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Rights group skeptical about Vanstone impartiality

WA Rights group remains skeptical about Vanstone's Papuan refugee assessment impartiality promise

WA Rights group Project SafeCom remains skeptical over Immigration Minister Vanstone's statements this morning that relationships with Indonesia will not influence the asylum claim assessments of the boatload of Papua New Guineans that arrived at Weipa yesterday.

Spokesman Jack Smit said, that for the last 44 years, since the Dutch government relinquished control of Irian Jaya, the Indonesian government has undermined independent thinking and acts of independence of Irian Jaya, even while the treaty signed with Indonesia in 1962 gave an undertaking of independence of religion for its population, aspects brought forward by the then Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Luns of the Netherlands.

Mr Smit grew up in The Netherlands and was closely linked to developments at the time, also because Dutch protestant churches - who had a strong presence in West Papua through missionary work - had an interest in freedom of religion in Irian Jaya when the Dutch signed over governance to the Sukarno regime, but within two years Sukarno announced the Pantja Sila, a five-rule dictum which basically forced Muslim religion on the inhabitants of West Irian.

"Indonesia has always manipulated Irian Jaya's freedoms, and it started when the socalled delegation of Irian Jaya representatives who signed the tripartite deal between Indonesia and the Dutch in reality consisted of Sukarno supporters instead of representatives from the mountainous regions of West Papua. Indonesia could do this because most of the tribal chiefs at the time were nearly illiterate," Mr Smit said.

"Yesterday we witnessed the first dismissal on the part of Indonesia when a government spokesman called the asylum claims "baseless", and we will see much more of this spin. It remains to be seen whether foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, the Prime Minister John Howard, and indeed the Immigration Minister will open up about Indonesia's serious human rights abuses in the region."

"It also remains to be seen whether once again we will see a Primary decision-makers error rate of 75% as was the case with the Afghans and Iraqis, and the 100% error rate as was the case with the Vietnamese who landed right inside the Port Hedland harbour two years ago," Mr Smit concluded.

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