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Call on PM to act on dangerous situation in West Papua

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,
Box 68-419,

29 November, 2011

Media Release: Call on Prime Minister to act on dangerous situation in West Papua on the eve of the territory’s most significant anniversary – December 1

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is calling on the Prime Minister to contact the Indonesian Government urgently in the light of grave fears of a new security forces crackdown on the people in Indonesian-controlled West Papua.

December 1 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the date when the people first raised their ‘Morning Star’ flag. The Netherlands, the colonial power, had agreed on a staged programme to hand over the control of the territory to its indigenous owners. But instead Indonesia succeeded by diplomatic and military means in taking over the country. 100,000 people have lost their lives in the ensuing conflict.

This year the situation is especially fraught in the light of events on a October 19, when the security forces opened live fire on a peaceful assembly in Jayapura, killing at least three participants, and brutally beating and detaining scores of defenceless people.

The Prime Minister should ask the Indonesian Government to ensure that the security forces stay in their barracks so that December 1 can be a peaceful day. He should also make a request for a fact-finding delegation and urge Indonesia to allow entry to international journalists and human rights monitors at this critical time.

In solidarity with the people of West Papua the Morning Star will be raised in Auckland close to the Town Hall on Queen St at midday on Thursday December 1 and at 1 p.m. tin Wellington at Parliament Grounds. David Clendon MP will raise the flag in Auckland.

Letter follows.
29 November, 2011

Rt Hon John Key,
Prime Minister,
Parliament Buildings,

Fax: 04-499-0704

Dear John Key,

Congratulations on your success at the 2011 elections. As the new Cabinet is yet to be formed, I am making this appeal about the sharply deteriorating situation in West Papua directly to you.

You may be aware that the situation in West Papua is at a point of dangerous tension and instability in the wake of recent bloodshed and violence. This coming Thursday, December 1, marks a highly significant anniversary for the West Papuan people – the fiftieth anniversary of the date when their beloved ‘Morning Star’ flag was first raised in expectation of impending independence.

Raising the ‘Morning Star’ flag is now banned in West Papua and those who defy this ban face prison or worse. Filep Karma continues to serve out the 15 year sentence imposed on him for a December 2004 flag-raising event.

A national Congress took place in the capital, Jayapura in October. Despite the fact that the assembly was entirely peaceful and orderly, the security forces opened live fire on the dispersing participants. At least three people were killed, scores were seriously injured, some 300 were detained and 5 people now face charges of treason. As in the Middle East the brutal scenes of unprovoked police violence were caught on video and have been beamed around the world.

Seven officers have been give written warnings, and a local police chief has been stood down, but the security forces are unrepentant and justify their actions as necessary to quell any sign that the people support freedom or ‘separatism’. These ‘sanctions’ have been roundly denounced by Amnesty and other human rights groups.

New Zealand has a particular responsibility to respond to this appalling situation as we have an ongoing training programme for the police in West Papua.

West Papuan leaders have suggested that the day should be dedicated to prayer and reflection, but there are grave fears of a security forces crack-down on December 1.

Because the situation is so volatile we appeal to you to use New Zealand’s good relations with Indonesia to help protect the people.

Please contact the Indonesian Government authorities urgently to ask that on December 1 the security forces should remain in their barracks, so that the day may pass peacefully.

We also urge that you request the Indonesian Government to agree to a parliamentary fact-finding mission to West Papua, and for the territory to be opened to international journalists and humanitarian workers.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater
For the Indonesia Human Rights Committee

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