Subject: Jakarta stands firm over tight grip on Papua

Jakarta stands firm over tight grip on Papua
   
Hamish McDonald Asia-Pacific Editor

Sydney Morning Herald

June 12, 2008

ANALYSIS

 
SENIOR Indonesian political leaders are looking to Kevin Rudd to restore the warmth in bilateral relations felt under the previous Labor prime ministers Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, but they expect Canberra to keep repeating the mantra that Papua is an intrinsic part of the Indonesian Republic.

In meetings with Australian media editors two weeks ago, there was no sign of any quid pro quo to open up Papua to outside monitors of the development and human rights situation. The still-restive territory was transferred to Indonesia by the reluctant Dutch in 1963, 13 years after they quit their former East Indies realm.

Theo Sambuaga, a former Soeharto-era minister who is chairman of the the Indonesian parliament's powerful foreign affairs and defence committee, said the issue of Papuan independence was "always being raised" in Australia, despite the Howard government signing the Lombok security treaty, which recognises Indonesia's sovereignty over all its present territory.

He said comments about Papua should "be raised in a proportional way … because the commitment of the Australian Government, we believe, is a commitment of Australia as a whole that there's no question that Papua is an integral part of Indonesia."

Recalling the arrival of 43 Papuans by boat across the Torres Strait to seek political asylum in Australia - granted in all but one case - Sambuaga called on Australians not to encourage any more refugees. "Don't be welcoming them," he said.

The Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, defended his government's policy of restricting access to Papua by foreign media and human rights monitors, arguing it was not the same as the closure of East Timor during the 24-year Indonesian occupation, and that visit permits were given to some media and human rights groups.

"You should not think that if not much access is given that we are hiding something," Wirajuda said. "We simply want for the people to have a peaceful life, not to be disturbed by so many visitors that might be happening in more open access to Papua."


 
The Government had no policy of violating the rights of Papuans, and had diverted more powers and revenues to its regional and local governments, he said. Under Indonesia's 10-year-old democracy, strong legislatures, vigorous domestic media and numerous non-governmental organisations were "corrective institutions" against abuses.

But Asmara Nababan, of the Indonesian civil liberties group Demos, said Papua was still a region beset by a military operating with impunity, widespread corruption and a serious HIV/AIDS epidemic. "For Papuans to speak out is seen as a threat to their civil liberties," he told the editors, adding, "There is still a strong demand to see the truth and taste the justice."

Clinton Fernandes, an Indonesia expert at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the restriction of access to the Papuans was a violation of their rights as Indonesian citizens.

"In 2007, the Constitutional Court ruled that anti-free speech provisions in the criminal code were unconstitutional," Fernandes said. "Yet Papuans are jailed for peaceful free speech in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia ratified in 2006. There is one rule for Papuans and another rule for other Indonesians.

"And Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, indicted for crimes against humanity in East Timor, remains a senior officer in Papua. If a European country behaved like this, there would be worldwide condemnation."

 
Some observers see a colonial-style policy of "divide and rule" whereby Papua - previously a single province with nine districts - had been carved up into two provinces and 22 districts. Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group said that in some districts, 85 per cent of civil servants were non-Papuans, and administrations were awash with cash they could not usefully spend.

Wirajuda said many district chiefs seemed to spend most of their time in Jakarta hotels.

Migration from other parts of Indonesia is steadily rising, Jones said. About 80 per cent of these migrants are Muslim. There was a sense of "orchestrated Islamisation" of Papua, whose indigenous people are Christian or traditional animists.

 

 


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