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McCully: Papua torture raised with Indonesia FM, No comment on arson

Pacific Scoop:
Article – Rory MacKinnon.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says he has discussed human rights abuses in West Papua with Indonesia’s government – but has yet to comment on new allegations that link New Zealand’s police training programmes with the razing of a West Papuan village.

McCully yesterday completed trade talks in Jakarta and launched an Indonesia-New Zealand ‘Friendship Council’, just days after video footage surfaced of Indonesian soldiers torturing two West Papuan priests.

McCully originally could not be reached for comment, however his office confirmed this morning that the minister had discussed the situation in Papua with Indonesia’s foreign minister Marty Natalegawa.

McCully’s press secretary said the minister had not been briefed on the torture video and was not aware of its existence until yesterday – two days after the video made international headlines.

McCully’s press secretary said Natalegawa told McCully the Indonesian government had already instructed the authorities to conduct a full and proper investigation into the allegations.

But McCully did not request an independent inquiry as that “doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t do its job.”

The world would have to “wait and find out.”

“He assured our minister that they routinely did follow up allegations of human rights abuses and took such incidents very seriously and were determined to take appropriate action against any perpetrators who were identified.”

But McCully’s office couldn not confirm whether the minister – now in Malaysia – was aware of new allegations overnight that suggest a complete breakdown of law enforcement in the region.

The Jakarta Globe yesterday published reports that Indonesian police burned down dozens of homes in West Papua’s Puncak Jaya district earlier this month.

Survivors told the Globe 16 uniformed officers from the Indonesian police’s Mobile Brigade entered the village of Bigiragi on October 11 and burned the village to the ground – 29 homes in all, leaving 150 Papuans homeless.

The allegations could be especially damaging to the New Zealand government: since 2008 the New Zealand police have provided training programmes for Indonesian officers serving in West Papua.

The most recent training programme ended just weeks ago, with human rights activists predicting few benefits for the region.

Indonesia Human Rights Committee spokesperson Maire Leadbeater told Radio New Zealand in September that human rights violations were a structural problem within the Indonesian police force.

It would be “optimistic in the extreme” to think contact with a few individual New Zealand police would provide the necessary reforms.

“They’re using it as a kind of whitewashing, if you like, of a record which really doesn’t [deserve] any whitewashing at all.”

Indonesia annexed the western half of Papua New Guinea in 1963 under a heavily disputed referendum.

Papuan nationalist movements are outlawed in Indonesia and have reported ongoing civilian killings and human rights violations by the Indonesian authorities since 1970.

Indonesia is New Zealand’s eighth largest trading partner.

ENDS

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