Jakarta, Jubi/RSF – After the BBC’s Indonesia editor was expelled from the country’s easternmost Papua region last weekend over a tweet, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) again urges the Indonesian authorities to allow journalists to report freely in the troubled region, which continues to be an information black hole.
An Australian journalist based in Jakarta since 2006, the BBC’s Rebecca Henschke got a special permit to visit Papua with a crew to cover a military aid operation, but was arrested and expelled, shortly after arriving, on the grounds that she had “hurt the feelings” of soldiers in a tweet.
Accompanied by a photo of foodstuffs, the offending tweet said: “This is the aid coming in for severely malnourished children in Papua – instant noodles, super sweet soft drinks and biscuits.”
Henschke was one of several foreign journalists allowed to go to Papua to cover the military operation, aimed at relieving a malnutrition crisis exacerbated by a measles epidemic that has killed more than 70 children. Foreign journalists are not usually let into Papua, an impoverished region where separatist movements are active.
“It is intolerable that foreign reporters are still banned from Papua,”said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “All Rebecca Henschke did was send a photo taken in the field. This arbitrary decision by the Indonesian military gives the impression that they are acting as a state within the state, especially with regard to Papua.
“Must we remind President Joko Widodo of his promise to open up the region to the media? If he wants to maintain a minimum of credibility, he must give some clear evidence that he is doing this.”
Defending Henschke’s expulsion, a military spokesman in Papua said her photo showed commercial food products, not the supplies brought by the military. Henschke later deleted her original tweet and posted another saying: “Adding important NOTE: Other sources say this is NOT aid but normal supplies. Huge relief effort underway here.”
The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner says his office has been invited by Indonesia's government to visit Papua region, or West Papua.
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein yesterday concluded a three day-visit to Indonesia where he had discussions with President Joko Widodo and top officials, human rights institutions as well as religious leaders.
In a statement sumarising the findings of his visit, Zeid said that in recent years Indonesia had come a long way in a short time, following decades of restricted civil liberties
But the commissioner said gaps remain in the protection of economic and social rights of Indonesians, including in Papua where he said many still struggled with poverty and preventable diseases.
The commissioner said he was concerned about "reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua".
Thanking Jakarta for inviting his office to Papua, he indicated he would send a mission there soon.
While in Indonesia, Zeid told reporters that he was concerned about "reports of excessive use of force by security forces, harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions in Papua".
"I think it's important for us to go and see ourselves what is happening there," he said.
Zeid also noted civil society concerns that, mining and logging by large corporations have been a source of serious human rights violations against farmers, workers and indigenous communities in Papua.
"By and large, these projects are approved and implemented without meaningful consultation with the local communities," he explained.
Overall, while welcoming moves undertaken by President Widodo's administration towards social equity, the commissioner voiced concern about "extremist views playing out in the political arena".
He noted that they were accompanied by rising levels of incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence in various parts of the country, including Aceh.
"There are some dark clouds on the horizon but I am encouraged by the positive momentum and hope the common sense and strong tradition of tolerance of the Indonesian people will prevail over populism and political opportunism."
The commissioner urged Indonesia's government to "take steps towards accountability for the gross human rights violations of the past".
Zeid also encouraged Indonesia's parliament to pass two pieces of legislation that recognise and protect the rights of indigenous people and provide essential protection for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Following Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein's visit to Indonesia, he headed to Papua New Guinea, before proceedng on to Fiji, for similar official visits.
Port Moresby, Jubi – The Executive of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has complied with the request of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, to unite and is confident that as the Chairman of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) next week, Prime Minister O’Neil will vote to support West Papua’s application to become a full member of MSG.
ULMWP Spokesman, Jacob Rumbiak, says its weeklong meeting in Port Vila has resulted in the spirit for West Papua to be more determined, organized and unified than ever before to end the genocide of their people in West Papua allegedly by Indonesia.
In its meeting, ULMWP has made changes in its leadership, structure, bylaws as well as membership.
The Spokesman goes further to say the executive has gone as far as producing clear job descriptions, agenda, action plan and tactic and strategic operation.
“The agenda was submitted by the executive committee, endorsed by the legislative committee and approved by its judicial committee,” the Spokesman adds.
While ULMWP Executive is attending the MSG Meeting in Port Moresby next week, Rumbiak says Papuans still die allegedly in the hands of Indonesian colonial power.
For instance (before) yesterday a young West Papuan Leader of the National Parliament of West Papua, Wendi Wenda, 20, died in a suspected poisoning incident after translating (into English) the current situation in West Papua to an international journalist, Rumbiak says.
Speaking for Vanuatu Free West Papua Association Executive Committee and Vanuatu Christian Council, Job Dalesa calls on all churches in Vanuatu to pray for West Papua.
“If West Papua is a global issue then it also requires active global engagement as well,” Dalesa says.
“Australia also has to rethink its foreign policy regarding its bilateral defense cooperation with Indonesia when we speak of global engagement because indirectly, Australia seems to be contributing towards reports of longstanding atrocities in West Papua.”
Dalesa also challenges PNG and Fiji to recognise the positions they have taken regarding West Papua.
In PNG Dalesa trusts that the PNG Council of Churches will now adopt a more pro-active role to support West Papua.
On the direct political front at European Union (EU) and Africa Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) in Brussels, Dalesa calls on the Government to keep the momentum going by appointing an aggressive voice in the absence of former Ambassador to the EU, Roy Micky Joy, to keep knocking and voicing West Papua’s plight globally through the EU and ACP.
He wishes to remind the Government that the people of Vanuatu can do as much as they want here and in the region but that without concrete support from EU and ACP in Brussels, the West Papua issue won’t advance internationally as fast and as effectively.
AWPA hopes on Dame Meg Taylor
Meanwhile, Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) hopes the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor who is in Canberra this week will raise the human rights situation in West Papua with Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
The Secretary General is in Australia for regional policy consultations and her discussions will focus on ensuring that people are at the centre of development across the Pacific region. The agenda over the next two days will focus on the role of the Pacific Islands Forum and the region more generally within Australian Foreign Policy.
Joe Collins of AWPA said “West Papua is a major foreign policy issue for the region and we thank the PIF leaders for discussing and raising concerns about the human rights situation in West Papua at recent Forum meetings. Ideally, we would like the Secretary General and Julie Bishop to discuss a PIF fact finding mission to West Papua as was suggested at the 46th PIF meeting in Port Moresby”, when “Leaders requested the Forum Chair to convey the views of the Forum to the Indonesian Government, and to consult on a fact finding mission to discuss the situation in Papua with the parties involved”.
Governments and the Australian Government in particular continue to say that the human rights situation in West Papua is improving. However, 2018 began with the security forces intimidating and arresting 14 members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) simply because they raised a KNPB flag (exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly). Although they were eventually released it indicates that the security forces continue to try and suppress any signs of what they term separatism.
The Indonesian President has said that West Papua is now open and the authorities are saying that the human rights situation is improving. If this is the case why not allow a PIF fact-finding mission to the territory?(dailypost.vu/AWPA)