Report – By Alex Perrottet of Pacific Media Watch
Fresh allegations of human rights violations in West Papua implicating Australian military training on ABC’s 7:30 Report this week have prompted calls for leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands to seek a fact-finding mission.
As new reports have emerged from West Papua Media Alerts of new violence at a school dormitory in Abepura, the 7:30 Report series – screened on Monday and Tuesday nights – exposed the ongoing accusation that the Australian government is responsible for the training and financing of the anti-terrorist group Detachment 88, or Densus 88, as it is known in Indonesia.
The group was originally trained to combat terrorism in Indonesia following the deadly bombing in Bali in October 2002, which claimed 88 Australian lives.
But in recent months media reports have spread, mainly from West Papua Media Alerts, that the anti-terrorist group was being deployed in the provinces of Papua and West Papua, supressing insurgents as well as peaceful demonstrators.
The ABC interviewed Constant Karma, who is the secretary of the province of Papua. He said: “I don’t really know about West Papua but in the Papuan Police (Polda Papua) there [is] also Detachment 88 on duty.”
Apart from the reports from within West Papua by reporters Hayden Cooper and Lisa Main, ABC presenter Leigh Sales put questions to Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who confirmed the Australian government had raised its concerns with human rights abuses in the two West Papuan regional provinces as recently as earlier this month.
Senator Carr said the Australian training included training in respecting human rights, but the ABC reports featured a number of eye-witnesses to violence in West Papua at the hands of police as well as Detachment 88 troops, including in the recent killing of independence leader Mako Tabuni.
Senator Carr told the ABC: “We train Indonesians in counter-terrorism. We do that because it’s in Australia’s interest. We do it because we want the Indonesians to have a strong, a formidable, anti-terrorist capacity. It is absolutely in Australia’s interests that we have this relationship.
“But we don’t train them in counter-insurgency – it’s counter-terrorism.”
However, the ABC also sought comment from the Australian Federal Police, which made this admission in their responses:
“Detachment 88 is a specialist counter terrorism unit within the Indonesian National Police, however it should be noted that Indonesian law does not differentiate between terrorism, separatism and insurgency.”
In response to the reports, political parties and human rights groups have released statements urging leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum to take notice.
The West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, based in Vanuatu, said the violence was nothing new.
“Violence has always been Indonesia’s policy regarding the land of Papua over the past 49 years. Being an occupying power, violence is their only means of enforcing their authority in the Papuan society,” said spokespeople Rex Rumakiek, Dr John Ondowame and Andy Ayamiseba.
“For almost half a century since Indonesia annexed West Papua, our people have been subjected to terror and trauma.”
The Democratic Labor Party in Australia said the situation was “genocide happening on our doorstep”.
Senator John Madigan and Democratic Labor Party federal secretary Mark Farrell said: “Indonesia is not being transparent with the Australian people or the Australian government.
“It is difficult to understand how the government of a democratic country like Australia can ignore the oppressive behaviour of a neighbouring country.”
The Green Party of Australia also voiced its concern, with Senator Richard Di Natale drawing comparisons with East Timor.
“Australians are now becoming more aware of these atrocities being committed on their doorstep,” he said.
“They know what happened in East Timor under Indonesian rule and they know that we, as a nation, cannot sit idly by while it occurs again in West Papua.”
Joe Collins of the Australian West Papua Association said the PIF should take up the Indonesian government’s offer to encourage research and balanced journalism by sending a fact-finding mission from the Forum.
He also encouraged Pacific leaders to raise the matter with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“The Leaders’ retreat is supposed to provide an opportunity for private and frank discussions at the highest level and we hope that the PIF leaders will question Julia Gillard on Australia’s involvement in the training of Detachment 88 which is accused of targeting West Papuan activists,” he said.
“We also hope that concern for the situation in West Papua will be mentioned in the official Forum communiqué”.
The Democratic Labor Party statement also argued for observers to visit.
“If Indonesia is seriously expecting us to believe it is not engaged in the oppression of the West Papuan people then they must allow human rights observers and international journalists in to the country.”
The West Papua National Coalition for Liberation is pushing for more, calling on the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the PIF, as well as the US, the UK, the European Union and others “to sponsor a resolution at the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) to re-inscribe West Papua on the UN List for Decolonisation.
“We also call on MSG and PIF to admit the West Papuan Independence Movement as an observer of these bodies as a sure way of encouraging peaceful solution to the conflict.”
One confirmed dead
The violence in Abepura yesterday was confirmed by West Papua Media Alerts, who reported one student being killed, and others badly wounded.
The news agency said the violence was carried out at the Liborang Asrama (dormitory) by a joint force of Army (TNI) and Police.
“The students were allegedly targeted because they come from the same tribal group as many members of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), who have been consistently engaging in peaceful civil resistance in protest at the increasing terror tactics of the Indonesian security forces, which has escalated significantly since May 2012.”
West Papua Media Alerts confirmed today that 35 people had been arrested and 11 remained in custody after being subjected to beatings and torture.
The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, in response to questions from the ABC, said the government was taking action.
The statement said the loss of life “is regrettable and is receiving attention from the Indonesian people, the media, and the President of the Republic of Indonesia himself”.
“The Indonesian government has taken steps to restore law-enforcement in the Papuan provinces.”
Just how it is doing that is the focus of the media attention that West Papua is receiving. The Pacific Islands Forum, as in previous years, has so far remained silent on the issue.
Source: 8075 Pacific Media Watch