Tag Archives: Bob Carr

All the ingredients for genocide: is West Papua the next East Timor?

 

By Jim Elmslie, University of Sydney

September 21, 2012

Allegations that Australia is funding death squads in West Papua have brought the troubled province back to Australian attention.

Blanket denials by both Indonesian and Australian governments – standard policy for such reports in the past, no longer cut the mustard.

The players respond

The killing of Papuan activist Mako Tabuni by Indonesian police was for Jakarta a legitimate operation against a violent criminal shot while evading arrest. That Tabuni bled to death from his untreated wounds while in police custody did not rate a mention.

The Australian response was more measured. Foreign Minister Bob Carr took the allegation that Tabuni had been assassinated seriously because the partially Australian funded and trained elite anti-terrorist organisation, Densus 88, was accused of playing a role in the killing.

Bob Carr raised the issue of human rights with foreign minister Marty Natalegawa in June this year in his first official visit to Indonesia EPA/Adi Weda

For once there was a direct Australian connection to the human rights abuses that have been happening in West Papua for decades. Australian taxpayers may indeed be helping to fund Indonesian death squads. Carr called on the Indonesians to make a full enquiry into the affair.

The Indonesian response was to appoint Brigadier General Tito Karnavian as Papua’s new Police Chief. This sends the clearest possible message that Jakarta intends to deal with the Papuan separatists’ insurgency with lethal force, rather than diplomacy and negotiation.

Many activists have been arrested and a concerted effort is underway to break the back of the urban based, non-violent Papuan rights organisations, such as Tabuni’s KNPB (Komite Nasional Papua Barat).

Independence

Most Papuans would favour independence over Indonesian occupation. This is a recipe for ongoing military operations, repression and human rights abuse as the Indonesian military and police hunt down “separatists”.

This seems to suit most players. West Papua is the Indonesian military’s last zone of exclusive control after the loss of Aceh and East Timor. It’s a fabulous prize to control as extensive (legal and illegal) logging, huge mining projects and massive development funds provide rich pickings for those in control, while incoming migrants are drawn in by economic opportunities unavailable elsewhere. It is really only the Papuans who are suffering in this massive free-for-all.

The plight of the Papuans is slowly but surely seeping into the global consciousness. While modern technology allows West Papua’s riches to now be exploited, it also allows the stories and images of Papuan suffering to emerge. Increased Indonesian militarisation and repression only exacerbate this trend.

A new East Timor?

This is the same trajectory that East Timor’s long struggle for freedom followed: an overwhelmingly dominant military on the ground but a growing sense of outrage within the international community, especially in the Western nations. This led Indonesia to be treated almost as a pariah nation and underpinned East Timor’s rapid shift to independence in the wake of Suharto’s fall.

While no other nation supports West Papuan independence, except Vanuatu sporadically, and the rule of the Indonesian state appears unassailable, a dangerous dynamic is developing.

As the situation in West Papua deteriorates, human rights abuses will continue, with the very real prospect of a dramatic increase in violence to genocidal levels.

The ingredients are there: stark racial, religious and ideological differences coalescing around a desire for Papuan resources and Papuans’ land, on one hand, and independence on the other. Indeed many Indonesians, as well as the Indonesian state, already view Papuan separatists as traitors.

This should rightly concern Australians: we are in a quasi-military alliance with Indonesia through the 2006 Lombok Treaty. We are a player, albeit minor, in these events. When there is a divide in the opinion of the political, military and bureaucratic elite, and that of the wider population, as occurred in Australia over Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, the majority view tends to eventually prevail. And the majority view, formed by such programmes as the ABC 7.30 report, is moving to one of sympathy for the Papuans and antipathy towards Indonesia for what many see as a re-run of East Timor’s disastrous occupation. This does not bode well for relations between the two countries.

Words or bullets?

Indonesia runs the risk of having its widely heralded democratisation process stained by the Papuan conflict. There is also the fact that while West Papua remains a military zone the Indonesian army will continue to be unaccountable and largely outside of civilian control, stymieing anti-corruption efforts not just in Papua but through out the country. The consequences for the Papuans are abundantly clear: no basic rights and a life lived in fear.

While there are no quick or easy solutions to this conundrum, one choice is manifestly clear: does the answer lie in more words or more bullets?

Jakarta has so far rejected meaningful dialogue in favour of a beefed up security approach. Australia, and Australians, should forcefully criticise this as being against our own, and Indonesia’s (let alone the Papuans’) long-term interests.

If the West Papuan conflict continues to follow the East Timor trajectory this problem will continue to grow, relations will become strained and tensions rise. It’s worth remembering that Australia and Indonesia very nearly came to blows over East Timor. Let’s learn from the past and encourage, and promote, meaningful dialogue between all parties.

Jim Elmslie does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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Greens condemn mixed messages on West Papua

 

Media Release

  PRESS RELEASE – AUSTRALIAN GREENS

September 7, 2012

The Australian Greens have today questioned the mixed messages the Australian Government is sending Indonesia about human rights in West Papua.

“The Australian Government needs to take a consistent stance in defence of human rights in our region, not just pay them lip service,” said Australian Greens Leader and Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne.

“Why is Stephen Smith signing a new ‘Defence Co-operation Agreement’ with Indonesia this week, when just last week Bob Carr was calling for an inquiry into the alleged involvement of the Indonesian military in the assassination of an indigenous West Papuan leader?”

The Australian Greens spokesperson for West Papua, Senator Richard Di Natale, questioned how Stephen Smith could have ‘no concerns’ about West Papua.

“The human rights abuses in West Papua were exposed on ABC’s 7:30 Program just last week. For Minister Smith to say that he has no concerns regarding West Papua is a clear case of wilful ignorance,” said Senator Di Natale.

“How can Australia turn a blind eye to the allegations that troops we have funded and trained are carrying out human rights abuses against the indigenous peoples of West Papua?

“Australia should require assurances that our military support will not lead to further violations of human rights. And we must call for West Papua to be opened up to foreign journalists and human rights monitors so that we can hold those assurances to account.

“The lives and human rights of our West Papuan neighbours should be a priority in our dealings with Indonesia. And it should certainly warrant a lot more attention and respect from Australia’s Foreign and Defence Ministers than just a discussion ‘in passing’.”

Media contact: Andrew Blyberg 0457 901 600

 

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.

[youtube http://youtu.be/v-MD9ak3ORg]

Federal parliament yesterday (Australia)

http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansards%2Febe16d5f-1452-4285-9104-171295b6d0c4%2F0029%22

THE SENATE
PROOF
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
West Papua
QUESTION
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
BY AUTHORITY OF THE SENATE

PDF: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/genpdf/chamber/hansards/ebe16d5f-1452-4285-9104-171295b6d0c4/0029/hansard_frag.pdf;fileType=application%2Fpdf


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—

The PRESIDENT: Order!

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.