For 24 years, successive Australian Governments turned a blind eye to Indonesia’s brutal occupation of East Timor. Credible reports of human rights abuses were routinely dismissed as the death toll climbed to more than 180,000.
It is a fact and documented that Indonesian military have assassinated Papuan political leaders, overseen a massive build up of personnel in West Papua, and have been caught out torturing Papuan captives. Over the New Year period,BRIMOB and DENSUS 88 troops (trained by the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police) burnt down 29 churches, 13 primary schools, 2 junior schools, and 13 villages in Paniai and the helicopter of a Melbourne-based mining company (West Wits Mining and Paniai Gold) was used in what has been described as ‘surgical military strikes.’
The military and police forcibly shut down the peaceful gathering at the Third Papuan People Congress, killing at least three people, injuring at least 90 and arresting approximately 300.
Five West Papuan men are facing charges of treason. They are the Papuan leaders Forkorus Yaboisembut, Edison Waromi, August Makbrowen Senay, Dominikus Sorabut and Selpius Bobii, who were arrested at the Congress after raising the Papuan ‘Morning Star’ flag and declaring independence. Their lawyers say they face 20 years to life in prison if they are found guilty.
Neither Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, nor her Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, seem willing to speak up and out on the issue. Despite being willing to take leadership roles in conflicts on the other side of the world such as in Libya, Foreign Minister Rudd is a more reluctant advocate for human rights closer to home.
Australia’s bid for a place on the UN Security Council pitches us as a “principled advocate of human rights for all”. Here is a prime opportunity for Minister Rudd to take a principled stand against human rights abuses on our doorstep.
The effective ban on journalists from travelling to and reporting from West Papua only serves to highlight how little we know of what’s actually happening there. That the Red Cross is not permitted into West Papua is a crime against humanity.
That Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoroa may consider that it is a proud moment for his country when he signed a $325 million contract with Airbus Military for nine C295 transport planes to be used for defence, logistical and humanitarian purposes, I on the other hand think that it is a despicable act.
His government, which is waging 'a repressive military campaign in West Papua' would, not know what the word 'humanitarian' means bearing in mind that West Papua is one of the poorest areas in Indonesia where most of the people live at subsistence level with appalling health, welfare and education problems.
Why don't they spend the $325 million instead on alleviating this poverty or are they too busy sucking West Papua's vast reserves of copper,gold, oil, gas and virgin hardwood forests