One year ago 43 West Papuan asylum seekers arrived in North Queensland fleeing Indonesian government oppression. Today in West Papua, the oppression continues, the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) said in a January 18 media release.
"Reports from human rights groups and church leaders in West Papua have said that the Indonesian military have been conducting operations in the Punjak Jaya region of West Papua causing thousands of local people to flee to the bush for their safety. These military operations are a response to the killing of two military personnel near the town of Mulia in December 2006", AWPA said.
"Church leaders have reported that the military have cordoned off the region with no civilian access allowed. As the local people are afraid to go and work in their food gardens many could face starvation."
Joe Collins of AWPA said the Australian government should be doing all it can to urge Jakarta to halt this military operation and control its military in the territory to avoid civilian casualties.
In a January 19 media release, the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre also condemned the Indonesian government for the repression of Papuans. PCRC spokesperson Rex Rumakiek said that the reported response of the Indonesian authorities in the Punjak Jaya region is "no different from operations in previous years. Instead of the police working with tribal leaders, churches and NGOs to find those responsible, a full military operation is the Indonesian Army's choice of action.
"The whole area has been declared a military operation zone. PCRC therefore is requesting member states of the Pacific Islands Forum, European Union and the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to call on Indonesia to stop the military violence and onslaught in West Papua."
Rumakiek urged the Australian government to immediately begin
a "dialogue with Jakarta to halt this military operation and furthermore, find effective means of better controlling Indonesia's military operations in the territory".
"The violent activities of the military and continued instability will adversely affect any serious attempt on the implementation of the special autonomy."
Rumakiek said that, given the history of continued human rights violations in West Papua, Ambon and Posso by the Indonesian government, the Australian parliament should send a fact-finding mission to assess the situation before considering the ratification of its bilateral security treaty with Indonesia.