Press Release – Anne Noonan
Three West Papuans have occupied the Australian consulate in Bali to demand the Indonesian government treat them like human beings.Three West Papuans occupy Australian consulate in Bali
theguardian.com, Sunday 6 October 2013 08.30 AEST
West Papuan group demands Indonesian government treat them ‘like human beings’
Three West Papuans have occupied the Australian consulate in Bali to demand the Indonesian government treat them “like human beings”.
Markus Jerewon, 29, Yuvensius Goo, 22 and Rofinus Yanggam, 30, scaled the two-metre high fence of the Australian compound in Bali’s Renon district at 3.20am local time (6.20am AEST) on Sunday morning.
They called on the Abbott government to pressure Indonesia to release all Papuan political prisoners and open the secretive province to foreign journalists.
In an open letter to the Australian people, which was handed to consulate staff this morning, the threesome wrote, “We’re writing to inform you that we had [sic] entered the Australian consulate in Bali to seek refuge and to deliver our message to the APEC leaders in Bali including US State Secretary John Kerry and Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.
“We want these leaders to persuade the Indonesian government to treat Papuan people better.
“Human rights abuses are our routine,” they wrote, before asking Australia to demand that all Papuan political prisoners be released. Dozens of Papuans are in jail for expressing political opinions. The crime of “treason” carries a long jail term in Indonesia.
“We [also] want the Indonesian government to lift the 50 year restriction it has imposed on West Papua,” the letter said. West Papua has been closed to foreign journalists since Indonesia acquired the province under controversial circumstances in the 1960s.
“We want foreigners, including journalists, diplomats, observers and tourists to be able to visit West Papua freely without asking for special permits.”
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Australia before he scaled the wall, Yanggam said, “the Indonesian army is killing our families, and taking them to jail. This is the best thing we can do in order to expose the situation in Papua. We want to survive.
“I’m not [disrespecting] the Indonesian people, I’m just saying that we want treatment from the Indonesian government like human beings.”
He told Guardian Australia that two of his brothers had been killed by the Indonesian military – and that one had died just last week.
Asked why he was prepared to risk his own safety to bring awareness to the situation in West Papua, he said “I feel it is important for not only him, but other Papuan people also.
“We don’t feel safe in Papua.”
Spokesperson for the group, Rinto Kogoya, who is co-ordinator of the Alliance of Papuan Students, said that it was time the world understood what was happening inside the province, which was officially acquired by Indonesia in 1969.
“The international community doesn’t know the reality in Papua. The military oppresses the civil society – we’re not free to do anything – and I think this is the moment to open democracy to Papua,” he said.
“People are jailed [if they] ask about rights. This is a struggle for our right to a free life.”
Asked why the group had chosen to send a message to the Australian government, Kogoya said, “Australia is one of the powerful countries in the world. I think they have a strong power to push the Indonesian government to release the political prisoners in West Papua and to push the Indonesian Government to open access to international journalists.”
“More than 200,000 people have died in West Papua, killed by the Indonesian military.
“International journalists must come to Papua. They will see the reality of life for the Papuan people,” he said.
Yanggam told Guardian Australia the group intends to stay inside the consulate until their demands are met. They fear for their lives if they are expelled by Australia.
“We need your help. We seek refuge and plead for our safety,” he said.