More on West Papua

It is now 2 months since 43 asylum seekers from West Papua arrived in Far North Queensland. They were whisked away to our nation’s most remote, expensive and rudimentary detention centre on Christmas Island, and still await news on the result of their claims.
The changes announced by the Prime Minster last June require an initial decision on an application within 3 months, so there should be news on the claims soon. (Although if they don’t meet the 3 month deadline, the only consequence is they have to provide a report saying why). While the asylum seekers on Christmas Island wait (I’ll write more on their situation soon), there’s been a variety of information in the media and elsewhere about the situation in West Papua.

Courier-Mail reporter Graham Lloyd has just returned from the PNG/West Papua border. He says “refugees from West Papua are warning of a fresh explosion of violence across the border. They want Australia to help and they want the international community to monitor what is happening in their homeland.” See his blog for more details and/or to leave comment (This blog is one of the new ones that have appeared on the revamped Courier-Mail website – something else I will write more on soon)

Following is an assortment of other pieces of information:

– In late January, Imron Cotan, the secretary-general of Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, told media the refugees will not be punished if they returned home. “There will be no prosecutions if they return home, back to Indonesia.” Of course, there is a difference between guaranteeing they won’t be prosecuted, and guaranteeing they won’t be harmed.

– ALP shadow Minister, Bob Sercombe, released a statement in late January proposing a joint parliamentary delegation. I was with him on a delegation to Jakarta and Aceh in mid-2005. He suggested then to President Yudhoyono that a joint parliamentary visit to West Papua would be helpful. His statement saidSuch a visit would involve Australian and Indonesian parliamentarians, and possibly also Papua New Guinean parliamentarians. It would promote transparency and dialogue on the West Papua issue. The visit would be premised on respect for Indonesia’s territorial integrity, but also the need to ensure universal human rights standards are protected and promoted. Parliamentarians would gain a greater understanding of the realities in West Papua, and the visit could serve as a catalyst for solutions on the ground”. Of course Bob his now lost Labor Party endorsement for the next election, so I don’t know how much weight is being given to his proposal.

– One welcome sign on a broader level was statements made in February by Indonesian President Yudhoyono, telling the country’s new military commander at his swearing in ceremonyto continue reforms in the armed forces and keep soldiers away from politics”. “There are many elections nowadays…and to deal with those a neutral identity must be maintained. (The military) should be free from practical politics because that is the goal of the reforms,” said Yudhoyono.

– There have been various warnings from Indonesian Ministers, such as Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda, that “relations with Australia would be disrupted if the Papuans were granted asylum.” I met this Minister last year on the delegation I mentioned above, and I must say I found him quite impressive and quite open. Given the local political factors, while it’s not desirable that statements like this are made, it isn’t particularly surprising. However, the blunt admission by Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono that “there have been incidents of some brutality and torture and rape involving some of our troops” doesn’t give much comfort, regardless of his protest, that “there has been a tendency to blanket all of this into a notion that all of these efforts are systematic and institutional.” Nor does it suggest that the central government is in much position to guarantee the safety of the asylum seekers if they were to be returned.

I find it very hard to believe that these asylum seekers won’t all end up being granted protection in Australia – whether at the initial decision or after appeals down the track. I’d also suggest that, while the Indonesian would express unhappiness about it, it would suit them far better than the public outrage that would undoubtedly occur if there was a serious attempt by Australia to force them to return to West Papua.

However, it is worth remembering that Australia has a less than perfect history when it comes to helping refugees who have fled from West Papua in the 60s and 70s. I gave a speech in the Senate about this a few weeks ago which details some of this chequered history.

Some other background material on the situation and history of oppression in West Papua which readers may find useful:

– a detailed report prepared by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, released in August 2005 (warning – link goes to large pdf file)

– A detailed report in The Guardian last year on the publication of a study commissioned by the Dutch government into the history of West Papua, written by Dr Pieter Drooglever of the Institute of Netherlands History.

How close Dr Drooglever got to the truth can be guessed by the reaction in both the Hague and Jakarta. Dutch foreign minister Ben Bot refused to formally receive the report – it had been commissioned by his predecessor in 2000 – and reportedly described it as “superfluous”. An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman, Yuri Thamrin, viewed the study as “an academic work” but of no “significant substance”. “

Last week, the military announced that a new division of some 10,000-15,000 troops of the elite strategic reserves would be created specifically to be based in West Papua. Foreign journalists and most researchers and aid workers are banned from Papua but, ironically, tourists are not.

Dr Drooglever believes the military, which has to find some 60% of its own budget, has such a heavy presence there for ulterior motives. “There’s a lot of money available in the territory and the troops go where the money is,” he told Guardian Unlimited
The author himself believes Papuans will have to set their sights lower than independence. “I think they will have to be happy when an administration is set up that’s not dominated by the military,”

– A February 2006 News Limited report from Jakarta – Conflict dogs Papuan peace chance

INDONESIAN President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is eager to halt the low-level insurgency in Papua after ending a decades-long separatist conflict in Aceh, at the other extremity of the sprawling archipelago nation.

