An Enemy of the State?!

Media reports have stated that my name is on an “Indonesian intelligence agency watch list” in support of independence for West Papua.

This report on the ABC Asia Pacific website says it is an ‘enemies list’ of prominent Australians and organisations regarded as being supporters of Papuan Independence.

However, this story on ABC radio saida briefing note prepared for an Indonesian delegation by the intelligence agency, BIN, names high-profile academics and politicians involved in what it calls a ‘network’.”

Whatever the list might be precisely, it also names fellow Democrat Natasha Stott Despoja, as well as politician from other parties such as Labor’s Duncan Kerr and the Green’s Bob Brown.

I have written and spoken many times about the history of human rights abuses in West Papua, so it’s no secret what my views are. That makes it a bit disappointing, although probably understandable, that Indonesian authorities view me to be a supporter of independence or ‘separatism’.

You can click here to see many of my previous pieces on West Papua. I am not a campaigner for independence for West Papua. First and foremost I have campaigned against the sustained and systemic human rights abuses that have undoubtedly occurred there. I also believe the indigenous people of the region should have more control over their own lives, land and future. I don’t believe this equates to ‘separatism’ or support for independence.

Indeed, the Indonesian government itself has provided an excellent example of a path forward which addresses human rights concerns and their own desire for maintaining sovereignty. The current Indonesian government’s achievement in reaching an agreement for autonomy for the people of Aceh, despite the strong opposition of some within the Indonesian military, not only ended years of civil conflict, it reflected very well on the skill and ability of the current administration.

Last year I participated in an hour long meeting with Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda. As I have written before, I found him to be very impressive –both very knowledgable and very open about many of the challenges that Indonesia faces. I was also part of a brief audience with President Yudoyohno, who I also believe to be dealing very well with incredibly difficult challenges. I’ve also met with many Indonesian MPs. I wrote about these meetings on my old blog – click here and here to read examples.

While it is very much in Australian – and Indonesian – interests for our two countries to have a good relationship, that must include the ability to be honest about problems that exist. No relationship can be a good one unless it is based on a reasonable degree of honesty. We must be able to express concern about human rights abuses in parts of Indonesia when they occur.

As Natasha Stott Despoja wrote in her media release yesterday, we “have also been critical of our own country in relation to human rights breaches and discrimination, for example against Indigenous Australians and asylum seekers.” That does not make us enemies of Australia, any more than criticising abuses by rogue elements of the military and police in West Papua makes us an enemy of Indonesia.

As Scott Burchill wrote in this article, “turning a blind eye to repression in the name of stability is not only a dereliction of our ethical duty, it is politically shortsighted and usually results in blowback“.

I believe Indonesia has done amazingly well in moving towards democracy in a very short space of time and in the face of major hurdles. I noted a comment left by a reader on an old post of mine which I strongly agree with:

Indonesia is our future, whether Australians like it or not. A strong, democratic, globalised and trading Indonesia will deliver us, and Indonesia, prolonged prosperity. We will be left with a benign neighbourhood, an economy with two hundred and twenty million wealthy consumers on our front doorstep and an ally with the same regional interests as us on the global stage.

Indonesia’s steps toward this since 1999 have been awesome. Indonesians have done more for liberty, than anglospheric intervention in Iraq has. The “war on terror” ™ for Australia is a foreign policy issue, as Indonesia has been taking the hits for us – again they have excelled, by treating it as a civil matter, not a military one. Consequently they have been more successful than we have.

Indeed, given the major increase in the contempt and disinterest being shown towards by the government and others towards our Parliament in Australia, I expect Indonesia will soon be able to show us a thing or two about how a genuine Parliamentary democracy should operate.

I have also mentioned before that they outstripped Australia at times in their preparedness to openly criticise the far worse human rights problems of a country such as Burma.

Despite these words of praise, the fact that I have to keep drawing attention to the serious problems in West Papua shows that there is a long way to go. That path must lead to increased respect for human rights, not a willingness to push them aside for short term expediency. We have done that before in regard to West Papua – including the way we have treated refugees from that region. Mr Howard appears to be prepared to once again undermine due process and the rule of law towards refugees because of his short-term political needs (as it seems is ‘Justice’ Minister Chris Ellison). I should also add that Kim Beazley’s response of just bringing in a Coastguard to keep them out appears to be no better. No wonder the Indonesians are sceptical.

