The 6th July marks 24 years since the Biak Massacre when the Indonesian security forces massacred scores of people in Biak, West Papua. The victims, included women and children who had gathered for a peaceful rally. They were killed at the base of a water tower flying the Morning Star flag
On the 2 July in 1998, the West Papuan Morning Star flag was raised on top of a water tower near the harbour in Biak. Activists and local people gathered beneath it singing songs and holding traditional dances. As the rally continued, many more people in the area joined in with numbers reaching up to 500 people.
On the 6 July the Indonesian security forces attacked the demonstrators, massacring scores of people. The victims included women and children who had gathered for the peaceful gathering were killed at the base of the water tower. Other Papuans were rounded up and later taken out to sea where they were thrown off naval ships and drowned. No Indonesian security force member has been charged or brought to justice for the human rights abuses committed against peaceful demonstrators".
According to the Papuan Institute for Human Rights Studies and Advocacy (Elsham Papua) recorded eight people died, three went missing, four severely injured, 33 mildly injured, and 150 people arrested and persecuted during the Biak massacre. The report also said 32 bodies were found in Biak water at that time". In Tabloid Jubi (July 5 2021)
Tragically, the Australia Government knew of the Massacre but failed to condemn the Indonesian military. Shortly after the massacre an Australian military attache and intelligence officer, Dan Weadon, from the Jakarta embassy visited Biak. The same officer was also handed photographic evidence by West Papuans on Biak. The photos were distributed to his superiors within defence, but they never saw the light of day. New evidence suggests they have since been destroyed by the defence department despite consistent calls for a proper investigation into the atrocity. It is thanks to West Papuan supporter Anthony Craig who got a copy of the report under FOI laws that we know the photos were destroyed.
Joe Collins of AWPA said, "it's tragic that the Australian Government helped cover up a massacre in West Papua and even now are still reluctant to raise the issue of human rights abuses in West Papua with Jakarta. The message for West Papuans is that they will not receive much support from Canberra in their struggle for justice under Indonesian rule, at this stage. This is not to take away from the many individual parliamentarians and Senators who do raise concern about the human rights situation in the territory".
If Canberra is reluctant to raise the West Papuan issue, the Pacific leaders are not. Many of the Pacific leaders have raised concern about the human rights situation in West Papua at the UN and other international fora.
The 51st Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is being held in Fiji (11-14 July). West Papua is on the PIF agenda and hopefully the abuses in West Papua will be raised this year with Indonesia who is a Forum Dialogue Partner.
Joe Collins said, "The situation in West Papua continues to deteriorate with ongoing armed clashes between the Indonesian security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army. The security forces have cracked down on peaceful demonstrations against the decision to create three new provinces in the territory, arresting and beating many of the demonstrators. The decision the create more provinces is a divide and rule tactic by Jakarta. More provinces mean more security forces and will only lead to more human rights abuses.
Three new provincial police forces planned: https://en.antaranews.com/news/237109/three-new-provincial-police-forces-planned
300 security forces to secure Jayawijaya ahead of new Papua provinces' endorsement: https://en.jubi.id/300-security-forces-to-secure-jayawijaya-ahead-of-new-papua-provinces-endorsement/
There are also large numbers of internal refugees created by the military operations in Nduga, and the Maybrat Regency over the past years.
In the past the West Papuan people have commemorated the Biak massacre on the 6 July. Hopefully the security forces will allow any planned commemorations this year to go ahead peacefully.