Full details of violent incidents in jungle-clad Papua, which is off-limits to foreign media, rarely emerge and it can be difficult to confirm who is behind them.

“The problem with Papua is: who has the legitimacy to negotiate on behalf of Papuans with the government?” said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, an analyst with the Habibie Center think tank. GAM (the Free Aceh Movement) has a clear leadership hierarchy, but Papuan separatists are fragmented,” she said, referring to Aceh’s rebels, who inked a peace pact with Jakarta last August after a nearly three-decade-long conflict that killed 15,000.

and while all this is going on, a reminder of the find last month of an “astonishing mist-shrouded “lost world” of previously unknown and rare animals and plants high in the mountain rainforests of New Guinea, uncovered by an international team of scientists“.

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91 Comments

  1. marilyn

    There is an appalling story in the AGE today about a young Aboriginal girl who was first of all battered by two other teenagers and left unconscious on the side of the road. Then along came three boys aged 14 and 15 who dragged her off the road and raped her before leaving her for dead.

    now that realy breaks my hart . as i sead we should be helping our own first.

    i wonder what the real story is.i have first hand experiance of the way the meadia twists things to sell papers dont belive every thing you read or see on the t.v.

    as to trouble with the lebanese in sydney i seem to remember a very small number of them have been causing trouble since the 1980s . its just a shame that they all get painted with the same brush
    i think jolanda is rite
    if people want to live here in Australia they should show respect and gratitude and live the Australian way.

  2. Red crab – why does it have to be either or? Can’t we find it in our hearts and very rich coffers to help our own and help others.

    Jolanda, it all sounds like a nightmare and I want to make a suggestion based on a 5 year experience I had in a certain suburb in Adelaide.

    I lived in a tiny street with only 14 houses and unknown to me three drug dealers moved into three of them. They had a bunch of pretty nasty kids who were violent and cruel to anyone who was different but I couldn’t afford to move. When my son was only 5 years old one of the sons tried to urge my son to run across the road into the path of an oncoming car – he was 15.

    Then this teenager pushed him into the gutter and he spent two days in hospital with concussion and all his parents could do was say that boys will be boys. Don’t know about you but a 15 year old beating up a 5 year old doesn’t sound like cricket.

    When his big sister complained, she was only 13, the father and oldest brother came and threatened to beat her up for picking on their precious boy.

    Not long after that one of the drug bosses shot a shotgun into the window of my neighbour nearly killing her 5 year old because the mum had stolen the drug money. The mothers in my street were all single mums like me but I was studying and they were spending the welfare money on bingo and drugs.

    They would turn the hoses on my kids because I refused to let them play with the dealers kids out of fear for their safety – I was also caring for 2 Aboriginal kids aged 5 and 8 and some of the rude little bastards called the boongs so I banned them. One of the kids was only 7 and already racist so you can imagine the lessons he got at home.

    They broke into my house, grafittied it and terrorised us for over 2 years.

    Jolanda, I packed up and bloody left and didn’t look back. The street was bulldozed not long after and the druggies all moved away.

    I feel sure you can see the moral of the story. My heart breaks for your little boy, only 8 years old and too scared to leave home because my son was too scared when he was only 5 because he was strange you see.

    He has a high IQ but the wiring is all twisted in his brain and he cannot be cured. It’s no-one’s fault but he cannot live in the real world.

    Jolanda, I think to save your little boy you really need to live in a gentler place.

  3. Marilyn that is a very sad story. Unfortunatley there is a terrible attitude out there in relation to what behaviour is acceptable and right/wrong when dealing with children and especially boys.

    We live in a very good area. The Sutherland Shire is a beautiful place and the majority of people are good. We have tried moving as one of the houses we lived in was right across the entrance of the school where the issues started and that was very uncomfortable and caused alot of stress, we have tried changing schools but the problem is that this parental attitude that you talk about, where the adults dont take responsbility and dont care and leave kids to fend for themselves is spreading.

    Its not just parents, its adults in their capacity as citizens, teachers, etc., nobody seems to want to get involved or have the time or energy to discipline the kids and show them how to behave. Many Adults are too busy with their own issues and things and they dont spend time or supervise or teach their children so the children dont learn how to behave and that there are consequences for bad behaviour. Probelm is that attitude has spread and it is now at epidemic proportions everywhere and that is why there is so many mental health issues amongst children including ADHD and associated problems.

    There is this idea that some lazy adults with attitude have have (they are usually bullies) that children should be left to deal with matters by themselves and that adults shouldn’t get involved. Problem is that children often dont know how to deal with matters in a fair and just matter, so the stronger, bigger bully usually uses force to get his way and it becomes the way and the culture. Hence the epidemic of bullying and associated behaviour. Doing nothing about bullying is even worse than doing the bullying yourself.

