Monday, May 11, 2015

Media release -AWPA letter to Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 2088

Media release 12 May 2015 
AWPA letter to Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders

The Australia West Papua Association in Sydney has written to the MSG leaders on the issue of West Papua (letter below).

Joe Collins of AWPA said "by giving West Papua a voice at the MSG, it will empower the West Papuan people in international fora, given them a voice in raising their concerns in the international community and with the Indonesian Government. AWPA believes it is time for West Papua to join the Melanesian family of the MSG. This inclusion would help in solving one of the longest ongoing conflicts in the Pacific region".

The MSG leaders would also have the support of their people in granting West Papua MSG membership. Support by civil society and church groups for West Papuan joining the MSG continues to grow  in all the MSG countries.

It should also be remembered that West Papua has always been considered part of the Pacific Community. Netherlands New Guinea, as West Papua was then known, was a member of the South Pacific Commission (SPC), a forerunner to the other regional organization, the Pacific Islands Forum. A West Papuan representative attended the first SPC Conference and West Papuans continued to participate in the SPC meetings until the Dutch ceded their authority to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) in 1962.

Ends


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Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 2088

10  May 2015

Dear  Prime Minister,

On behalf of the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney), I am writing to you concerning the issue of West Papua. 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.
We  understand that you are well aware of the issues of concern in West Papua and I will not go into detail about all the human rights abuses that were committed by the Indonesian security forces in the past year. However, there has been no improvement in the human rights situation in the territory and the West Papuan people continue to suffer human rights violations from the Indonesian security forces.
We continue to hear from governments that there is an improvement in the situation in West Papua. That Indonesia is now a democracy and human rights abuses are something that occurred in the past.  But where is the improvement in West Papua? 
Throughout the year there were ongoing clashes and shooting incidents between the Indonesian security forces and armed gangs and although many of the clashes were with the Free Papua Movement (OPM), some were with armed groups who were not identified. We would like to add that the OPM are committed to peaceful ways forward but will respond in self-defence if they or the West Papuan people are attacked. These incidents usually resulted in security sweeps by the military and police resulting in human rights abuses against the civilian population in the areas of operations. Many reports have pointed out that the security forces have great difficulty distinguishing between what they term separatists and the general public. It is not uncommon during these operations for houses, food gardens and livestock to be destroyed leaving the local people traumatized and in fear for their lives.
There was also a crackdown by the security forces on the numerous peaceful rallies called by civil society groups in 2014 and in particular on the West Papua National Committee (KNPB). These peaceful rallies were met with an excessive use of force by the security forces with arrests and incidents of police brutality against the demonstrators. In fact, all aspects of society in West Papua including lawyers, human rights defenders, activists, clergy and journalists faced regular intimidation or the threat of arrest.   We would like to bring your attention to two recent incidents that that raise grave concerns about the human rights situation in the territory
On Monday 8th December 2014, the security forces fired into a crowd of approximately 800 peaceful demonstrators (which included women and children) in Enarotali in the Panai regency, killing five. Up to 17 others were reported injured. The demonstrators had gathered to demand an explanation for the beating of a number of children by soldiers the previous evening. We point out that at this stage none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice. This incident shows that the security forces can act with impunity in West Papua.
It is now 52 years since Indonesia took over the administration of West Papua from the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) in 1963. On the 1 May this year over 260 West Papuans were arrested by the security forces for simply taking part in peaceful rallies in contravention of their right to free expression and assembly. The West Papuans were commemorating the 52nd anniversary of the administrative transfer of West Papua to Indonesia.  The latest arrests are examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression in Papua. 
We note that at a historic meeting of West Papuan leaders in Port Vila in December 2014, a new organisation called the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was formed and that the new umbrella organization has submitted an application for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)
AWPA believes that by giving West Papua a voice at the MSG, it will empower the West Papuan people in international fora, given them a voice in raising their concerns in the international community and with the Indonesian Government. AWPA believes it is time for West Papua to join the Melanesian family of the MSG. This inclusion would help in solving one of the longest ongoing conflicts in the Pacific region.

Yours sincerely
Joe Collins
Secretary
AWPA (Sydney)



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