Tag Archives: Richard Di Natale

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.

Australia must act after more conflict in West Papua: Greens

Media Release

Dr. Richard Di Natale
Greens Senator for Victoria


Greens’ spokesperson for West Papua, Senator Richard Di Natale, has called for urgent action in response to reports of conflict, deaths and displacement in the Paniai region of West Papua.

“Australia can no longer stand silent while West Papua burns,” said Senator Di Natale.

“There are reports of villages being raided and razed by Indonesian forces, which may have been trained and armed by Australia.

“In addition to 15 deaths from shootings, thousands of West Papuans are reportedly displaced and some have died from an outbreak of diarrhoea in an overcrowded refugee care centre.

“The Australian Government must urge Indonesia to end the violence immediately, withdraw all military forces from the region and enter into a peaceful dialogue with the Free West Papua movement.

“We must also push for access to be given to the Red Cross so that much needed aid and care can be given to the Papuans in the region. Opening up the area to journalists and human rights organisations is needed so that we can monitor events like these.

“Australia must consider its military links to Indonesia and suspend all ties while such violence continues.

“We cannot stand idly by while this conflict escalates and human rights are being abused on our doorstop.”

Media contact: Andrew Blyberg 0457 901 600

Greens: Reports of villages razed, homes torched in West Papua

Reports of villages razed, homes torched in West Papua


Senator Richard Di Natale, Greens spokesperson for West Papua, has expressed his concern at reports of the razing of villages and forced evacuations in the Paniai region of West Papua yesterday during a campaign by Indonesian security forces against local members of the Free Papua National Liberation Army.

Though the area is not open to journalists, reports from human rights organisations suggest that Brimob paramilitary police and elite counter-terrorism troops from Detachment 88, consisting of units armed, trained, and supplied by the Australian Government, were deployed.

“It is very worrying to hear of dozens of villages being torched and helicopters dropping large numbers of Indonesian ground troops into the Paniai region,” said Senator Di Natale.

“If these reports from the region are accurate they indicate a very heavy handed military presence.

“Australia and the rest of the world is watching West Papua right now after the recent violent crackdown at the West Papua People’s Congress. This is yet another very concerning move by the Indonesian military in a region where human rights and democratic freedoms are not being upheld.”

Why Now? A West Papua Backgrounder

from our partners at New Matilda.com

By Jim Elmslie

Papuans demand referendum.

NM has kept a close eye on West Papua as pressure in the breakaway Indonesian province builds. Long-time Papua watcher Jim Elmslie explains why the situation has escalated – and may get worse in coming months

Two seminal events have shattered the uneasy status quo in West Papua: a labour strike at the Freeport mine, and the declaration of an independent West Papua at a landmark mass meeting of Papuan nationalists, the Third Papuan Congress.

Papuans are in a weak position to effectively pursue any policies that would improve their situation, or move towards the desired goal of many — independence. In fact their situation continues to deteriorate as more non-Papuan migrants arrive and the militarisation of West Papua continues unabated.

By 2010 the indigenous Melanesian population comprised slightly less than half the total population of 3.6 million. Military repression has contained, but done nothing to abate, Papuan resistance to what many perceive to be their “slow-motion genocide”.

It is hard to disentangle the history of the Freeport mine from the larger history of West Papua since the Indonesian takeover.

Indonesia took West Papua by diplomacy backed by military force: a force that no other country, including Holland, was ultimately prepared to oppose. President Sukarno and his successor, President Suharto, felt fully entitled to the riches of West Papua, won in the face of adversity.

The greatest of these riches has been the Freeport mine, the most valuable mining operation in the world. It was imposed on the Amungme people against their will and has been dominant in the political economy of West Papua ever since. The Freeport mine is very much a metaphor for the occupation of West Papua by the Indonesians and developments at the mine site cannot help but have profound effects across the entire country.

The status quo at the mine has been irrevocably transformed by the miners’ strike.

Blowing up the diesel and concentrate pipelines and blocking the mine access road has not only temporarily crippled the mine; it has permanently weakened the company. Once the epitome of aggressive American capitalism, it is now a victim of its own success, beholden to many forces and actors beyond its control which threaten the very survival of the company in Indonesia. Whether it be Papuan tribesmen, Indonesian unionists, theTNI or nationalist politicians in Jakarta, many people are out to get Freeport.

This phenomenon loosely coincides with the world-wide movement against authoritarian regimes (such as the Arab Spring) and against capitalist excess (such as the Occupy Wall Street movement). These movements have at least partly been fueled by the technological revolution that has thrown up new forms of communication such as the internet, mobile phones, Facebook and You Tube. Whereas Freeport and West Papua have always been hidden by their remoteness, they are now no more remote and disconnected from the rest of the world than anywhere else. What has worked in the past will no longer suffice.

Similarly the shooting by the TNI of unarmed protestors after the Third Papuan Congress did not take place in a vacuum. Within minutes of the first shots being fired news reports were being sent out by SMS, followed by mobile phone calls, emails, Facebook postings and uploads on You Tube.

Organisations around the world, such as Human Rights Watch in New York, were quick to condemn the shootings.

In Australia, Greens Senator Richard Di Natale moved a motion in the Senate calling for an end to military aid for Indonesia — a motion that now will have to be taken seriously as the Greens hold the balance of power in the Australian Parliament. There was no public condemnation of the shootings and associated human rights abuses from the Australian government, reflecting its extreme reticence to criticise Indonesia and the fragility of the relationship — at least over the issue of West Papua.

