Thursday, November 16, 2006

West Papua: Canberra's Treaty 'Killing Off' Papuan Democracy

The Age reports a Papuan leader has said " AUSTRALIA was "killing off" democracy in Papua with its impending treaty with Indonesia"...

Jacob Rumbiak, foreign affairs co-ordinator for the West Papuan National Authority — which describes itself as Papua's transitional government — said yesterday that Australia would be stopping international monitoring of human rights abuses by the Indonesian military in Papua.

"It will close West Papua from the rest of the world," especially to those concerned about human rights and the environment, he said.

He also warned it would "create opportunities for international terrorists based in West Papua to create instability in the Pacific".

The treaty, to be signed on Monday, includes expansion of military and intelligence ties, recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over Papua and agreement to suppress supporters of independence.

"They wanted this treaty to stop the misunderstanding between Indonesia and the Australian Government because of the 43 who arrived in Australia," Mr Rumbiak said, referring to the Papuan asylum seekers who arrived in Australia in January and were granted protection.

"The treaty is not the solution," he said. "It cannot stop the West Papuan struggle to defend West Papuan land, peace and justice.

"The Australian Government should understand the 43 asylum seekers left West Papua because West Papua was not safe for them."

The treaty would not deter future asylum seekers, he said.

A spokesman for the Free West Papua campaign, Nick Chesterfield, said: "The agreement is neither contributing to West Papua's, Indonesia's or Australia's security because it is aligning Australia with the wishes of TNI (the Indonesian military), which is the source of all the instability problems in our region."

A former Papua resident and human rights campaigner, Anglican minister Peter Woods, questioned the implications of the agreement for "those who are legitimately supporting West Papuans' aspirations in Australia and the attitude of the Australian Government towards that".

Newspoll findings released yesterday found 64 per cent of Australians supported access to Papua for journalists and 72 per cent supported access for human rights monitors. The nationwide poll of 1200 respondents prompted calls for the treaty to guarantee access to the province.

To dispel the disinformation being spread about by Howard Government apologists, it is important to reiterate the point that support for human rights in West Papua does not equate to support for secession. Many West Papua advocates would be reassured by a properly constituted act of self-determination, which may lead to a form of autonomy. Until Indonesia ceases governing West Papua as a colonial fiefdom and acknowledges the right of West Papuans to determine their own future, activists and advocates will continue to highlight the inequities and exploitative nature of Jakarta'a rule. Australia is complicit in this repression so long as it connives with Indonesia to support the status quo and to minimise international scrutiny of the West Papuan situation.

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