Australia Should Challenge Military Violence in West Papua
Tuesday 25 October 2011
Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Australian Government to take a stronger stand on killings and violence by Indonesian security forces in West Papua.
This follows a number of recent incidents in which Indonesian soldiers killed, injured and arrested Papuans who were engaged in peaceful political demonstrations and industrial action.
On October 10, around 8000 workers from the Freeport Mine were at a public meeting in the town of Timika. This was part of their continuing industrial action seeking a pay increase from US$1.50 to $12.50 an hour.
Security forces fired on a group of workers while they were listening to speeches and, as a result, one of the workers, Petrus Ayamsemba was killed and several others were injured and taken to hospital.
It is also alleged that security violence at the Third Papuan People’s Congress in Abepura on 19 October led to the deaths of at least six people and injury to many others.
It is believed that, during the Congress, a declaration of independence was made and Forkorus Yaboisembut was named as President and Edison Waromi as Prime Minister of the Federated State of West Papua.
Indonesian authorities have seen the actions taken by Papuan people at the Congress as an act of subversion and a number of people have been arrested.
The Justice and Peace Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the use of violence and lethal force by Indonesian security forces to deal with peaceful protesters is a matter of grave concern.
“It is our understanding that both the Freeport workers’ industrial action and the Congress were conducted in a peaceful, nonviolent manner,” Mr Arndt said.
“It is immensely disturbing that workers who peacefully demonstrate about their poor wages should be shot at and killed or injured,” he said.
“While the Indonesian Government may have seen the aims of the political protest at Abepura and participants’ actions as provocative, it is appalling that peaceful protesters should be killed, injured and beaten,” he said.
“We work with people who are in regular contact with Papuans who tell them that violence against citizens in West Papua is a frequent occurrence,” he said.
“I have written to the Australian Government on several occasions this year and to each Queensland Senator and Federal MP in South-East Queensland to express concerns about on-going military violence in West Papua,” he said.
“I have pointed out that there is military cooperation between Australia and Indonesia and that, as a military partner, we should be taking a stronger stand on reports of frequent abuses by Indonesian security forces,” he said.
“While the Australian Government appears to have challenged Indonesian authorities over one specific incident of torture by Indonesian soldiers caught on video last year, it does not appear that it is vigorously and substantially challenging the widespread and prolonged violent abuse of the human rights of citizens in West Papua,” he said.
“Australia and Indonesia are good friends,” he said.
“As a friend and military partner, Australia should be able to express our concerns much more strongly about the way Indonesia’s army and police treat people in West Papua,” he said.
“The Commission will continue to press the Government, local MPs and Senators on this atrocious behaviour,” he said.
For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.