Other countries were not so constrained. Lord Avebury, Vice-chair of the UKParliamentary Human Rights Group, said, “this appalling display of excessive force has no place in a modern democracy”. In the US, Congressmember Eni Faleomavaega, well known for his outspoken support for West Papuans’ human rights, wrote a letter to the Indonesian Ambassador to the US, Dino Patti Djalal. Faleomavaega expressing his concerns about the Congress shootings and calling for the safety, “humane treatment” and immediate release of Forkorus Yaboisembut.

The geo-political importance of Indonesia, as a “moderate” Islamic nation, emerging economic force and potential bulwark against growing Chinese power, tended to mute further negative comment.

While the old status quo has been shattered with the strike and the Third Papuan Congress, no new equilibrium is in sight. In fact by 4 November the workers’ strike had coalesced with the Papua peoples’ political demands when tribesmen joined the strikers at the Freeport blockade and successfully fought back police attempts to break through. The tribesmen were drawn in by the strike and, armed with spears and arrows were expressing their own grievances over land rights, pollution and (lack of) compensation from the mine.

This was a seminal event in the political evolution of West Papua wherein all of the different agendas — and different sets of players — have come into play together at the political and economic heart of West Papua: the Freeport mine.

Freeport will probably (but not certainly) reopen in the coming months and resume production, but the mine and the company will now live forever in the shadow of the events of the past six weeks. The next attack will always be hanging imminent: maybe tonight; maybe never. But the illusion that the mine is safe and secure is gone forever. It is, for the time being, a defenseless victim which can be brought to a grinding halt at will. The security bought with the tens of millions paid to the TNI and police has proved to be no security at all; on the contrary those payments have made the mine even more vulnerable. All those billions seem up for grabs now.

Politically West Papua is in an even more chaotic and dangerous stalemate. Papuan aspirations for independence are being expressed ever more openly, defying the guns and threats, defying what most observers would see as logic: that independence seems an impossible dream. The Papuans believe that God is on their side; that history will vindicate them; that, like East Timor, their day will come and their imprisoned nation will one day be free.

Simultaneously the Indonesian nationalist position has hardened: the Papuans are seen as traitors trying to break up the nation and deserving of armed response, of death. Against this there are elements of Indonesian society that are considerably more flexible and nuanced in their understanding of the West Papuan conflict, exemplified by leading academic researcher, Muridan Widjojo, who has co-authored an important study on West Papua which strongly advocates negotiations.

Indeed, by 10 November even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was starting to talk about dialogue, but with such restrictive preconditions — predictably the non-negotiability of sovereignty, but also the centrality of Special Autonomy — that many Papuans may baulk at participation, sensing another pointless exercise in propoganda. Meanwhile the real power continues to reside with the military in West Papua, which clearly views separatism as a traitorous threat to national sovereignty and negotiation or concessions as a sign of weakness.

As the currents that are rippling across the rest of the world inexorably flow through cyber space and into the computers, smart phones and consciousness of Papuans, the scene is set for an ever-bigger confrontation. The trends are ominous, and the process structurally violent.

Other nations, particularly Australia (as near neighbour, Indonesian military ally and home to the most significant foreign based corps of pro- free West Papua supporters — both Papuan and non-Papuan) are being drawn into this struggle. Just as Australia was drawn into the East Timor struggle, against the fervent wishes of both the conservatives and the Labor Party, Australia is now involved in West Papua.

If nothing else the Lombok Treaty signed in 2007 makes Australia a virtual military ally of Indonesia. One purpose of the treaty was to suppress support for West Papuan separatism, particularly in Australia. Official Australia is, therefore, directly participating in the repression of the Papuans, as it participated in the Indonesian occupation of East Timor with military cooperation and diplomatic support. This reflected the view within Australia’s foreign policy establishment that erroneously saw East Timor’s status as an Indonesian province as final (as they now see the status of West Papua). Eventually the Australian public rejected this position over East Timor; the same is likely to happen over West Papua as an understanding of the situation there filters out.

However the cards unfold the situation in West Papua will likely get much messier and more violent. The possibility of a quiet genocide occurring is real. Australia must come to expect this and realise that the future relationship between Australia and Indonesia will be forged in how our respective nations deal with this difficult and traumatic conflict, not through trade deals and jaunts to Bali. In this context, the call by Senator Richard Di Natale to cut military ties with Indonesia is the best immediate policy response available and should be widely supported.

West Papua – Question and Motion to the Australian Senate, Nov 1st 2011

From the Australian Greens office of Senator Richard Di Natale

Question and motion that Senator Richard Di Natale, Greens spokesperson for West Papua, put to the Australian Senate this week, on Tuesday 1 November.

Senator Richard Di Natale  put a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, Joe Ludwig, regarding the Australian government’s support for the Indonesian military, in light of recent events in West Papua. Senator Di Natale also moved a Motion in the Senate to condemn the violent crackdown at the recent Papuan People’s Congress, to recognise the rights of West Papuans to freely assemble, and to call for the humane treatment and timely release of those arrested.

Richard is working to raise awareness of the situation in West Papua, and to seek the Australian government’s action to suspend their ties with the Indonesian military.

You can watch and share a video of Senator Di Natale’s Senate question and motion here: http://youtu.be/OEvswm5J9oE

[youtube http://youtu.be/OEvswm5J9oE]

You can also follow Richard’s work as Greens spokesperson for West Papua here: http://richard-di-natale.greensmps.org.au/portfolios/west-papua