1) Jailed Journos In West Papua Front Court On Day Of President's Inauguration
By Amy McQuire
Two French journalists jailed for months in West Papua are due to appear in court today, on the same day as the inauguration of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Amy McQuire reports.
Two French journalists imprisoned for more than two months in the Indonesian province of West Papua with no charge are facing court today, on the same day of the inauguration of the incoming President Joko Widodo.
The journalists – Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrate, from the French-German Arte Channel – have been jailed without charge since August 6 this year.
There are concerns they will be charged with espionage, but formal charges will not be laid until they are brought to court later today.
A local fixer was also arrested with the journalists, and there are concerns for the safety of locals with whom they came into contact.
Dandois and Bourrate were arrested for abusing the conditions of their tourism visa to enter the notoriously media-shy province of West Papua, where foreign media is largely banned.
But while foreign journalists are often detained for a few hours or a day, and then deported, the two French journalists are a different case, with the Papuan police spokesperson Sulistyo Pudjo alleging to media that the journalists “were part of an effort to destabilise Papua”, according to Human Rights Watch.
The international advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has consistently maintained the two journalists have been detained illegally. They were engaging in legitimate reporting “covering the living conditions of the local population and separatist demands”.
The trial is beginning on the same day as the inauguration of Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, who has signalled a willingness to open up West Papua to foreign media.
On the weekend he gave an interview to Fairfax media, where he said he wanted to “give special attention to West Papua”.
Mr Joko was the first Indonesian presidential candidate to campaign in the province, and although many West Papuans boycotted the elections, he gained an estimated 70 per cent of the vote.
Human Rights Watch’s Indonesian representative Andreas Harsono told New Matilda in the lead up to the inauguration that the trial of the two journalists was largely a case of politics.
“My speculation is this case is a challenge to Joko,” Mr Harsono told New Matilda.
“There is a clearing house that meets every week at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to screen all applicants to go to Papua – they have been doing it for 50 years. It is entrenched. They have an interest to keep journalists out of Papua. Why should this new President end that?
“Once Jokowi’s in power, if they have not been tried, it is very likely for Jokowi or his team to interfere. That’s why they want to speed up the trial.
“As long as they are under the police or the immigration, they are basically still under the executive branch of government. Once they go to trial, and there is a verdict, it’s in another territory.”
Foreign minister for the Federal for the Republic of West Papua Jacob Rumbiak says Mr Joko would have trouble making an impact in Papua because of the weight of the party machine.
“The Indonesian state demands absolute loyalty from its citizens, and its institutions have always been charged with defending its territorial integrity,” Mr Rumbiak said.
“In the service of those imperatives, anything the international community would consider illegal has always been quietly legalised.
“The machine behind Widodo’s election was Megawati Sukarnoputri’s PDIP Party. Why would she allow him to betray her father’s success?”
West Papua has been under Indonesian rule since the farcical ‘Act of Free Choice’, commonly referred to as ‘The Act of No Free Choice’ was passed in 1969. It followed the withdrawal of the Dutch in the 1960s.
About 1,000 Papuans out of a population of 800,000 were hand-picked to vote, with concerns they were threatened or coerced into voting for the province to come under Indonesia.
Since then there have been constant concerns over human rights violations in the province and brutal and violent crackdowns on peaceful demonstrations.
Activists have been jailed for raising the prohibited Morning Star flag.
The human rights violations in the province have remained largely hidden from the outside world, partly due to the media ban.
INDONESIA’S incoming president presents a promising opportunity for Australia to recast both its military and human rights relationship with our northern neighbour.
Joko Widodo, referred to almost universally within Indonesia as Jokowi, will be sworn in as the Republic’s seventh president today. The sense of hope and expectation he carries with him is significant, but so are the challenges that his reform agenda faces.
External voices, including those of Australian public figures, will be important in bolstering the case for much-needed change.
Until now, successive Australian governments have held firm to the position of unwavering cheer-squad for some of the more retrograde elements of Indonesia’s political class. However, there are indications that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is aware that Australia needs to change its tune when it comes to the human rights problems in Indonesia.
Australian Greens senator Richard Di Natale has persistently tried to focus attention on Indonesia’s troubled Papuan provinces by introducing numerous Senate motions on the various human rights problems there — most of which have been instantly voted down by the major parties. This month was different. News came through that the Foreign Minister’s office was throwing its support behind his latest motion calling for the release of two French journalists detained in West Papua.
In contrast to Australia’s last foreign minister, Bob Carr, who merely sneered that such motions were “cruel”, “deceitful” and “self-indulgent”, Bishop apparently provided constructive input on the wording of the motion before supporting it.
This may not sound like much, but it’s a significant departure from Australia’s longstanding approach to the persistently troublesome topic of West Papua. It’s quite a different tone to the comments Prime Minister Tony Abbott made in Indonesia last year that he would not tolerate anyone being given a “platform to grandstand against Indonesia” after West Papuan students had entered the Australian consulate in Bali.