Apart from the problems I have with the legality and morality of such an approach, even from a purely self-interested point of view, I just can’t see how we can expect other countries in our region to improve their performance on human rights issue or their practices in regard to democracy and the rule of law if we are inconsistent and opportunistic on these matters ourselves.

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65 Comments

  1. Thanks Andrew,
    I did mean healthy dialogue in the sense you are referring to; not political expediency.
    It will be interesting to see what tack the government takes.

  2. howard’s confusion on international relations in asia pacific is caused by conflicting messages from his masters, multinational corporations and the U.S. foreign policy. As the American economy crumbles, multinational corporations who give no patriotic allegience to anyone, begin to invest in growth markets such as china, india and yes, Indonesia. The corporations themselves have no concensus amongst themselves, the recent haggling over whether the indonesian gas pipeline will go through Northern Territory or Cape york is an example of competition amongst multinational energy corporations that gives no clear guidelines for policy accomodation. Both Indonesia nad Australia are redefining their economic strategies and alliegences. Selling uranium to china obviously conflicts with our traditional allies the USA, but foreign policy follows the dollar.

    Dollars and political deals are flying everywhere in the developing world including indonesia.
    If we wait for our masters lead, like howard does, we will be awash at sea with contradictory policies as the stock market ebbs and flows. If we develop a strategy for independent regional growth, prosperity and security and enter into the wheeling and dealing with a firm vision, which includes justice and checks and balances on human rights abuse, we can stop the war that is happening now – and assist in developing prosperity.
    West Papuan supporters dont want to start a war, there allready is a war – that’s why there are refugees. We want to stop the war. If we don’t it will escalate.

  3. To me, this episode in the ongoing efforts to bring attention to the plight of West Papuans, has probably been orchestrated by unelected individual non West Papuans.

    With the potential to drop the whole country into the proverbial bucket of ****, I query the rights and responsibilities of these people.

    I am with them if they lobby our Government or make it an election issue to confront the Indonesians over their handling of West Papua, but not if they knowingly stir up trouble for the whole nation.

    I have no problem with individual activists generally, but when their actions reach a certain level of national importance then I think they must take a different path, the democratic one.

  4. Let’s see. What if the US wanted Australia to become a fully fledged state with George Bush as the president so we had to go and blow up Iran with him.

    To achieve that aim 1% of the population hand picked by John Howard were asked in a “referendum” if they wanted that to happen and unanimously it was carried.

    How many Australians want to be constitutionally an American state.

    Jolanda, I agree some muslims hate the west. But so do many millions of christians, buddhists, atheists and others who don’t like the way the rise and rise of facism is happening.

    The west is destroying 800 years of common law and habeas corpus and legal rights with muslims being the main victims.

    The US has Guantanamo Bay where hundreds of people have been held without charge for years on end, just because they are muslims – many of them were kidnapped and sold to the US by mercenaries.

    In Britain it is Belmarsh prison but at least the high court in England has rejected arbitrary detention without charge.

    In Australia it is Villawood and Baxter where people are locked up without trial or charge for as long as 7 years.

    Maybe that is why the muslims who are locked up for years on end hate the west.

  5. What a silly comment Marilyn. Its just a thoretical with no chance of any reality.

    How do you know Muslims, or anyone else listed hates the West. What exactly is the West?

    Heres an equally silly hpethetical. Lets assume there are 1 billion mulsims inthe world and we had the capcity to ask each and very one of them tell me your views on Baxter – wonder what the answer would be?

    “Maybe that is why the muslims who are locked up for years on end hate the west.”

    I suspect any one locekd up for years hate the lockers upperers.

  6. Yes well Ken I was responding to Jolanda who made the mad statement that muslims hate the west and offering one or two possible reasons.

    After all it is the US, England and us who are locking up tens of thousands of muslims without trial or charge, and then blowing up their countries.

  7. Marilyn this is what I said. “Its not just that there are alot of Muslims that hate the Western world. Even those that dont hate the Western way are often too scared to speak out because they fear thier own. They know what they are capable of. So in the end they will support their own and protect their own regardless of whether they think it is right or wrong or regardless of whether they call themselves Australian. Its a survival issue.”

