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Indonesian president visits Australia and PNG

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) Statement - July 4, 2023

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) is attending the 8th Indonesia-Australia Annual Leaders Meeting in Sydney before flying on to PNG for a 2 day visit on Wednesday.

Joe Collins of AWPA said "as usual, investment and trade will be the main agenda of discussion with PM Albanese and with Australian CEOs during the meeting. What we can be assured about is that the human rights situation in West Papua will not be on the agenda."

If we look at the Communique from the Annual Leaders' Meeting in Bogor in June 2022, there is no mention of the human rights situation in West Papua (https://www.pm.gov.au/media/joint-communique-indonesia-australia-annual-leaders-meeting).

The Australian Government is aware that the situation in West Papua is seriously deteriorating with ongoing human rights abuses in the territory.

It knows that there are regular Armed clashes between the Free Papua Movement and the Indonesian security forces.

That West Papuans continue to be arrested at peaceful demonstrations and Papuans risk being charged with treason for taking part in the rallies.

That the military operations in the highlands have created up to 60,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), many facing starvation because they fear returning to their food gardens because of the Indonesian security forces.

"Yet, Canberra seems to be reluctant to raise the ongoing human rights abuses in the territory with Jakarta."

An article in Jubi (21 June 2023) reports that Internally displaced Papuans fear returning to their homes because of the military presence in their villages and towns:

"Jayapura, Jubi – The presence of Indonesian Military (TNI) and Police in conflict-ridden areas of Papua has allegedly caused trauma among internally displaced Indigenous Papuans. The displaced people urge the government to immediately cease military operations and restore their communities to normalcy. These concerns were expressed during a discussion attended by displaced women on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, as part of World Refugee Day commemoration." (https://en.jubi.id/internally-displaced-papuans-traumatized-as-military-presence-hinders-return-to-hometowns/)

Another issue that won't be on the agenda Collins said, is the 1998 Biak massacre.

The Biak Massacre

Lest we forget that this week The Biak Massacre occurred 25 years ago.

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".

What is outrageous is that 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 (https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/sep/19/killed-like-animals-documents-reveal-how-australia-turned-a-blind-eye-to-a-west-papuan-massacre).

Future relations

What Canberra should also remember is that Jokowi's term as president finishes shortly (after completing his two-term limit) and there is the possibility that former general Prabowo could win the Presidential election.

Prabowo also has a terrible rights record from his tenure as head of Indonesian special forces in the Suharto era. He was banned from obtaining a U.S. visa for years for his alleged role in the killings of rights activists and other crimes during the bloodshed in East Timor, then a province of Indonesia (https://www.cfr.org/blog/why-democracy-southeast-asia-will-worsen-2023).

Another reality for Canberra to face is Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea

AWPA also condemns the removal by authorities in PNG of the West Papuan flag ahead of the Indonesian president's visit to the country on Wednesday.

Officers from PNG's National Intelligence Organization removed Morning Star flags and banners at the Rainbow refugee camp in Port Moresby last Saturday as supporters marked the 1st of July anniversary of the proclamation of Independence from Indonesia in 1971.

Joe Collins of AWPA said, "this is of grave concern as the Melanesian Spearhead Group meets in Vanuatu this month and West Papuans are applying for full membership. West Papuans are counting on all Melanesian Countries to support their application. Hopefully this removal of West Papuan symbols was not government policy and simply an over enthusiastic intelligence organisation hoping to curry favour with the government.

The Pacific People support self-determination for West Papua which their governments should note.

Source: https://awpasydneynews.blogspot.com/2023/07/awpa-statement-indonesian-president.htm