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Goff Called On To Stop Repression in West Papua

Phil Goff Called On To Help Stop Repression in West Papua

25 September, 2008: Minister Phil Goff asked to take action on repression of peaceful dissent in West Papua

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee has sent Minister Goff about the latest arrests in West Papua – following attempts by the people to join together to raise the Morning Star flag. This flag is deeply valued by the Papuan people as it was their first national flag in 1961 and 1962 while the territory was still under the Dutch, before Indonesia took control. There have been many flag-raising events this year and many people are jailed facing charges of subversion, in contravention of the fundamental human right to free expression guaranteed by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

IHRC urges the Minister:

* to press the Indonesian authorities to release the 18 people.

* to end New Zealand’s recently restored defence ties with Indonesia

*to press the Indonesia to initiate a dialogue with the West Papuan people

Letter appears below:

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

Box 68-419,


Hon Phil Goff,

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence,

Parliament Buildings,


25 September, 2008

Dear Phil Goff,

Yesterday, 18 people were arrested in Timika, West Papua because they dared to take part in an event at which the banned Morning Star flag was raised. This is the second time this month that people have attempted to raise the flag in Timika.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is appalled at this latest assault on the rights and freedoms of the West Papuan people and appeals to you to call for the immediate release of these 18 people. We believe that New Zealand action is essential in the light of New Zealand’s role in providing training for both the Indonesian military and the police.

Just days ago the Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono made conciliatory comments that the raising of a Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag by Papuans should be taken as a sign of seeking attention rather than an act of separation, He also said that problems between Papuans and Indonesia could best be resolved by dialogue. We therefore appeal to you to take this matter up with your counterpart the Minister Sudarsono and urge him to follow his words with actions.

As you know political, church and youth leaders of the West Papuan people have repeatedly called for a peaceful dialogue with the Indonesian authorities.

Throughout 2008 there have been many arrests of West Papuans for their involvement in peaceful flag raising events. Earlier this year there were arrests at Manokwari and Fak Fak ,and after these events at least 15 people remain in detention facing serious charges including that of subversion. On August 9, at a World Indigenous Day celebration, one participant, Opinus Tabuni, was killed after police opened fire when a flag was raised in a section of crowd.

Filep Karma and Yusak Pakage are serving 10 and 15 years respectively in jail for their involvement in a flag raising event in 2004. There is a strong international campaign for their release spearheaded by Amnesty International and recently 40 US Congress People wrote to the Indonesian President about their case.

We also appeal for an end to New Zealand’s recently restored defence ties with Indonesia. No senior military personnel have faced justice for the grave cases of human rights violations, such as the 1998 Biak and 2000 Abepura massacres. Instead officers credibly accused of serious crimes continue to serve in major positions and to receive promotions. In West Papua the military are also involved in a range of illegal activities, such as prostitution and the illegal exploitation of forestry and mineral resources.

We are mindful of your interest in West Papua when you were last Minister of Foreign Affairs and look forward to response to this latest evidence of ongoing repression.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)


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