Papua shootings prompt calls to sever military ties
There are calls for the United States and Pacific countries to cut military ties with Indonesia after police fired on peaceful demonstrations in Papua and West Papua
There are calls for the United States and Pacific countries to cut military ties with Indonesia after peaceful demonstrations were fired upon by police in the provinces of Papua and West Papua last week.
The demonstrations were marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations-sanctioned transferral of the former Dutch New Guinea to Indonesia's control.
At least two Papuans were shot dead and one other later died in hospital.
Alex Perrottet has more:
A number of different sources in Papua and West Papua have confirmed that police opened fire on peaceful demonstrators on May Day. Yoab Syatfle, an assistant to the jailed Papuan-elected President Forkorus Yaboisembut, says three were shot dead and others injured in Sorong, while one was shot dead on Biak Island and four were injured in Timika. The National Committee for West Papua, or KNPB, says the death toll could be as high as ten, and the counter-terrorism unit of the Indonesian police, Densus 88, is being linked to some of the killings. The Secretary of the Jayapura branch of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights Paul Mambrasar says the Indonesian police act with impunity. Those who should be exercising the rule of law are the ones who are violating it, and the state is very lenient, giving very light sentences to them, they are still in uniforms. Ed McWilliams is a retired United States senior foireign service officer working with the West Papua Advocacy Team. He says a US State Department human rights report released last week was specific about problems in West Papua. But he says the international community needs to do more than simply criticise, and should cut military ties.
McWILLIAMS: We need to end our support for those forces which are committing these abuses, and I might add also basically enjoying impunity for those abuses. It's time the UNited States and other countries severed their military to military relationships with these organisations.
While the issue is gaining more traction internationally, the Melanesian Spearhead Group has indicated it may accept a West Papuan bid for membership at its summit in New Caledonia in June. Ed McWilliams says the MSG move is encouraging and he hopes it can bring its concerns on West Papua to the United Nations.
McWILLIAMS: This is an encouraging step forward by the Melanesians and I might say a rather courageous step on their part, but I think also we should, in the context of the United Nations, call attention to the human rights commissioner Pillay, who has spoken out very very strongly with regard to these May 1 incidents, that's very encouraging.
Yoab Syatfle says Pacific support for West Papua is a matter of life and death.
SYATFLE: If the Pacific region, still recognises Indonesian territory on West Papua, the Pacific region supports Indonesian destruction, to kill West Papuan people. If you support West Papuan independence, you save West Papuan lives.
Indonesia's police did not respond to calls.
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