21 Mar 2012

Calls mount for action on Indonesia's heavily militarised Papua region

8:26 pm on 21 March 2012

A series of rallies supporting West Papuan self determination were held in towns across Indonesia's Papua region on Monday.

The rallies came just ahead of this week's visit to Indonesia by the UN Secretary-General who is to be a keynote speaker at the Jakarta International Defense Dialogue, and days after the jailing of the leadership of the Federated Republic of West Papua, elected at the Papuan People's Congress last October.

As lawyers for the men convicted by a Jayapura court on treason charges have launched an appeal against their three-year sentences, Papuans in the heavily-militarised region continue to mobilise over their self-determination aspirations.

Johnny Blades reports:

The rallies reportedly drew thousands of Papuans in towns including Jayapura, Sorong, Serui and Biak - security forces attended the events but there have been no reports of bloodshed.

Outrage over the jailing of the so-called Jayapura Five has only fuelled Papuan opposition to the growing presence of Indonesia's military in their region, according to the West Papuan independence advocate Herman Wainggai.

He has questioned Ban Ki Moon's attendance at the Defense Ministry event.

He says the UN should instead get involved in resolving the deteriorating human rights situation in Papua.

"There are a growing number of military of Indonesia across West Papua. I think we can see that the population of military, including Indonesian people, in West Papua is increasing while the population of Papuans is decreasing in their own land."

The Jayapura five Papuans include Forkorus Yaboisembut who was declared President of the Federal Republic of West Papua by representatives of over 200 West Papuan tribes.

All five were arrested and charged amid a deadly crackdown by Indonesian troops at the October congress after the declaration of independence.

A member of Mr Yaboisembut's staff, Yoab Syatfle, says the sentences have only hardened the resolve of Papuans in their bid for independence.

We know that we will face everything that happens from Indonesia. But we also know that Indonesia is a part of the world, and West Papua is also a part of the world. The international community, they ignore West Papua if Indonesia can repress by military.

Meanwhile, Australian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has taken the country's new Foreign Minister Bob Carr to task over not raising the issue of ongoing rights abuses in Papua while meeting with Indonesia's government.

Mr Carr has responded that his government defends Indonesia's territorial integrity on the issue.

However Mr Di Natale says Australia cannot continue to ignore a high-level 2006 report recommending Canberra push for Indonesia to open up access in Papua for journalists and human rights monitors..

We have got a situation which frankly is untenable and secondly we have a situation where the Australian government is financing the Indonesian military and parts of that financing are contributing to human rights abuses on our doorstep. It's simply unacceptable and the recommendations of that treaty must be upheld.