14 Nov 2002

Australian group says government should look at human rights situation in Papua

5:26 pm on 14 November 2002

A Sydney-based support group for the independence movement in the Indonesian province of Papua says the Australian government should send advisors there to investigate human rights abuses.

The Australian Defence Force stopped dealing with the Indonesian special forces in 1998 because of its human rights record, but Defence Minister Robert Hill says ties had to be re-established now because of the Bali bombing.

Earlier this week, he said the Kopassus is the counter terrorism capability in Indonesia.

The Australian West Papua Association has condemned any resumption of military links.

Its spokesman, Joe Collins, says members of Australia's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, which is currently assessing the relationship with Indonesia, should be sent to Papua.

He says they would learn once and for all that the military is the main problem in the province.

"Tthe human rights organisations within West Papua itself are trying to turn West Papua into a zone of peace and one of their aims is to try to demilitarise West Papua, remove the military and you have removed a major problem and for Australia to even think about rearming or retraining the Indonesian military forces is counter productive. It will just increase the human rights abuses throughout the archipelago."