Monday, April 28, 2014

AWPA letter to foreign minister re 1st May

The Hon Julie Bishop MP
Minister for Foreign Minister
House of Representatives

Parliament House

Canberra ACT 2600

29 April 2014

Dear Foreign Minister,

I am writing to you concerning the heightened tension in West Papua leading up to the 1 May which is the 51st anniversary of the transfer of the territory of West Papua to Indonesia by The United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) in 1963. Last year on the 1 May as West Papuans gathered to commemorate this tragic event in their history, the security forces cracked down on peaceful demonstrators who had called a number of rallies to commemorate the event.

The police shot and killed two protesters on the 30 April as they prepared to mark the 50th anniversary of the handover. Another activist who was also shot died of her wounds in hospital on the 6 May.   In Timika fifteen people were arrested for simply raising their national flag, The Morning Star and six were arrested in Biak. In the town of Fakfak, the police hauled down the Morning Star flag which had been raised in a local school. Local people were also intimidated by the security forces during these rallies.

At the time the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay expressed concern in relation to the crackdown on the
demonstrations stating   “These latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua,” and. “I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.” and
“There has not been sufficient transparency in addressing serious human rights violations in Papua,” she said, urging Indonesia to allow international journalists into Papua and to facilitate visits by the Special Rapporteurs of the UN Human Rights Council.

As recently as the 11 February 2014, the district court of Biak sentenced five Papuans to jail terms of between 20 months and three years simply because they were involved in the rally on the 1 May 2013 where the Morning Star flag was raised. 

AWPA is concerned that the security forces will again crackdown on any civil society groups that hold rallies to commemorate the event leading to more human rights abuses. In the past month they have been a number of incidents which has caused increasing tension in the territory.

There have been a number of shootings on the PNG - West Papuan border and also in the Puncak Jaya region in the highlands.  The security forces respond to these incidents with operations that cause fear in the local communities.

In a rally called on the 2 April in West Papua as part of a “Global Day of Action calling for the release of Papuan political prisoners, two protestors were arrested and tortured by Jayapura police officers simply because the took part in the peaceful protest.

We urge you to use your good offices with the Indonesian government asking that the Indonesian Government allow all peaceful rallies to take place without interference by the security forces and to also urge the Indonesian President to release all West Papuan political prisoners unconditionally.

Yours sincerely 
 Joe Collins

AWPA (Sydney)

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