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West Papua letter to Murray McCully

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,
PO Box 68-419,
Auckland 1125

Hon Murray McCully,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,

5 May, 2011

Dear Mr McCully,

I hope you have received reports of the many-thousands-strong demonstrations that took place across West Papua on May 2. The demonstrations were organised by a broad coalition of West Papuan organisations and involved large numbers of young people and students. The date was chosen to mark the anniversary of the date - May 1st 1963 - when the United Nations handed over the administration of Papua to Indonesia.

The demonstrators were calling for a new referendum because the West Papuan people were never consulted about the transfer of control to Indonesia in 1963. The subsequent "Act of Free Choice" in 1969 was carried out in a fraudulent manner which was far from a genuine act of self determination. It is now widely accepted the 1969 vote was actually a manipulated “Act of No Choice’. A little over 1000 West Papuan men voted to join Indonesia under threat of violent reprisal if they did not take part.

It is fortunate that the events of May 2 passed peacefully, but we note that there was a intimidating level of police and military on the day, and that 6 young organisers were arrested prior to the demonstration.

These demonstrations are like the wave of pro-democracy outpourings in the Middle East and New Zealand should urge Indonesia to listen to these calls from the street and begin a process of dialogue with the people’s representatives.

We would also like to draw your attention to the violent events that took place in the district of Dogiyai on 13 and 14 April.

Police killed a civilian in what can only be described as an extrajudicial killing. The events took place at the police station where Dominikus Auwe had gone to remonstrate with police who had seized his takings from a lottery operation. The young man was shot at close range and three others were injured when the police opened fire. Aloysius Waine was killed the next day in ongoing unrest.

Since the killings, local people have fled the area and houses, crops and lifestock have been destroyed in a security force crackdown. Two people including a young child taken into hiding have since died. Additional troops have been brought into the area and there is serious concern that disease and hunger will claim more victims as people continue to hide from the security forces.

We would also like to raise our ongoing concern about the restrictions imposed on humanitarian workers and journalists and the manner in which West Papua is effectively sealed off from important contact with the outside world.

In January this year the organisation, Peace Brigades International was finally forced out of Indonesia., PBI has been providing unarmed protection to human rights defenders at risk in West Papua and other parts of Indonesia. PBI was formed in 1981 and it always enters an area at the invitation of local people. At the same time PBI staff operate openly: meeting with local police and military personal as well as with their national commanders.

We understand that PBI offered an important service and was much valued by human rights defenders in West Papua.

The Red Cross has now been excluded from West Papua for some two years.
New Zealand offers training programmes in community policing and conflict prevention to the police in West Papua. The Indonesia Human Rights Committee does not believe that this technical support can be effective in changing an entrenched police culture of brutality towards indigenous Papuans.

However, given that this training programme is ongoing we believe New Zealand must speak out publicly to condemn ongoing police abuses in West Papua. New Zealand should also plead for the return to West Papua of NGOs that offer protection to the local people and to Papuan human rights defenders.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater,
(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)


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