Reports that six Papuan protesters were killed by police
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Reports that six Papuan protesters were killed by police

Updated 7 May 2013, 17:46 AEST

A US-based West Papuan activist group says it believes six protestors were killed by Indonesian security forces about a week ago.

Several protests were held on May the first to mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations handover of West Papua to Indonesia.

The West Papua Advocacy Team says some protestors were attacked by Densus 88, a special counter-terrorism unit of the Indonesian police which has received equipment and training from the Australian Federal Police.


“How could SBY be given the award while we are being discriminated against and even attacked when performing our basic religious rights?” Filadelfia’s Rev. Palti Panjaitan said.

Edmund McWilliams, a retired US senior foreign service officer in Indonesia and spokesman for the West Papua Advocacy Team, told Cathy Harper he's received credible information about multiple deaths.

However, it's difficult to verify information out of Papua and the claims haven't been independently confirmed.

Police were contacted, but were unavailable for comment.

The Jakarta Globe quotes Indonesian police in Papua as defending the fatal shooting of two activists, saying they attacked police with sharp weapons and the officers were acting in self defence.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has released a statement expressing concern about claims of excessive force by police in the province.

Presenter: Cathy Harper

Speaker: Edmund McWilliams, a retired US senior foreign service officer in Indonesia and spokesman for the West Papua Advocacy Team

MCWILLIAMS: It was an attack by the security forces, apparently included Densus 88, which is a special anti-terror unit, against peaceful demonstrators. As far as we know these were peaceful demonstrations in which Papuans were raising the Morning Star flag, which is essentially a nationalist but also a cultural symbol for Papuans, and in a number of places this took place, and apparently there was widespread attacks on these peaceful dissenters.

HARPER: What's your best information about what exactly happened and where and how many people were involved?

MCWILLIAMS: Well the first report we had was that in Sorong that two people were killed and then subsequently we have seen reports which we regard as credible, that there were also four people killed in Timika and a number of people arrested. But then also additional people shot elsewhere, I believe on the island of Biak, which is on the north coast. And then we believe there were also some arrests or at least potentially detentions, we're not sure if these people are still under arrest, in the Jayapura area around the grave of Theys Eluay, the former Papuan independence figure.

HARPER: And when you say dissent, the protests were not even directly related to a West Papuan independence movement were they?

MCWILLIAMS: What we understand of course is that the event on May 1st was supposed to coincide specifically with Indonesian annexation of West Papua 50 years ago. That annexation took place without obviously the consent of the Papuan people, and this was a Papuan protest commemorating that event.

HARPER: You mentioned that you believe the forces responsible for the violence, Densus 88, can you explain what that is and I understand there's an Australian connection?

MCWILLIAMS: Yes there is, there's also a US connection. I should say we're not convinced that the Densus 88 forces were involved in all of the attacks, but certainly in some of them. Densus 88 was formed as anti-terror unit within the security forces of Indonesia at the behest of the United States with funding from the United States, but also with training and funding assistance from Australia among others. So there's a certain degree of US and we have to say Australian culpability, complicity in the acts that Densus 88, which has been a source of human rights organization criticism for many years.

HARPER: What do you know about the feeling on the ground at the moment?

MCWILLIAMS: Well we understand it's a very tense situation. What we're pleased with is that there has been a significant international reaction. The UN Human Rights Commissioner has spoken out very strongly, as have a number of organisations. So essentially we've seen a good international reaction. But unfortunately as in the past the security forces seem to be insensitive to such international criticism. They operate essentially in a rogue fashion not responsive to civilian government in Jakarta.

HARPER: Do you get any sense from the international community, particularly from governments like the US and Australia that there is or will be any sort of appetite to support any sort of independence movement in West Papua, because there doesn't seem to be any sort of those kind of messages coming from the Australian government at all at the moment, quite the opposite?

MCWILLIAMS: No I think what we're seeing unfortunately is consistent stand by governments of the United States and Australia, also the United Kingdom, which essentially say that they respect the territorial integrity of Indonesia, which of course is code for including Papua as part of Indonesia. These statements are very similar to what we saw of course with regard to East Timor as well. Those of us who are defending human rights in West Papua are simply calling for essentially the right of self-determination for the Papuan people, a right that's been denied them now since Indonesia assumed control of West Papua 50 years ago. But I think it's unlikely that we're going to see any effective change in US or perhaps a position of other governments with regards to territorial integrity of Indonesia. But we do hope that over time they will come to recognise that these
people, the Papuans, deserve the right to self-determination via referendum or whatever means would be possible.



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