    I dont think that what I said could be called a mad statement! Muslims are pretty vocal about their hate of the Western way and those in the West. As a matter of fact we are missing a couple of twin towers as a result and many people have been killed or injured and are suffering. Just yesterday there were Muslims in the newspaper saying that they are too scared to dob in their own because they fear what will happen to them”

    You seem to not have a very good grip on reality.

  8. They seem to be facts only in your personal reality M. I think that’s the point Ken was making. It’s certainly mine.

  9. Jolanda do we keep blowing up muslim countries, vilifying muslims, victimising muslims, slandering muslims and stealing from muslims because we love them?

    I have never, ever been threatened by a muslim of any hue or stripe but I was beaten nearly to death weekly in my own bloody christian fundamentalist, alcoholics home.

    Stop generalising about the actions of a few to persecute the many. Muslims in this country are outnumbered 70:1 and the way we carry on about them it’s no wonder they hate “us” whoever the hell “us” is this week.

    Grow up you lot and stop perpetually whining.

  10. Now that is funny Marilyn. Jolanda has a plethora of examples to put forward yet you have only 1 incident for your “hatred” of the West.

    Wakey wakey Marilyn. Your generalizing etc, etc, etc, puts everyone else to shame here.

    BTW, I’d like you to back up the hollow claims you made in your opening paragraph.

  11. Marilyn we keep doing that because we are trying to help them stop torturing and abusing each other and killing each other and to stop blowing us up and to try to change the cycle of oppression. Asking nicely didn’t help. You must have realised by now that there are no measures or avenues to have complaints against the Governments addressed and/or those in power brought to Justice , that is why no matter what Saddam Hussain did nobody could touch him – until of course there were bombs dropped. Its the same in all Countries. You have to use violence, it’s the way the system is set up and you cannot just take in everybody that feels persecuted or oppressed as the numbers are such that it will send everybody backwards. The push should always be forwards – its called momentum.

    That is what you should be fighting to change, the Law in relation to the protection of those in power as that is what is causing the problems for the little person. But then I feel that your aim is to bring your friends here with you, not for their own country to settle their issues and provide a good, safe living environment for their people. Its a much better life here for them, they are entitled to so many more benefits and they dont even have had to earn it or work for it. HOwever I dont think it is in the best interest of Australians as we are struggling to look after our own.

    I guess the difference between you and me is that I dont believe that I have a “right” to live anywhere that I like and be treated like a Queen even if the Law says so. You just cant plonk yourself in another persons home because you feel unsafe and unhappy in yours. I wish you could, I know of a few waterfronts that I believe would be much better suited for my families needs and I know that we could do with alot more money and my family certainly feel victimised and persecuted. The Muslims do not look after thier own and you dont seem to ever get angry at that, why are you so angry with Australians. We are mega miles away!.

    If it is the Law that is causing all these problems then we need to change the Law in relation to these issue. Times have changed Countries need to be forced to fix the issues within their own Government and people and its up to the People to fight for this change. People cant just keep running away as then things dont change at all and you just have alot of displaced, hostile and angry people and more Countries unable to cope. Those that are left behind are punished because of the actions of those that fled. Marilyn do you care that the fleeing makes things worse for those that stay behind and many get tortured and killed as a result?

    I dont hate Muslims, but I certainly feel that there is a dangerous percentage that do not like us and want to change us and the rest are too scared to stand up against thier own. Its not something that is limited to Muslims but unfortunately given their experiences, environment and background they tend to be less educated and more violent and extreme in their way of thinking and they have so many more children. I dont particularly want to change, I like being who I am and having the freedoms that I have and I havent ever bashed anybody.

  12. Even as a lefty I have to agree with EP, it is only prudent & practical to negotiate with Indonesia, despite the obvious & understandable knee-jerk reaction to the incident. Keeping Asian political relations on an even keel would be a juggling act at the best of times, with such a diverse range of governments and politics, but changing our laws to suit a country people are fleeing, seems pretty limp.

    btw I hope Geoff isn’t you Andrew, because the implications would be concerning, given he is so fond of your blog. Besides I am sure if he was your sock-puppet you’d think of something a little more challenging for him to say, you’d start to feel sorry for him always having the crummy lines.

  13. i think we should cut a bit of our country out and let all the west papuan,s have it .
    then that will solve indonesia,s problem for them wont it.!

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