Senator the Hon Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs
PO Box 6100
Senate, Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
23 August 2019
Dear Foreign Minister,
I am writing to you on behalf of the Australia West Papua Association in Sydney concerning the increasing tension in West Papua.
Thousands of West Papuans have taken to the streets in all the major cities and towns across West Papua. The demonstrators are protesting against the arrest and racial abuse against West Papuan students in Surabaya, Indonesia.
The arrest of 43 students in Surabaya occurred because it had been reported that an Indonesian flag had been vandalised near the students dormitory.
The Jakarta Post (19 August) reported that security personnel and members of Indonesian organizations launched physical and verbal attacks on the Papuan students accusing them of refusing to celebrate Indonesia's 74th Independence Day, and that an "angry mob arrived at the dormitory after they found a discarded Indonesian flag near the building. During the incident, they reportedly threw stones at the dormitory while shouting racial abuse and chanting "Kick out the Papuans!" and "Slaughter the Papuans!"
The mob also called the students monkeys, pigs and dogs, shouting "don't you come out. We are waiting for you here". As they stormed the building the Police fired tear gas into the building and arrested 43 students. The students were later released after questioning. They had denied any knowledge of the damaged flag.
However, this incident triggered rallies across West Papua in a show of support for the students and in protest against the discrimination and injustices that West Papuans suffer daily under Indonesia rule.
In Timika, Police arrested 34 people when thousands of protesters took to the streets. The police have accused 13 of those arrested of being members of a so-called separatist group. The local people were simply holding an antiracism protest.
There is also great concern that Indonesian militia (Red-White Militia) are becoming involved in the demonstrations. It was reported that two West Papuans have been gravely injured by Militia in Fakfak. A Manarson Ndrodndrod (19) was stabbed and is in critical condition at the Fakfak Regional Public Hospital, and Patrisius Hanaba (50) was wounded in the head. The Red and White Militia have been trained by the Indonesia security forces to intimidate West Papuans.
The Police have flown in over 1000 extra troops to help quell the protests. Unfortunately these extra security force members will only exacerbate the situation and potentially lead to more human rights abuses against the local people.
Jakarta has also cut off Internet access to West Papua. Jakarta claims it is to prevent provocative posts online from fuelling violence. However, the Chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, Abdul Manan has condemned the internet block by the government claiming that the policy stopped Papuan citizens and journalists from receiving and delivering information. By blocking the Internet Indonesia hopes to stop the reporting of human rights abuses.
In light of the increasing tension in West Papua, we urge you to use your good offices with the Indonesian Government, urging Jakarta to withdraw the extra troops sent to West Papua and return its military to the barracks as a way of easing tensions in the territory.
At the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu, The PIF leaders "welcomed the invitation by Indonesia for a mission to West Papua (Papua) by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and strongly encouraged both sides to finalise the timing of the visit and for an evidence-based, informed report on the situation be provided before the next Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in 2020".
We urge you to encourage Jakarta to finalise the visit by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as a matter of urgency and urge Jakarta to also allow a PIF fact-finding mission to the territory.