13 April, 2012
Rt Hon David Cameron, MP.
10 Downing Street
Dear Mr Cameron,
TAPOL has been closely following your visit to Indonesia this week. We note that you praised Indonesia as a ‘Democracy (which) offers hope to the Muslim World’. You were also quoted as saying that you had decided ‘to relax controls of arms exports to Indonesia … as a sign of Indonesia’s democratic maturity’. Your delegation to Indonesia included representatives from several British arms manufacturers.
I would remind you that two years ago in an article on West Papua in The Daily Telegraph you were quoted as describing ‘the plight of the tribespeople as a terrible situation’. This is a valid description of what has been happening in the past few years. Bearing that in mind, we would reasonably have expected you to use the occasion of your visit to Indonesia to express concern about the situation in West Papua.
The sufferings of the Papuan people are to a great extent due to operations by the Indonesian military, TNI, which has been conducting ‘sweep operations’, including several now underway in the Central Highlands of West Papua. Whole communities have been attacked and homes destroyed, along with churches, traditional meeting centres and public buildings. Such assaults, purportedly aimed at eliminating the poorly-armed Papuan resistance, have forced villages to flee their homes in search of security in nearby forests where they are cut off from their livelihoods and face the possibility of starvation and disease.
Allow me to draw your attention to certain other recent incidents and developments. According to data collected by TAPOL, since 2008 at least 80 Papuans have been arrested and charged with ‘treason’ or related offences simply for peaceful actions such as raising the Papuan Morning Star Flag. They have been imprisoned for terms ranging from 10 months to six years. Under Article 106 of Indonesia’s Criminal Code, anyone found guilty of treason can face a sentence of up to 20 years or life. Among those now incarcerated is Filep Karma, a civil servant, who was arrested in December 2004, convicted of treason and sentenced to fifteen years in jail.
In October 2011, the Third Papuan People’s Congress was held in Jayapura, attended by hundreds of people. The Congress proceeded peacefully for three days. However, as the participants were dispersing after the final session on 19 October, police and army troops rounded up hundreds of the participants. Without provocation, the troops opened fire and killed three people. The fact that no-one has been held accountable for the killings is indicative of the impunity enjoyed by security forces personnel. By contrast, five Papuan leaders who were taken into custody following the Congress were put on trial, found guilty of treason and last month sentenced to three years in prison. This exemplifies the severe restrictions on the right to free expression experienced by the Papuan people.
We call upon you to acknowledge that such acts of repression and human rights violations against unarmed civilians should never occur in a democratic country.
We further call upon you to take account of all of these facts and urge you not to allow the sale of military equipment to Indonesia to proceed.
We hope that your government will use its close relationship with the Indonesian government to urge it to end to the practice of charging peaceful Papuan demonstrators with treason and press the Indonesian Government to release all those now serving sentences for peaceful political activities.