A group of Free West Papua supporters attended a morning tea fundraiser in Darwin on August 2. The special guest was foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop. We wanted to meet her to discuss human rights in West Papua.
Bishop was the key speaker. She took a few questions from the crowd but, although she knew I wanted to speak to her, she ignored me every time.
After she sat down, we walked peacefully up to her table with the Morning Star flag and asked if we could meet to discuss West Papua. Eventually she agreed to meet privately, but only with me and on condition that no photographs or flags were present. It was agreed and I was taken into a room, body searched and told to wait.
After 15 minutes the minister entered the room and asked me my name. I said: "My name is Peter Elaby and I come from West Papua but I am an Australian citizen as well. I want to ask you a few questions."
I asked her: "Why does the Australian government not try to solve the human rights problems in the Pacific and particular in West Papua?"
She replied: "The Australian government can't do anything about human rights issues in West Papua because we respect Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua. The Australian government is sure that the issue of human rights in West Papua can be solved with consultation with the Indonesian government."
I then asked her: "What is the Australian government’s stance on human rights in West Papua? Australia has been financing and training Indonesian troops, many of whom are sent to West Papua. The Indonesian military kill those who try to speak up about their rights. The Australian government helps the Indonesian government to arrest and kill West Papuans who join democratic and peaceful rallies."
Bishop repeated that the Australian government cannot do anything because they respect the boundaries of Indonesian sovereignty.
I asked the minister: "What is the difference between East Timor and West Papua?' She was stuck but finally she said: "Well, East Timor only got independence because Indonesia gave them a referendum".
When I said: "No, the Australian government sent INTERFET troops into East Timor", she just started talking about Indonesian sovereignty again and how Australia can't possibly interfere.
I asked the minister: "Why does the Australian government send troops to the Middle East but not next door to West Papua? The Indonesian government is committing genocide on the people of West Papua and Australia does nothing.”
She replied by repeating that Australia respects of the sovereign boundaries of Indonesia and that it is impossible for Australia to help.
I reminded the minister that during World War II, when Japan was threatening to invade the Australia, the people of West Papua and Papua New Guinea stood and helped the Australian troops in Papua. I asked her: "Doesn’t Australia have a moral obligation to the people of West Papua to help end the human rights situation in West Papua?"
Bishop agreed that the people of West Papua had helped Australia in World War II. But then she began explaining that Australia is educating some students from the Pacific Islands, such as Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and is working with Pacific Islands’ governments to solve the problems in the Pacific region.
But she didn’t say anything about West Papuan human rights or the genocide that is happening right now in West Papua. She didn’t say how Australia could help solve the human rights issues in West Papua. She only wanted to talk about educating students from the Pacific region.
The foreign minister concluded the meeting by going on again about Indonesian sovereignty and how Australia can't do much. Finally she asked me: "What do you think?"
I said: "I know that West Papua will get its independence one day."
Photos: Australians for a Free West Papua