An open letter to Amanda Vanstone


To immigration minister Amanda Vanstone: I am writing to you about David Wainggai, the last of the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers who is still in detention on Christmas Island. The Australia West Papua Association is concerned that his application for asylum has been rejected. We believe David Wainggai to be a genuine asylum seeker and would be in great danger if deported to another country from where he could be returned to West Papua.

We note in a report in the May 27 Weekend Australian that an official in your department stated in relation to David Wainggai's case that, "I am satisfied that the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of an imputed political opinion ... should the applicant be returned to Papua".

Not withstanding Indonesian statements about greater autonomy for Papua and the desire for a peaceful resolution of the situation, human rights abuses by police and military in Papua continue to occur.

There has also been an increase in tension in recent weeks in West Papua with human rights defenders and church leaders being intimidated. In an incident on the May 15, two West Papuans were shot dead by police. Serpi (Sodema) Hubi (65 years old) was shot in the head and died instantly and Mokanineak Kossy (47 years old) was shot in the chest, right arm and thigh. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital in Wamena.

Another incident involved Siti Wainggai, a West Papuan woman who fled to Papua New Guinea in fear of her life. Her young daughter, Anike, and the child's father, Yunos Wainggai, are among the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers who fled to Australia and were granted temporary protection visas.

Before fleeing to PNG, Siti Wainggai was forced by Indonesian intelligence officers to sign a prepared statement demanding her daughter's return. She fled to PNG for her safety. It has been reported that Indonesian intelligence officers have followed her to PNG and she is in hiding.

We also note that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is concerned about reports of human rights abuses in West Papua, and has been barred from visiting the territory.

In an interview printed in the March 1 Sydney Morning Herald, Juan Mendez, the United Nations' special envoy on the prevention of genocide, said that the Indonesian government is preventing human rights observers from monitoring the situation in Papua amid "worrying" reports of abuses in the province.

While David Wainggai's appeal is being considered, which could take some time, we believe he should be removed from the detention centre on Christmas Island to either Melbourne or Sydney, as we believe long-term isolation on Christmas Island could have an effect on his health. In Melbourne or Sydney there would be the opportunity for David to receive support from family and friends in the community. We believe that David Wainggai should be granted a visa on humanitarian grounds.

Joe Collins
Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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