Daily Archives: March 13, 2012

Commission Calls for Carr to Change Tack on West Papua

Tuesday 13 March 2012


West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane.

West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane.

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has called on the new Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, to change the direction of Australia’s approach to conflict in the Indonesian provinces of West Papua.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the militarisation of West Papua had led to great problems in the region which is situated on the western half of the island of New Guinea.

“The indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua have never accepted the Indonesian takeover of West Papua in the 1960s,” Mr Arndt said.

“While there has been a small armed independence group in West Papua, nonviolent, peaceful groups challenging Indonesian rule and the abuses of security forces have grown in recent years,” he said.

“Despite their commitment to peaceful action, Indonesian security forces respond with brutal tactics to keep a lid on their activities,” he said.

“The Indonesian Minister for Law and Human Rights recently said there were no political prisoners in Indonesia, but many Papuans are in prison for peaceful political actions like raising the Papuan flag,” he said.

“There are five Papuan leaders currently on trial for treason after they made a declaration of independence at a large Papuan gathering last October,” he said.

“The brutal attack on that gathering of unarmed, peaceful people is unfortunately all too common in West Papua,” he said.

“We hope that the appointment of Mr Carr as Foreign Affairs Minister will give our country a chance to take a stronger stand on military brutality and intimidation in the region,” he said.

“We also hope Mr Carr can encourage the Indonesian Government to sit down with all political groups in West Papua and find a way to end a conflict which has lasted fifty years,” he said.

“Australia cannot continue to hope this problem will go away,” he said.

“Ordinary citizens, human rights defenders and peaceful political activists have been subjected to many human rights violations and Australia must do its part to help end this concerning situation,” he said.

“There needs to be a new way found to end the violence and bring about peace in West Papua,” he said.

“This problem on our doorstep will continue to simmer and worsen unless we can encourage Indonesia to take Papuan hopes and concerns seriously,” he said.

The Commission helps to facilitate a local solidarity group, the West Papua Solidarity Group Brisbane.  On this Friday 16 March at Anzac Square, 4.30 – 5.30 p.m., the Group will hold a public demonstration in support of the five Papuans on trial and of human rights in West Papua.

The group will also send a message of support to the five Papuans before the end of this week when, it is believed, their trial will conclude.  It is currently collecting signatures from supporters before sending the message.

Mr Arndt said the Commission will continue to support the group’s efforts to lobby the Australian Government on human rights in West Papua.

Australian Government Must Continue to Pressure Sri Lanka on War Crimes Accountability and Reconciliation

Friday 2 March 2012

Following the release of its response to the Sri Lankan Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission report, the Australian Government must continue to put strong pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to ensure that there is justice for all those whose lives were affected by the war.  We urge the Australian Government to do three things in particular:

  • Pressure Sri Lanka to agree to and cooperate fully with an independent, international investigation of allegations of serious war crimes and human rights violations committed by both the Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) during the country’s bloody conflict which ended in May 2009;
  • Support this demand at the United Nations Human Rights Council when it meets to consider the matter in March; and
  • Ensure that the Sri Lankan Government publishes a timetable for implementation of the LLRC’s recommendations concerning restitution and political reconciliation and fully implements each of these recommendations.

This call is made by the Sri Lanka Justice Forum Brisbane, a coalition of organisations and individuals committed to promoting justice and peace in Sri Lanka.

In making this call, the Sri Lanka Justice Forum notes the following:

  • Three leading international human rights organisations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group, all refused to participate in the LLRC hearings as they considered the establishment of the Commission as a whitewash by the Sri Lankan Government;
  • Amnesty International, in particular, produced a detailed report in September 2011, When Will They Get Justice?’, which demonstrated the serious flaws in the structure, terms of reference and operation of the LLRC;
  • The LLRC’s finding that the Government forces did not deliberately target and kill Tamil civilians is at odds with the findings of the United Nations Secretary-General’s expert panel report on war crimes and human rights violations committed in the last stages of the Sri Lankan civil war;
  • The USA and other major Western powers insist that a credible independent investigation of war crimes and human rights violations must take place;
  • The Tamil National Authority (TNA) tabled a detailed report in the Sri Lankan Parliament in October 2011 showing the continuing, systematic militarisation of the north and east of the country and the further marginalisation of Tamil people in their homelands;
  • It is doubtful that the LLRC report recommendations will be implemented as the Sri Lankan Government has a track record of establishing flawed commissions and never implementing their recommendations;
  • Sri Lankan Government representatives have been meeting with TNA parliamentarians for a prolonged period to address Tamil grievances, but commitments made have not been            honoured and no progress towards a political solution has been made.

The Sri Lanka Justice Forum Brisbane expects the Australian Government to join with other nations in demanding a credible and independent investigation of war crimes and human rights violations at the UN Human Rights Council.  There can be no durable peace in Sri Lanka without action to ensure that those responsible for terrible war crimes and human rights violations are held fully accountable.

Given the repeated failure of the Sri Lankan Government to keep its promises and to respect internationally accepted human rights standards and the clear evidence of the increasing political, economic and social marginalisation of Tamils following the war, the Australian Government cannot simply make a statement that it expects the Sri Lankan Government to set down a timetable for implementing the LLRC’s recommendations and implement them.  Australia must actively monitor progress closely and hold the Sri Lankan Government to account for its actions.

The Sri Lankan Government must not be allowed to resolve its conflict with the Tamil people by depriving them of their cultural identity, their attachment to land and their social, economic and political rights.

The many thousands of Tamils who have suffered so much at the hands of both the Government and LTTE forces have a right to dignity.  Their immense pain and suffering cannot be ignored and dismissed as irrelevant to the future of Sri Lanka.  Those who have inflicted such grievous physical and psychological harm and distress on them must be held to account for their actions if the dignity of Tamil people is to be respected and Sri Lanka is to move forward to a peaceful and prosperous future.

Australia must play its part to ensure that justice is done so that a genuine and lasting peace is possible in Sri Lanka.

For further information or comment, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

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