian rule on the ground: serious human rights abuses, foreign media shut out, migrants flooding in, local leaders turning away from government, a younger generation educated in the Indonesian system refusing to identify themselves as Indonesians.

”These young people were increasingly vocal and continued to expose the ‘unsustainability’ of the system,” Matsuno said. ”Indeed the unsustainability of the situation in West Papua seems to be a truth. Only it takes some more time for the world to realise the truth.”

No one expects any outside power to intervene. But as we are seeing in the Arab despotisms, the new media make it harder and harder to draw a veil over suppression. In the Indonesia that is opening up, the exception of West Papua will become more glaring.

Boycott needed after torture trial farce – Greens

Soldiers of the Indonesian Army
Image via Wikipedia

Boycott needed after torture trial farce – Greens

Media Release – Tuesday January 25th, 2011

The Australian Greens have called for the Government to cut all military
ties with Indonesia in response to light jail terms handed down
yesterday to Indonesian soldiers who tortured two Papuan men.

Greens legal affairs spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam said the conduct
of the Indonesian government and the farcical trial of the three
soldiers involved showed a “total lack of respect for human rights”.

“What we have here is an open and shut case of severe torture, with
video evidence, and the soldiers responsible will spend, at most, 10
months in prison and then continue their careers in the Indonesian army
– they won’t even be discharged. It is a disgrace – an absolute
disgrace,” said Senator Ludlam.

“There is no ambiguity here. A video of the torture shows the soldiers
burn one man’s genitals, suffocate him with a plastic bag and hold a
knife to his throat. One of the victims said he was beaten for two days,
held over a fire and had chillies rubbed into his wounds,” he said.
“First the Indonesian authorities claimed their soldiers were not
responsible, and then charged them with ‘disobeying orders’. It was a
pathetic response from a government that couldn’t care less about the
human rights of the Papuan people.”

Senator Ludlam said the Australian Government must cut military and
para-military ties with Indonesia.

“Why are we helping to train and arm these soldiers? Why do we fund the Indonesian National Police when its Detachment 88, a so-called
counter-terrorism unit, has been linked to a series of human rights
abuses?” said Senator Ludlam. “While human rights abuses, while torture
continues in Papua and Maluku, we can not fund and train the people
responsible.”