1) Tony Abbott has an Indonesian problem he doesn’t want to talk about
2 HOURS AGOMARCH 31, 20153:00PM
Lober Wainggai flying the West Papua independence Morning Star flag on Anzac Hill on MondaySource: Supplied
IT’S the Indonesian issue Tony Abbott doesn’t want to deal with.
Increasing protests for self-determination in West Papua are gaining traction online as the Free West Papua Campaign has reached over 150,000 Facebook supporters.
Pro freedom demonstrators marched in Brisbane over the weekend, as calls for West Papuan sovereignty grow louder. As for the Australian and Indonesian governments, those calls continue to fall of deaf ears.
West Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea, bordering PNG) has been a part of Indonesia for over 50 years after an international agreement handed the territory from the Dutch to the Indonesians. Yet West Papuans were never given a genuine chance to affect their political destiny and factions of the population have repeatedly called for secession.
The conflict that has been bubbling under the surface for over five decades, marred by occasional outbreaks of violence. It’s a sticky diplomatic issue and one that Tony Abbott doesn’t want to be drawn into.
Supporters of West Papuan self-determination were buoyed by comments made last week by the PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil. He told ABC Radio that the previous Indonesian president promised he would reduce the number of troops stationed in West Papua and grant greater autonomy to the island. Indonesia has said no such thing publicly and has been historically defiant on the issue.
With the freedom movement embracing social media with fervour and intermittently arranging demonstrations across the world, it is going to become an issue that is increasingly difficult for regional governments to ignore.
Demonstrators marched in Brisbane over the weekend to support the West Papuan Freedom Movement.Source:Facebook
Mr. Abbott rarely addresses the issue but the few times he has, he remains steadfast in his support for Indonesia’s position of control. In the wake of West Papuan activists scaling the Australian embassy in Bali in 2013, Mr. Abbott assured Indonesia of Australia’s solidarity on the issue. The Prime Minister promised to “do everything that we possibly can to discourage and prevent” people using Australia “as a platform for grandstanding against Indonesia.”
Australia has typically turned a blind eye to the West Papuan cause and while the current government has ensured it’s an issue that remains at arms length, there has been moments in the past when Australia adopted a softer approach.
Somewhat controversially, the Australian government accepted a group of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers as genuine refugees back in 2006 which put a serious diplomatic strain on the Indonesian relationship. Mr. Abbott’s former boss, John Howard was Prime Minister at the time.
But while the Howard government was instrumental in the liberalisation on East Timor from Indonesian rule, his government and all its predecessors have remained largely silent on the issue of West Papua.
Protests continue to pop up in support of West Papuan freedom.Source: News Limited
Abbott’s time in office has seen Australia’s diplomatic relationship with Indonesia deteriorate somewhat. Given the tension over the Bali 9 executions, the Australian Navy’s incursions into Indonesian territory and the criticism the government has received for its own human rights violations, Abbott is hardly in a position to lecture Indonesia.