This subtle, but pivotal change is likely down to one thing: Jokowi.
For decades Australian political leadership has turned a blind eye to the human rights abuses occurring on our doorstep in West Papua and successive Australian governments have failed to challenge what is effectively Indonesia’s ban on journalists travelling to and reporting from West Papua. But such a position is hardly sustainable, when the new president himself has flagged these as issues he wants to tackle.
During the election campaign this year, Jokowi was the first presidential candidate to ever campaign in the Papuan provinces and he made very promising comments about ending the media ban.
He has since indicated that he will spend Christmas in Papua — a symbolically laden move for a Muslim president given Christianity is the dominant faith among the Melanesian Papuans — and wants to build a presidential residence in Papua.
Whether Jokowi can overcome the political old guard, which is likely to be well represented in his cabinet, remains to be seen. Or from a more cynical viewpoint, perhaps this is all merely manoeuvring from a populist politician.
Either way, the election of Jokowi presents Australia with a prime opportunity to revisit its relationship with Indonesia when it comes to human rights.
Jokowi has presented himself as a cleanskin, as someone who wants to do things differently. Bishop should jump at this chance and ensure Australia does things differently.
In addition to calling for the release of the two French journalists, Bishop should do more to support media freedom in West Papua in general and insist that human rights monitors and NGOs also be allowed in. Until this occurs, the world can only continue to assume the worst about why and how activists continue to die — like Marthinus Yowame who was found dead in a sack floating in the ocean in August.
Bishop and Defence Minister David Johnston should also review Australia’s relationship with the Indonesian military.
When parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties reviewed the Lombok treaty Australia signed with Indonesia in 2006, its bipartisan findings recommended the government “increase transparency in defence co-operation agreements to provide assurance that Australian resources do not directly or indirectly support human rights abuses in Indonesia”.
It is simply unacceptable that adequate safeguards are not in place to ensure Australian money and resources are not supporting the worst human rights abusers.
Reports that Australia supports Indonesia’s counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, should be of particular concern given the unit’s alleged involvement in a number of human rights abuses — including the murder of West Papuan activists.
Australia has obligations under international law to conduct due diligence to identify the “risks and potential extraterritorial impacts of their laws, policies and practices on the enjoyment of human rights”.
In the US, the Leahy Law attempts to ensure recipients of military aid are vetted by the State Department and Department of Defence. Australian legislators should explore how a similar mechanism might work here.
There’s obviously no magic-wand solution, but Australia can and should do more to reduce the risk of supporting people or units that commit gross violations of human rights.
It’s time to start a serious discussion about what isn’t currently working and to look at ways to avoid repeating the unprincipled mistakes of the past. Jokowi represents the best chance to date for such dialogue.
Tom Clarke is director of communications at the Human Rights Law Centre.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has praised Indonesia’s peaceful transition to a new administration, highlighting the country’s successful democratization.
Abbott arrived in Jakarta on Sunday to attend the inauguration ceremony of president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and vice president-elect Jusuf Kalla at the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) building on Monday.
Abbott is among the heads of state slated to attend the inauguration despite a recent revelation that Jokowi was considering skipping the Australia-hosted G20 Summit three weeks later.
Abbott said that the inauguration was an important occasion for Indonesia.
“It has the world’s largest Muslim population, the world’s third-largest democracy and, along with India, it’s the emerging democratic superpower of Asia,” Abbott said in a statement posted at the prime minister’s office on Sunday.
Other regional leaders who have confirmed their attendance at the ceremony are Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
US President Barack Obama has sent US Secretary of State John Kerry to lead the US delegation at the inauguration. Kerry is scheduled to arrive at Halim Perdanakusuma in Jakarta on Monday morning.
The White House announced that members of the US presidential delegation to the inauguration include US Ambassador to Indonesia Robert O. Blake, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel, director of the Peace Corps Carolyn Hessler-Radelet, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and former US ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education for International and Foreign Language Education Mohamed Abdel-Kader
While in Jakarta, Kerry will also hold several bilateral meetings with his foreign counterparts before leaving for Berlin on Oct. 21 to meet with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, to discuss regional and international issues.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dispatched former prime minister Yasuo Fukuda as ambassador on a special mission to the inauguration ceremony, underlining Japan’s willingness to continuously emphasize its relationship with the new government.
“In this context, Indonesia is becoming an increasingly important strategic partner for Japan, which shares fundamental values and many common interests,” said a Japanese foreign ministry release sent to The Jakarta Post.
Japan has also praised Indonesia’s continuous path in establishing democracy, political stability and steady economic development.
“Indonesia’s presence is increasing in the international community, including with the attainment of G20 membership.”
Other world leaders scheduled to attend the ceremony are Timor Leste President Taur Matan Ruak, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Papua New Guinea Governor-General Michael Ogio, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, and South Korean Prime Minister Jung Hong-won.
Britain, China, Vietnam, The Netherlands, Russia, New Zealand have also sent ministers or special envoys to the ceremony.