Tuesday 13 March 2012
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.