Friday, September 7, 2012

1) Papua's incendiary influence


1) Papua's incendiary influence
2) Greens condemn mixed messages on West Papua

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1) Papua's incendiary influence

By David McRae - 7 September 2012 12:27PM
Recent events have again underlined the incendiary influence of the Papua conflict in Australia-Indonesia relations. A report on the ABC's 7:30 program last week focused on claims that Indonesia's anti-terror squad, Detachment 88, was involved in the killing of Papuan independence leader Mako Tabuni. This has raised the question of Australian complicity, on the grounds that Australia has provided training and support to Detachment 88.



Foreign minister Bob Carr responded immediately, calling for an enquiry into the circumstances of Tabuni's death. Carr stated that the government regularly raises Papua with Indonesia, but calling publicly for an enquiry is a change of tack. Australia's statement on Indonesia for the Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights, for instance, made no mention of Papua, instead raising human rights violations by the security forces in Indonesia as a whole.
Carr's statement, mild as it was, has drawn sharp public criticism from Indonesian MPs and conservative commentators. One parliamentarian accused Australia of double standards for not also raising terrorist suspects' deaths at Detachment 88's hands. Others have said that Australia is intervening in Indonesia's domestic affairs, is giving new enthusiasm to separatism, or is engaging in megaphone diplomacy.
Even a prominent Indonesian human rights activist, Haris Azhar, whose organisation, Kontras, has been outspoken about violence in Papua, had his own reasons to be critical. He told me the call for an enquiry was justified in substance, but that Australia should use other means to influence Indonesia, like restricting or stopping police assistance. 'A diplomatic exercise can be done quietly; shouting is for NGOs.'
The controversy over possible Detachment 88 involvement in Tabuni's death came just after a smaller furore surrounding a WA cosmetics retailer who adorned their shopfront with a 'morning star' flag (the symbol of the Papua independence movement). The 'incident' went virtually unreported in Australia, but saw the Jakarta embassy re-affirm Australia's commitment to Indonesian territorial integrity in the Indonesian press.
Remarkably, putting up the flag also drew public comment from Indonesia's defence minister, if only to indicate that Indonesia would not be protesting. Underlining Indonesia's security-focused approach to the Papua conflict though, he stressed that anyone flying a Free Papua Movement flag within Indonesia would be arrested for subversion, a threat on which Indonesia has repeatedly made good.
The stern reaction of Indonesian conservative nationalists to Carr's statement and the flag incident again raises the question of how Australia can most effectively promote the observance of human rights in Papua. But a sober assessment of the past week by Indonesian authorities ought also lead to a reconsideration of their security-led approach to the conflict (it remains to be seen what actions just-appointed Papua police chief and former Detachment 88 head Tito Karnavian will himself take).
Apart from the practical difficulties of entering into dialogue with Papuans, many Indonesian conservatives presumably oppose dialogue because of the risk of 'internationalisation' of the conflict. Yet the security-led approach, quite apart from the suffering it causes, itself carries a high risk of internationalisation. Even the relatively flimsy evidence presented by 7:30 for Detachment 88's involvement in Tabuni's death (see Crisis Group's report for a different view) has given the Papua conflict new prominence in Australia and placed pressure on the Australian Government to act more forcefully.
These events also again expose the fact that Indonesian restrictions on access to Papua for reporters, researchers and human rights organisations are wrong and counter-productive. If the Indonesian Government wants to be taken seriously when it says it is paying attention to Papua, it needs to allow full and open scrutiny of these claims.
Photo by Flickr user Manogamo.
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2) Greens condemn mixed messages on West Papua

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
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RNZI Posted at 06:43 on 07 September, 2012 UTC
Questions remain over the role of Indonesia’s military in Papua and West papua provinces as calls for a peaceful resolution to conflict in the disputed region continue.
Despite being frequently linked to rampant human rights abuses in Papua, Indonesia’s military is being provided with more weapons from both the US and Australia.
Although Jakarta has spoken of efforts to reform the rights record of its troops, many Papuans are terrorised by the spectre of the military and its shadow forces.
A surge of killings in Papua over recent months have mostly been attributed by police to "unidentified gunmen".
However they coincide with increased operations by military to capture Free Papua Movement, or OPM, separatists.
The human rights activist, Denny Yomaki, says village raids, violence and torture of Papuans by security forces have been happening for years.
He says troops enjoy impunity for abuses and continue to create a climate of fear in remote parts where people have little contact with the outside world.
“And in the area where the natural resources are abundant, that’s really the place where many of these inhumane treatments of the people of Papua are happening.”
Local and foreign media are kept in the dark as to the exact size and nature of Indonesia’s troop deployments in Papua, although their presence is described as heavy and widespread.
The editor-in-chief of the Papua newspaper, Tabloid Jubi, says the military rarely divulge clear information in response to questions about alleged abuses.
There are signs that many hundreds of troops have amassed on the border with Papua New Guinea but Victor Mambor says the military doesn’t give much away.
“I spoke with the Commander in Chief about the military there. They told us they can reduce the number of the military there but people.. it must be granted that there will be no conflict there.”
Denny Yomaki says a central component of the military presence in Papua is the work of undercover militia, intelligence groups and the notorious special forces unit Kopassus.
“According to reports from eyewitnesses and victims, there are people who they don’t know from before that cause trouble for them. In towns and cities like Jayapura for example, sometimes we see at the demonstrations that there are a lot of hooligans going round. It seems to be uncontrolled. We don’t really know who actually organises them.”
However a Kopassus vice-commander, who wishes to remain nameless, played down reports of growing violence in Papua.
“I like Papua, its beautiful view and people. It’s beautiful here. I love everything, the people, everything, I love it. People of Papua, peaceful. Everything is normal to us in Papua, it’s normal.”
Indonesian police say they have detained six separatist rebels over an attack which left four dead in Papua.
The announcement came a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on Indonesia to pursue dialogue and ensure autonomy for Papua.
The East Timor & Indonesia Action Network’s John Miller says that the US administration’s words on Papua don’t match its actions.
He says Mrs Clinton doesn’t talk about the source of the violence which he says is Indonesia’s security forces:
“Even as the US government deplores the violence, the US has been opening up the spigot in terms of providing weapons to the Indonesian military, which is what the military looks at. They expect some criticism for the human rights situation in West Papua, as they used to expect for East Timor. But what they look at is US actions and US actions are saying: You want jet fighters? Here’s a bunch.”
Additionally, Australia’s Defence Minister Stephen Smith this week indicated his government will begin selling military equipment to Indonesia.
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