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Open letter to Pacific Islands Forum leaders concerning West Papua

Dear Pacific Islands Forum leaders  - On behalf of the Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) I am writing to you concerning the issue of West Papua.

AWPA believes that since the last Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit in Auckland, the situation in West Papua has deteriorated further. We would like to bring your attention to a number of incidents and reports that raise grave concerns about the human rights situation in the territory.
In October 2011 there was a crackdown on the 3rd Papuan Peoples congress where security forces used excessive force when arresting up to 300 Papuans. Up to six people were reported killed and five of the organisers arrested and charged with treason. They received three years in prison for subversion.  At no time did these men commit violence and they have been jailed solely for peacefully expressing their political views as is their right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As opposed to the three year sentence given to the five activists, no action was taken against the security force personal who were involved in the brutal crackdown and they received only written warnings. 

Amnesty International in its annual report 2011 on Indonesia states  

“The security forces tortured and otherwise ill-treated detainees, and used excessive force against protesters, sometimes leading to death. No adequate accountability mechanisms were in place to ensure justice or act as an effective deterrent against police abuses. The criminal justice system remained unable to address ongoing impunity for current and past human rights violations. Restrictions on freedom of expression were severe in areas such as Papua and Maluku”.

Amnesty International also believes there are at least 100 political activists in prison for peacefully expressing their views in areas seeking independence such as Maluku and Papua.

An article in the Jakarta Globe (4 January 2012) titled “2011 a Busy Year for Human Rights Investigations in Papua” quotes the head of the Papua office of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) as saying they “looked into 58 alleged violations of human rights in 2011, and was anticipating investigating at least that many cases in 2012”, and, 
“In almost 65 percent of human rights violation cases in Papua, the perpetrators are TNI [Indonesian Armed Forces] and National Police members,”

The Freeport mine is a symbol to West Papuan people of the exploitation of their natural resources from which they receive little benefit.  A three-month strike began on the 15 September with workers asking for better conditions.   During the strike a number of shootings occurred around the mine.  In one incident Petrus Ayamiseba, a worker was killed when Indonesian security forces fired on striking workers in Timika.

A number of military operations occurred in West Papua in the past year.

A Military operation in the Paniai region caused the displacement of thousands of people and villages burned.  According to a report in Jubi (29 December) referring to a military operation in November and December 2011,  “The operation has been on-going ever since Brimob troops from East Kalimantan were sent to Paniai in the second week of November” Jubi also commented that this operation will continue as the security forces hunt for the OPM who have moved from Eduda  (one of their base camps into woodland areas following an attack by the security forces. The Free Papua Organization says 14 of its members were killed during the attack. At one stage approximately 500 inhabitants of Dagouto village in Paniai Regency had to leave their homes and seek refuge following the deployment of 150 Mobile Brigade officers to their area.

It is now 49 years since Indonesia took over the administration of West Papua from the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) in 1963 and the people of West Papua still continue their struggle for self -determination.   This can be clearly seen by the thousands of West Papuans who marched peacefully in the past year in numerous rallies calling for their right to self-determination and for a referendum. The most recent rallies took place on the 1st May when thousands marched to protest the UN handover of West Papua to Indonesian administration in 1963.

In light of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua, AWPA urges the PIF Leaders;
  • to discuss the human rights situation in West Papua  at the 43rd Pacific Islands Forum in  August in Rarotonga.
  • to raise the human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian President and to urge the Indonesian Government  to release all West Papuan political prisoners as a sign of good faith to the West Papuan people.
  • to request permission from the Indonesian Government to allow a PIF fact finding mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation in the territory.
  • to encourage the Indonesian Government to allow greater access for human rights monitors and the international media to West Papua.  
  • to grant observer status to  genuine representatives of the Melanesian  people of West Papua who are struggling for their right to self determination . We note that the PIF has granted observer status to Tokelau, Wallis and Futuna, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, the Word Bank, American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, and the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States Secretariat.  New Caledonia and French Polynesia, previously Forum Observers are now Associate Members with Timor Leste having Special Observer status.
We believe that the time is now right to bring representatives of the Melanesian people of West Papua back into  the Pacific community .
The issue of West Papua will not disappear and AWPA believes that it should be of great concern to the Forum that the situation in West Papua could deteriorate further. The West Papuan people have been calling for dialogue with Jakarta for years (under third party mediation ) and  AWPA believes the PIF can play an important role in helping facilitate such a dialogue between genuine representatives of the West Papuan leadership and the Indonesian Government. The PIF should place pressure on Jakarta to resolve West Papuans’ issues of concern. Otherwise we will see increasing conflict in West Papua which in turn could affect the region.h