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Reader riposte: West Papua in Australia-Indonesia relations

Reader riposte: West Papua in Australia-Indonesia relations
Published 4 Feb 2014 

Joe Collins from the Australia West Papua Association responds to Peter McCawley's item on Peter Cosgrove's views on Indonesia, a piece which also mentioned Ambassador Greg Moriarty:

Our ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty believes '...a stable, strong and prosperous Indonesia is also vital for Australia’s prosperity and security. Indeed as a neighbouring country – Indonesia's continued stability and unity is a core interest for Australia'.

Not many people would disagree that we should try and get on with our neighbours but the question is how much can we ignore human rights abuses that are going on next door?

If we take the government's refusal to release secret 30-year-old documents about the war in East Timor and in particular those documents which relate to the 'fence of legs', a military operation conducted by Indonesian forces in East Timor resulting in the deaths of thousands of East Timorese civilians, what does this say about us as a country?


University of NSW academic Clinton Fernandes has applied to secure the release of the documents relating to Indonesia's treatment of East Timorese people between 1981 and 1982 and believes that the governments documents from that period reveal a 'pattern of concealment' about what was happening in East Timor, about which there had been 'bipartisan consensus'.

Of course the real 'rub point' in our relationship with Indonesia will be West Papua. Yes, Indonesia has made great progress towards democracy since the fall of Suharto but not in West Papua.  This month a number of West Papuan political prisoners received between 15 and 18 years jail for simply raising the West Papuan flag, the Morning Star.

Another indicator of the lack of improvement in the human rights situation in West Papua is the increasing number of political prisoners in the territory. At the beginning of January 2013, there were 33 political prisoners in Papuan jails. By December 2013 there were at least 70.

I’m not sure the West Papua people would agree with our Prime Minister when he said on his visit to Indonesia in September last year, 'I admire and respect what you and your government have done to improve the autonomy and the life of the people of West Papua and I am confident that they can have the best possible life and the best possible future as a part of an indissoluble Indonesia, as an integral part of Indonesia.'

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