Subject: Australian senators call for Red Cross access to Papua

Radio Australia

August 21, 2009

Australian senators call for Red Cross access to Papua

Australia's government has sent a quiet signal to Indonesia about mounting concern over human rights conditions in Indonesia's restive Papua region

The Rudd government -- facing accusations it's too quite on the issue -- has allowed its Senators to support a motion in Parliament's upper house that calls for pressure from Canberra on Indonesia to allow the return of the International Red Cross to West Papua.

Presenter:Linda Mottram

Speakers:Sarah Hanson-Young, Australian Greens party Senator; Septer Manufandu, director, Papua NGO's Co-operation Forum.

MOTTRAM: During his visit to Canberra, Septer Manufandu has spoken before the Australian Parliament's human rights committee. And he's held talks with Greens party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young .. who followed up with a motion in Parliament's upper house.

HANSON-YOUNG: (senate audio)

MOTTRAM: The motion calls on the Australian government to urge Indonesia to allow the International Red Cross full and unfettered access in West Papua. The Red Cross was forced to leave Papua in April after it made visits to jailed Papuan separatists. Indonesia claims the Red Cross operation in Papua breached its agreement with Jakarta. In the Australian upper house, Senators were not required to register a vote on Senator Hanson-Young's motion. But Senator Hanson-Young says Rudd government officials notified her that the government would support the motion. She's very pleased.

HANSON-YOUNG: The access to the region from the International Red Cross is paramount to ensuring that we have transparency. We know that the best way of achieving stability and peace in a region is to ensure that we have transparency. Its a request that various other countries have made to Indonesia and from much further away. The UK Parliament has moved a similar motion. Their foreign affairs department continues to raise this as an issue of concern with Indonesia and we need to make sure that the Australian government does as well.

MOTTRAM: Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the US Congress say elements of the Indonesian military continue a campaign of intimidation and violence against the indigenous population of Papua -- the western half of New Guinea island where the indigenous population is ethnically distinct from its Indonesian rulers and has for decades agitated for independence. The region is also mineral rich and recently attacks against workers .. including killings .. near a massive gold and copper mine have refocussed attention on the issues.

Septer Manufandu -- the visiting Papuan N-G-O leader -- says Australia has been too quiet with Indonesia over Papua.

MANUFANDU: Yeah, I think so (laughs).

MOTTRAM: Particularly on human rights?

MANUFANDU: Yeah, particularly human rights. Because I think we have the Indonesia government and Australian government has experience in Timor Leste.

MOTTRAM: And Timor Leste, East Timor, which broke away from Indonesia, should be a kind of model, he says .. but the kind of model Indonesia emphatically opposes for Papua. Septer Manufandu says its peace and justice Papuans want .. and rights to their land, the forests and the areas rich resources.

MANUFANDU: When Papuan got special autonomy law, 2001, we think this is opportunity to improve our capacity, manage our land, our natural resources.

MOTTRAM: But he says that hasn't happened and he blames Jakarta for seeing Papua with strictly political eyes .. eyes that observers say fear the fragmentation of the Indonesian state. Septer Manufandu is happy the Australian Senate has raised a voice on his people's issues.

In the face of accusations of being too timid on the issue, the Australian government has repeatedly said it raises Papua with the Indonesian government at every opportunity. Senator Hanson-Young takes some encouragement about the government's plans on the issue from the Senate vote on her motion.

HANSON-YOUNG: I took from today's passing of the motion and support from the Government Senators that the government is not convinced that things are A-OK, as the Indonesian government would like us to believe. d the best way of getting to the bottom of that is opening up those restrictions, allowing the International Red Cross in and I think the next step is to really be urging free media access to the region as well.

MOTTRAM: And in the processes of the Australian Parliament, Senator Hanson-Young says she will be following up and checking whether the Rudd government has taken any new action on Papua, particularly on the International Red Cross access, when later this year key Senate committees get to scrutinise the actions of government departments and their ministers.

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