A new report by the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and Elsham, the Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy based in Jayapura, was launched at Parliament House in Canberra on August 18. "Genocide in West Papua? The role of the Indonesian state apparatus and a current needs assessment of the Papuan people" details the ongoing human rights abuses, the systematic violence, including rape, arson and torture, in the Indonesian-occupied territory of West Papua.
The report documents recent military operations such as the one in the Puncak Jaya district in West Papua's central highlands. During this operation a large number of villages were burned and livestock and food gardens were destroyed, sending more than 6000 people fleeing to the bush in fear of their lives, where many faced starvation.
Reverend Socratez Yoman, head of the Baptist Church in West Papua, who flew down especially for the report's launch, stated that earlier this year at least 23 people had died of starvation, although he believes this figure could be higher as church and aid groups are prevented from moving freely in the area by the military and are therefore unable to make complete assessments.
Another example of repression is the case of two West Papuan men, Philep Karma and Yusak Pakage, who received jail terms of 15 and 10 years respectively for so-called "treason against the state". Their crime? Simply organising a peaceful demonstration where the West Papuan national flag, the Morning Star, was raised.
The report also details the Indonesian military's business activities in the province; its involvement in illegal logging, in rigged construction projects, prostitution and the theft of aid.
It is hoped that the report's release will focus the international community's attention on West Papua. With the increasing number of troops being deployed to the province, the creation of pro-Jakarta militias, new migrants arriving daily, the spread of HIV/AIDS and the exploitation of the natural resource of the province, the West Papuan people need support now more than ever.
Yoman pointed out that West Papua was not an internal matter for Indonesia, but an international one. He described as "dangerous to the West Papuan people" the fact that governments around the world say they "recognise Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua". He believes that this allows Indonesia to say it has the support of the "international community" and can do what it likes with the so-called "separatists".
Many governments, including Australia's, have stated that the Indonesian government's special autonomy package is the best way forward for West Papua.
This has been used by governments to avoid looking at what the West Papuan people really want — a true act of self-determination as they do not accept the fraudulent so-called "act of free choice" in 1969. The autonomy package has never been properly implemented and it is not working. It will not solve the problems in West Papua, which is why 10,000 West Papuans took to the streets in Jayapura on August 10 in a protest.
Instead of reiterating support for special autonomy, the international community should offer to facilitate talks between the West Papuan leadership and Indonesian representatives to work towards solving the many problems in West Papua.
The report contains many interviews with West Papuan leaders, including Tom Benal, who used rocks as a visual metaphor in an interview, to describe the situation of West Papuans at the present time. "The Papuans are this small stone. Indonesia is this big stone. They are on top of us. Then the British and Americans come and help the Indonesians tread on us."
One speaker at the launch queried the question mark in the report's title and said that what is occurring in West Papua is an insidious form of genocide.
Professor Stuart Rees from the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, who launched the report, said in an interview on Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program: "We're saying that Australia is a signatory to the convention on genocide and that makes us have a legal obligation as well as a moral obligation, to tell a wide public what is going on."
Democrats Senators Andrew Bartlett and Natasha Stott Despoja and the Australian Greens' Senator Bob Brown also attended the launch.
The full report can be found at <http://www.arts.usyd.edu.au/centres/cpacs/wpp.htm>.
From Green Left Weekly, August 31, 2005.
Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.