21 Nov 2003

Australian NGOs concerned about access to AIDS sufferers in Papua

11:44 am on 21 November 2003

Australian NGO's say they are being blocked from helping fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Indonesia's Papua province.

They say the Indonesian Government has labelled them spies and cesessionist sympathisers and the Australian Government is turning a blind eye.

John Scott-Murphy, a spokesman in Sydney for the Catholic aid agency, Caritas,

says NGO's face a real dilemma.

"There has been a strong political push from the Indonesian government in Jakarta against NGOs going to Papua province. They have been labelled as spies and accused of assisting the seccessionists. This has made it quite difficult for a number of groups that may be interested in having programmes there. They are being deliberately ruled out for attention by senior politicians in Jakarta, which of course, makes it very difficult for them to get funding from official government sources."

Mr Scott-Murphy says the Australian Government has poured money into fighting HIV/AIDS in eastern Indonesia, but Papua was excluded from the aid programme.