Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)
PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 208
Hon Malcolm Turnbull
House of Representatives
PO Box 6022
Canberra ACT 2600
10 November 2015
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Australia West Papua Association in Sydney concerning the issue of West Papua. We will not go into great detail concerning the human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian security forces in West Papua as we recently wrote to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop concerning this matter.
However, we point out as recently as the 8 October, 18 peaceful activists (6 who were priests) were arrested for holding a peaceful rally in front of a Catholic Church in Abepura, Jayapura. The Rally was organised by SKP-HAM (Solidarity with Victims of Human Rights Violations Papua). The purpose of the rally was to bring attention to the Indonesian authorities that so far nobody has been held accountable for the killing of four students in Paniai on the 8 December 2014 by the security forces. As the rally progressed a police truck arrived with sirens blaring driving into the demonstrators nearly hitting a number of them. A large number of police jumped of the truck breaking up the rally and arresting 18 demonstrators.
A number of journalists who were reporting on the rally were intimidated by police and banned from taking photographs. One journalist had his camera stolen (at gunpoint) and the entire contents of photos and videos were deleted. Although the demonstrators were eventually released, during the arrests the Police acted in a brutal and heavy-handed way. The heavy-handed action by the police was condemned by NGOs and church groups from around the world. Other incidents include the shooting of two high school students by the Indonesian security forces in Timika on Monday the 28 September. Caleb Bagau, aged 18, died while his friend Efrando Sabarofek, aged 17, was wounded in the chest and legs. Also on Monday 28th September the police arrested and tortured Levi Gebze a 16-year-old West Papuan in Merauke.
We understand that Indonesian has made great progress towards democracy in recent years however, the recent banning of any talks at the Ubud writers festival in relation to the tragic massacres of 1965 indicate Indonesian has a long way to go in allowing freedom of speech, particularly in West Papua.
An editorial in the Jakarta Post (“Back to dark days”, October 26 2015) also raised concerns about censorship in relationship to the writers’ festival and of the military’s increasing (again) role in civilian affairs.
Extract from editorial
“Then ahead of next week’s annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival (UWRF) in Bali, organizers announced the cancelation of sessions related to 1965 — rather than have police cancel the entire festival — leading to widespread outcry and international embarrassment. Together with the “civilian defense program” launched on Thursday and the proposed presidential draft allowing the military to play an increased role in civilian affairs, we will likely see more examples of an increasingly bold old guard”.
On your coming trip to Indonesia we urge you to raise our concerns about the grave human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian President, the crackdown on peaceful civil society groups, the intimidation of journalists simply doing their job and the tragic killing of civilians including school children by the security forces.
We also ask you to support the request from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders to Jakarta to allow a PIF fact-finding mission to West Papua and urge you to encourage the Indonesian Government to allow such a fact-finding mission to investigate the human rights situation in the territory to take place.
CC. Various human rights organisations