8 May 2006

Australian academic describes Jakarta accusations as disturbing

1:18 pm on 8 May 2006

An Australian academic accused by the Indonesian government of promoting separatism in Papua says he stands by his comments about the province.

Scott Burchill and Damien Kingsbury from Deakin University's School of International and Political Studies were the subject of the accusations in a letter sent to Deakin by the Indonesian Ministry of National Education.

Dr Burchill, a senior lecturer in International Relations and commentator on Australian-Indonesia relations, says the letter displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the notion of academic freedom.

And he says any attempt to intimidate into silence those who might criticise Jakarta for its treatment of the people of Papua won't stop him speaking out.

"The ultimate decision of the issue of West Papua has to be made by the people who live in the territory - and it's not for the outsiders to make that decision on their behalf. Now clearly in some quarters within Indonesia, the idea that the people in the territory should decide their future political arrangements is something that they simply won't wear and, presumably, that's what's upset them."

Scott Burchill.