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Tue

28

Apr

2009

Groups Urge Meaningful Pressure on Jakarta for Papuan Rights
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 05:44
by Staff

Two U.S. organizations concerned about human rights in West Papua today urged the U.S. government "to apply meaningful pressure on the Indonesian government and its security forces... to address long-standing Papuan concerns and grievances."

The West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) called the new Obama administration's  approach to West Papua "hardly fresh."

In testimony before Congress last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for supporting West Papua "in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia." 

"Failure of the U.S. government to think seriously and act responsibly about West Papua, before Indonesia's July presidential elections, risks further deterioration of human rights and communal violence," said Ed McWilliams,  a retired U.S. diplomat and spokesperson for WPAT.

"Papuans have repeatedly rejected 'Special Autonomy' and...  have demanded instead an internationally-facilitated dialogue with the central government to address key issues, including demilitarization of West Papua, an end to intimidation, the release of political prisoners, and the right to self-determination," the groups said. The full statement is below.

The U.S. government and Congress should "apply meaningful pressure" for such a dialogue and for "an end to restrictions that prevent the international community from monitoring human rights developments and the welfare of Papuans in the region." Pressure should include conditioning "assistance to the Indonesian military, Brimob, Indonesia's intelligence agencies on real reform [of the security forces], human rights accountability and demonstrated respect for people of West Papua."

In recent weeks, their has been an escalation of both peaceful protest and violent conflict in West Papua, which Indonesia annexed in 1969. Since then Papuans have suffered massacres and other systematic human rights violations, environmental destruction, and marginalization in their own land. 

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Joint Statement by West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) and East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) on U.S. Policy and West Papua
 
Appearing last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, for the first time as Secretary spoke directly about the human rights crisis in West Papua. While candidly acknowledging the "many human rights abuses" in West Papua, Secretary Clinton framed both its problems and their solutions essentially in the same way that the Bush Administration had: She emphasized that West Papua was part of a "sovereign Indonesia," and said West Papua needed support "in its efforts to have a degree of autonomy within Indonesia."

For nearly eight years the Indonesian government has pursued its "Special Autonomy" policy for West Papua. This was to have afforded long-denied fundamental rights to Papuans and ended decades of systematic human rights violations, environmental destruction and marginalization. Clearly, the Indonesian government has failed to implement this policy, instead continuing to rely on a security approach. Indonesia's military, militarized police (Brimob) and intelligence agencies continue to terrorize Papuans. These security forces violate fundamental human rights with impunity and collude with domestic and international corporations to deprive Papuans of their land. At the same time, the Indonesian government has drawn a curtain around West Papua preventing or limiting international monitoring of conditions there by journalists, international human rights officials, and others. Recently, it demanded the departure of International Committee of the Red Cross because its officials had met with Papuan political prisoners.

The Indonesian government continued denial of essential services health, education and employment, leaving the Papuans to suffer among the worst levels of poverty, mortality and education in Asia.

Papuans have repeatedly rejected "Special Autonomy" and -- in massive, peaceful popular demonstrations -- have demanded instead an internationally-facilitated dialogue with the central government to address key issues, including demilitarization of West Papua, an end to intimidation, the release of political prisoners, and the right to self-determination.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration appears to ignore the reality of Papuans' suffering and the urgent need for fundamental change in West Papua. Secretary Clinton's call for a "degree of autonomy" for West Papua is hardly fresh or progressive thinking. Rather than resort to the failed Bush Administration approach of calling upon Jakarta to afford "a degree of autonomy," the crisis in West Papua calls for fresh approach and a genuine commitment to Papuans fundamental rights, including a right to self-determination.

A decade ago, the U.S. Government similarly failed to understand the dynamics of the deteriorating human rights environment in East Timor. During that crisis, the U.S. sought only to press the Indonesian military to take more seriously its responsibility to protect human rights in East Timor. Then (and now) the U.S. government failed to understand that the Indonesian military, (as well as Brimob and Indonesian intelligence agencies) bore ultimate responsibility for the death and destruction in surrounding the UN-organized referendum in 1999.

Instead of offering stale policy prescriptions, we urge the U.S. to apply meaningful pressure on the Indonesian government and its security forces to press for an internationally-facilitated, senior level dialogue between the Indonesian Government and Papuans, including Papuan civil society, to address long-standing Papuan concerns and grievances. The U.S. government should urge an end to restrictions that prevent the international community from monitoring human rights developments and the welfare of Papuans in the region. The U.S. government should also press for fundamental reform of the Indonesian security forces which continue to violate human rights, are unaccountable before Indonesia's flawed judicial system, and are not fully subordinate to civilian government control. The current administration and Congress should clearly condition assistance to the Indonesian military, Brimob, Indonesia's intelligence agencies on real reform, human rights accountability and demonstrated respect for people of West Papua.
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