Indonesia's president faces protests over Papua crimes

November 8, 2012

Protesters confronted Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit to Britain on October 31. They were angry at Indonesia's ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua.

Australian-born activist Peter Tatchell was arrested for holding a West Papuan independence flag near Yudhoyono's car, the Jakarta Globe said on November 1. Yudhoyono was feted by Britain's political elites, including a private lunch with the Queen, Reuters said on November 1.

Yudhoyono was again praised by world leaders, including Australian PM Julia Gillard, when he opened the fifth Bali Democracy Forum on November 8.

While Indonesia was being hailed for “promoting democracy”, its security forces were severely repressing the democratic rights of West Papuans. Army Battalion 756, along with Brimob paramilitaries and, allegedly, Australian-funded Detachment 88 went on a rampage in Wamena on November 4.

West Papua Media said on November 7: “The troops laid siege to a group of houses and started shooting at the houses and directly at residents, according to witnesses interviewed by local human rights sources.

“One person was reportedly seriously injured by gunshot wounds sustained during the attack, and many more people received major burn injuries after being caught in three houses that were torched by the joint force.”

Families of those targeted fled to the jungle and were too afraid to return.

Battalion 756 had launched a similar rampage in Wamena in June.

Meanwhile, two activists from the West Papua National Committee (KNBP) were found on a roadside near Fak Fak on November 4 with injuries consistent with an attack by security forces, KNBP News said on November 6.

A leading member of the KNBP in Sorong, Paul Horik, was found dead at the scene and his colleague Klismon Woi died later in hospital.

These incidents took place as part of a violent crackdown by security forces. Many raids on activists have taken place across the country.

Many KNBP activists have been arrested on spurious allegations of bomb making. Many believe the bomb materials were planted to justify the repression of the group's non-violent campaign for independence.

In spite of the growing violence, Australian foreign minister Bob Carr showed his loyalty to Indonesia when he ridiculed the notion that West Papua should break free of Indonesia or have greater autonomy.

Carr told ABC on November 2: “I just ask those idealistic Australians who might entertain some other arrangement [for independence] that: what would be the cost in terms of our friendship with Indonesia and in terms of our budget of a different arrangement?

“It's inconceivable, utterly inconceivable.”

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