Will Australian ministers raise West Papua on their visit to Jakarta?

September 9, 2021
Victor Yeimo was arrested in early May in connection to the West Papuan 'Spring' uprising in 2019. Photo: chuffed.org

West Papua activists are calling on Australian government ministers to raise concerns about the Indonesian military’s ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua, when they meet with their Indonesian counterparts this week.

Foreign minister Marise Payne and defense minister Peter Dutton are attending the seventh Indonesia-Australia Foreign and Defense Ministers 2+2 dialogue in Jakarta, which starts today (September 9), before continuing on to visit New Delhi, Seoul, Washington and New York.

Australia-West Papua Association (AWPA) spokesperson Joe Collins said: “We can expect all the usual statements about regional stability, peace, economic prosperity, terrorism and defence cooperation, but highly unlikely anything about human rights — unless it is criticism of China’s record.”

In a reply to correspondence from AWPA, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) indicated that Australia’s close relationship with Indonesia has allowed DFAT to discuss a range of issues, including sensitive topics like the situation in Papua.

Given this close relationship, Collins said, activists were hoping the human rights situation in West Papua would be raised, including: the ongoing concerns for arrested West Papuan activist Victor Yeimo; the security force operation taking place in the Maybrat Regency; and the death of Kristian Yandun, from a beating in a police cell in Merauke.

Yeimo faces a number of charges, including treason with conspiracy. There is concern for his mental and physical health, which is deteriorating.

According to AWPA, after an attack on a military post in Kisor Village in the Maybrat Regency, security forces have retaliated, causing residents from five districts to flee their villages in fear of the Indonesian military.

AWPA is concerned that Merauke local police chief, Untung Sangaji, was trained by Australian Federal Police, and trainers from the United States and Britain, in anti-people smuggling and surveillance techniques at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation.

AWPA is calling on Payne and Dutton to urge Jakarta to release Yeimo and all political prisoners, and to raise the human rights abuses committed by the Indonesian security forces.

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