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Letter To Phil Goff On West Papua Crisis

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,
Box 68419, Auckland.

Hon Mr Phil Goff,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,

8 December, 2004.

Dear Mr Goff, Attention has been focused on the needs of the victims of the earthquakes in the Nabire region, West Papua. There is a crisis situation at the present time because of the health problems that have followed from the devastation.

Reports say that over 2000 people are suffering from malaria, respiratory problems and diarrhoea, and that several children have died.

At the same time we are also deeply concerned about the situation of at least 5,000 people in the Puncak Jaya region who have been forced to flee their homes and live in makeshift refugee camps in the mountains.

The people face hunger and starvation after fleeing a military offensive which destroyed their homes and burned churches. Church sources say that at least 15 people including 13 children have already died and that many others are suffering serious illnesses.

It has been nearly impossible to provide food and medical supplies to the refugees because the military has closed off the region to humanitarian aid workers. The people cannot return to their villages to tend their crops because the military has imposed a tight cordon around the area. A family group which did go home to seek food were shot by the military in their garden

The offensive began on August 17, 2004 and a Protestant minister, the Rev. Elisa Tabuni, was killed by Kopassus troops on September 17 after the unit accused the minister of being a separatist.

The Indonesian military began their latest operation in West Papua after accusing members of the Free Papua Movement of killing seven civilians.

However, human rights groups in West Papua and Jakarta said the military orchestrated the incident by using local Papuans as militias. It is very difficult to establish the truth of the allegations given that the area is sealed off from the outside world.

We appeal to you to urge the Indonesian government to allow immediate access to the devastated area for a humanitarian aid mission and for human rights groups to have access to the people to document the events that have taken place.

We also urge you to call for the withdrawal of the heavy and threatening troop presence in the area. We also draw your attention to the events in Jayapura on December 1 when hundreds of West Papuan people attempted to celebrate the day they have called "Independence Day" for more than 40 years.

This is the anniversary of the day in 1961 when the newly elected West New Guinea Council first raised the Morning Star flag as part of the preparations for the end of Dutch colonial control. The peaceful flag raising ceremony was violently dispersed by the security forces. Five people were shot and wounded and at least 18 people were arrested.

An Elsham human rights worker and several of the event organisers were beaten by police.

New Zealand has been considering forging closer ties to the ASEAN countries and the Prime Minister has suggested that human rights have improved in Indonesia.

However, in West Papua and Aceh, there is ongoing war and Indonesian human rights groups have appealed to New Zealand to speak out and to call for international access and the resumption of dialogue aimed at a peaceful resolution of the conflicts.

Yours sincerely, Maire Leadbeater
for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee

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