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Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Re Papua

letter to Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs re West Papua

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

Hon Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House
Canberra
ACT 2600

30 May 2010

Dear Mr Smith,

I am writing to you concerning the deteriorating situation in the Puncak Jaya region of West Papua. Recently there have been a number of clashes between the Indonesian security forces and an unknown group of armed men in the region.

The ANTARA News agency reported that two military officers were wounded when their military post in Yambi which is 80 km from Mulia, the district capital of Puncak Jaya was attacked by an unknown group of armed people on Friday the 21 May. In another incident a member of the OPM was killed in a clash with security forces in Kampung District Goburuk Yamo on the 17 May. The military have been conducting an operation in the area to pursue members of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) who they claim have stolen a number of weapons.

AWPA is greatly concerned for the civilian population in the area. The local government in the Puncak Jaya region has called on the TPN / OPM operating in the Tingginambut district to surrender, threating that the TNI and police will undertake operations to pursue, capture and crush them. A deadline of the 28 June has been given to the OPM, otherwise an operation would be undertaken. (Members of the Papuan People's Representative Council (DPRP) have asked the Puncak Jaya regency government to review the June 28 deadline giving time to the TPN/ OPM to surrender and hand over captured weapons to avoid bloodshed).

Many reports have pointed out the the security forces have great difficulty distinguishing between what they term separatists and the general public". Clashes between the OPM and the security forces have been ongoing in the region for years. The military have conducted regular operations in the area, leaving the local people traumatized and in fear. The community increasingly feels threatened by the possibility of a larger military operation taking place after the 28th June. Such an operation can only lead to further casualties .

In Amnesty’s International Report for 2010, it states in relation to Papua

“Violence increased sharply around the time of parliamentary and presidential elections, creating a climate of fear and intimidation. There were reports that security forces used unnecessary or excessive force during demonstrations and tortured and ill treated people during arrest, questioning and detention. Security forces also reportedly committed unlawful killings. Severe restrictions were imposed on the right to peaceful assembly and expression”.

Amnesty’s report also points out that

“At least 114 people were detained for peacefully expressing their views. The overwhelming majority were peaceful political activists who were sentenced to terms of imprisonment for raising prohibited pro independence flags in Maluku or Papua”.

AWPA urges you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government, asking that it halt any planned security operations in the Puncak Jaya region to avoid further escalation of the situation and to avoid further bloodshed.

It was reported in the Jakarta Post that the Indonesian Human Rights Minister Patrialis Akbar, planned to release a number of Papuan political activists jailed for campaigning for separation from Indonesia. This is welcome and we urge the Australian Government to encourage the Indonesian Government to release all West Papuan political prisoners as a preliminary sign of good faith to the West Papuan people.

We also call on the Australian Government to urge the Indonesian Government to dialogue with genuine representatives of the West Papuan people. The problems in West Papua won't be solved by deploying more troops to the region or conducting more military operations. What is needed is dialogue between Jakarta and West Papuan representatives”
Yours sincerely
Joe Collins
AWPA (Sydney)
CC. Various human rights organisations

ENDS

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