Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
Media release, 29 August 2013
OPEN letter to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders re West Papua
Joe Collins of AWPA said, we would like the Forum Leaders to follow the example of the MSG leaders who at their summit in Noumea, raised concerns about the human rights abuses in West Papua in their official communiqué. They also recognised the right of the West Papuan people to self-determination.
We note that in recent years the PIF has dropped concern about the human rights situation in West Papua from its agenda and West Papua has not been mentioned in the official PIF Communiqué as it has in the past. Time to put it back on.
OPEN letter to Pacific Islands Forum Leaders
29 August 2013
Dear Pacific Islands Forum leaders,
I am writing to you concerning the issue of West Papua. We understand that you are well aware of all the issues of concern in West Papua and will not go into great detail about all the human rights abuses that were committed by the Indonesian security forces since the last Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit in the Cook Islands.
However, since the last PIF meeting, the situation in West Papua has deteriorated further. AWPA uses the name “West Papua” to refer to the whole of the western half of the Island of New Guinea. However, “West Papua” at this time is divided into two provinces, Papua and West Papua.
On the 1 May 2013, Papuans commemorated the 50th anniversary of the administrative transfer of Papua to Indonesia. Peaceful demonstrations went ahead despite a ban issued by Indonesian authorities in contravention of the right to free expression and assembly. Police opened fire on demonstrators killing three, seriously injuring others and arresting leaders. When civil society groups gathered on 13 May to peacefully demand accountability, more arrests were made. At least 30 demonstrators were arbitrarily arrested in Timika, Sorong, Biak, Abepura and Jayapura. As recently as 10 June a rally called by civil society organisations was banned and a number of those taking part arrested.
In relation to the crackdown on the 1 May, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay raised her concerns stating,
“These latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua,” and “I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.
Amnesty International in its annual report for 2013 also stated in relation to West Papua that “Indonesian security forces, including police and military personnel, were accused of human rights violations in Papua. Torture and other ill-treatment, excessive use of force and firearms and possible unlawful killings were reported. In most cases, the perpetrators were not brought to justice and victims did not receive reparations”.
The U.S. Department of State's Annual Country Reports on Human Rights for 2012 on Indonesian stated
The suppression or abridgement of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities was a problem. The government applied treason and blasphemy laws to limit freedom of expression by peaceful independence advocates in the provinces of Papua, West Papua, and Maluku and by religious minority groups. Official corruption, including within the judiciary, was a major problem.
All governments want stability in our region however AWPA believes that the actions of the security forces in West Papua could lead to the very instability that governments want to avoid.
We note that at the MSG Summit in Noumea, the MSG raised concerns about the human rights abuses in West Papua in their official communiqué. They also recognized the right of the West Papuan people to self-determination.
We note that in recent years the PIF has dropped concern about the human rights situation in West Papua from its agenda and West Papua has not been mentioned in the official PIF Communiqué as it has in the past.
However, In light of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua, AWPA urges the PIF Leaders;
To discuss the human rights situation in West Papua at the 44rd Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro, The Republic of the Marshall Islands and to acknowledge these concerns in the official communiqué.
To request permission from the Indonesian Government to allow a PIF fact finding mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation in the territory.
To grant observer status to genuine representatives of the Melanesian people of West Papua who are struggling for their right to self-determination. We believe that the time is now right to bring representatives of the Melanesian people of West Papua back into the Pacific community.
The West Papuan people have been calling for dialogue with Jakarta for years and AWPA believes the PIF can play an important role in helping facilitate such a dialogue between genuine representatives of the West Papuan leadership and the Indonesian Government. The PIF should place pressure on Jakarta to resolve West Papuans’ issues of concern. Otherwise we will see increasing conflict in West Papua which in turn could affect the region.