West Papua: Australian gov't backs Indonesian atrocities

Sunday, September 30, 2012
Papuans mourn independence activist Mako Tabuni, murdered in an operation involving the Australian-funded Detatchment 88.

The Australian government's support for Indonesia's occupation of West Papua reached absurd levels on September 12. Labor and Coalition senators voted down a Senate condolence motion for late refugee advocate and Papuan solidarity activist Vikki Riley on the basis that it contained the words “West Papua”.

The Don't Say These Words? blog said on September 13 that Country Liberal Senator Nigel Scullion told the mover of the motion, John Madigan of the Democratic Labor Party, that he would support the motion if the words “West Papua” were removed.

Labor Senator Trish Crossin said: “The government will not be supporting this motion because of her involvement with West Papua, in that it is in conflict with our foreign policy.”

Like Australia's infamous support for Indonesia's genocidal occupation of East Timor for more than two decades, Labor and Coalition governments back Indonesia's occupation of West Papua ― and assist its brutal suppression of the movement for liberation.

Richard Di Natale of the Greens said he was “staggered” at the position of Labor and the Coalition in refusing to support the condolence motion. “On the basis of her advocacy for the people of West Papua, who are currently being slaughtered, [the Senate is] going to vote down a condolence motion. Where is the courage to stand up and say: ‘Well done. You deserve our respect’? It is appalling.”

Madigan refused to alter the motion after consulting with Riley’s partner, Jimmy Hatton. Only the Greens, Madigan and independent Nick Xenophon voted in favour.

In related news, the former head of Indonesia's brutal Detachment 88 anti-terrorism unit has been appointed police chief in Papua province, part of the occupied nation of West Papua.

The Australian-funded and trained Detachment 88 faced scrutiny last month over its alleged role in the murder of leading Papuan independence activist Mako Tabuni in June.

The appointment of Tito Karnavian, who led the unit from 2004 to 2011, sends a clear message that the Indonesian government intends to foist more repression on the long-suffering people of West Papua.

The Jakarta Post said on September 26 that Karnavian promised to look into unresolved human rights abuses. The seriousness of such investigations is under question, as Detachment 88, under Karnavian, is alleged to be culpable in some of the cases.

Detachment 88's involvement in Indonesia's long reign of terror in West Papua has risen in recent years. The unit was formed after an agreement between Australia and Indonesia in 2002, with Australia providing millions of dollars in funding and training, ostensibly to fight terrorism.

However the unit's involvement in politically motivated actions has raised little concern from the Australian government, which only raises limp diplomatic “concerns” while continuing to give millions. 

West Papua has been the site of ongoing human rights abuse since its takeover by Indonesia in 1963. The Indonesian government and military have maintained a situation of mass exploitation of the people and environment, robbing the area of its vast natural resources. This situation has meant most Papuans support independence from Indonesia.

Much of the area's wealth goes to Western and Indonesian corporations, leaving little for Papuans. The military and police are also known to run illegal businesses, particularly around the mining industry.

Straits Times said on September 20 that police were running a $100 million-a-year gold panning business in the waste from the Grasberg mine owned by Freeport McMoRan.

Security forces also launched a big operation last year, allegedly to increase control of gold panning in the Degeuwo River near a mine owned by Australian company West Wits. West Papua Media said last December that Detachment 88 were allegedly involved and that West Wits had allegedly lent its helicopters to security forces for the operation.

Meanwhile, West Papuan people suffer the worst standard of living in Indonesia.

Bintang Papua said on September 14 that many Papuans in remote areas had never received medical care because authorities had deemed it too hard to provide. Many people had no concept of what “medical personnel” were, such was the level of neglect.

The education system is also severely neglected. Lydia Freyani of the department of education (PAUDNI) told Theglobejournal.com on September 16 that up to 1.9 million Papuan people were illiterate out of a population of 2.6 million.

Australia and other Western countries also lend political support to Indonesia's human rights abuses by making excuses for the violence and supporting Indonesia's “territorial integrity” ahead of the right of West Papuans to choose independence.

Chairperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) Victor Yeimo said on September 9: “The lust of economic and political expansion of the states, without feeling of guilt, continues to increase the suffering of the West Papuans ... People of West Papua fully understand how colonialism and exploitation scenarios work in this modern century.

“Labelling and stigmatisation of indigenous people as terrorists, and then kill and take control of land and its natural resources are the ways that are always used by the colonial countries and capitalists.

“Australia, Britain, the U.S. and Indonesia are implementing those ways in West Papua. The peaceful resistance movement in West Papua is being silenced by the Indonesian military forces.”

However, activists in Britain have sought to break the official silence by issuing a £50,000 reward for anyone who carried out a citizen's arrest on Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his upcoming visit to Britain, the Jakarta Globe said on September 19.

“We believe he should face justice as thousands of people are being killed in West Papua,” spokesperson for the Free West Papua Campaign Alex Regent told Harian Detik.



From GLW issue 940