    My son hasn’t got any problem with his wiring at this stage, thank God. He is an articulate, intelligent boy. He is just hypo-sensitive and his feelings are intense and the hurt and the stress cripples his sensitive little body. He can tell you exactly what the problem is in school and in society and my son blames the parents as he says that they are not teaching their children well.

  4. G’day redcrab
    I am interested to know if you are concerned about the impact of the current and future detention of asylum seekers on Christmas Island, particularly since you have family living there and say you have visited so have first hand knowledge?

    Do you think it is sensible for Australia to send asylum seekers who arrive on mainaland Australia by boat (none ever sent there who have arrived on a plane as far as I know) offshore to Christmas Island while their claims are processed?

  5. Why Kaye, it only cost about $2 million for this little jaunt I think when they could have done the cases for a few thousand in Australia.

    It was fantastic to see the joy of the Papuans as they arrived in Australia but I am still outraged at the TPV – we will drive another group of unaccompanied children insane for no reason.

  6. hi kaye.
    no i dont think it is a good idea to send them to christmas island.
    i think that they should be given one month to state there case .if accepted stay if not accepted sent back that day.end of story with no appeals.

    about the detention centre on christmas island the old one is not as bad as made out the new one is a strange place i think there is more to it than meets the eye and yes i have seen that one to.i spoke to an american who was in charge of th job and the money who worked for the govt .never here about the buget blow outs on that job and there is some very big ones.the comunication cables that have been laid at the site are big enough to service a big city .makes you think dosent it. and by the way i am told that there are a lot of spooks there (c.i.a.) interesting dont you think.

    as far as the govt,s point of view its a good deterant and makes it imposoble for protesters to get there which is there own dowing.

    in my view this would enable the ppl who do the processing of asylem seekers to get on with there job without interferance.which would speed things up one way or the other.

    as far as the new ppl from papua are concerned how well planed was that to send kids with them. wont be knocked back with kids in the boat. i wonder if the kids parents arnt on the boat that just arived this very morning . then what can the govt say send back the perents and keep the kids .
    how interesting is that to arive the day after the others were given a visa .

  7. marilyn
    It was fantastic to see the joy of the Papuans as they arrived in Australia but I am still outraged at the TPV – we will drive another group of unaccompanied children insane for no reason.

    not to worry there is a good chance that the kids parents are on the boat that got here today.

  8. jolanda
    He can tell you exactly what the problem is in school and in society and my son blames the parents as he says that they are not teaching their children well.
    from an 8 year old child give me a break.

    marilyn.re blog 52
    we had a similer situation as you in regards to drugs and ppl next door and in our street.
    after treating them the same as they treated others .we are still here and they are gone.i think it has something to do with threats and bit of 4by2.we live in an area that it happens all the time but not in our street not anymore.

  9. red crab maybe not all 8 year olds understand but there are certainly many who do, and my son is one of them? If you ever spoke to my son you would see what I mean, every time anybody speaks to him they comment about how knowing and articulate he is. He is so sensible and fair.

    One of the hardest issues in having children who are sensitive, smart and articulate is that people prefer to believe that you are the one that is influencing them when the reality is that they are the ones that are teaching and influencing you!

    Believe it or not!

  10. jolanda. well he is a credit to you and as i say kids are a reflection of there parents. i do know kids at 8 yrs old that can build you a web site.

    He can tell you exactly what the problem is in school and in society and my son blames the parents as he says that they are not teaching their children well.

    mabe there is a chance that this comment was made buy him at school if so their,s were you problem lies.
    theres no dout that an 8 year old has the knolage to think that way .but i dout they have the wisdom
    to know to who and when they make a statement like that.

  11. red crab. I had been blaming the schools/teachers for years. It came as a shock to me when my son told me I was wrong and insisted that it was the parents fault! Trust me, I tried my best to win that argument and it was intense and I failed. Sure there are some teachers that should not be permitted to do face to face teaching, but in general I think most teachers are good. They just cant cope and do a good job in the conditions that they are expected to function, they are only humans and usually but one.

    It is only recently, because of new experiences, not just with my children but with my husband who has been coaching our sons under 9 soccer team for the second year and found it an eye opener, that I was presented with another angle and a different view.

    Sure there are some great parents, but the ones that aren’t are ruining it for everybody as their children are causing havoc, negatively influencing others and running amok. These kids make it impossible for teachers to do their job, for coaches to do their job and for other kids to learn and develop.

    I doubted things too red crab but you would be surprised how much Wisdom some kids actually have. I understand that it is something that has to be experienced to be understood.

  12. as an older person i can look at things from all angles.our kids are grown now .i look through eyes of experiance and wisdom. i can tell you this wisdom comes from only one thing age and experiance. you cant get that in a couple of years+

  13. Halal I am fine with them staying but horrified by the gutless language of our so-called leaders.

    Now that there has been the admission that the Papuans are being tortured, murdered and persecuted and they have been found to be refugees in amazingly quick time out pack of bastards get into a conga line and tell the others being tortured and persecuted and murdered that they must not come.

    They have absolutely no legal right to do that. Last time this pack of fools sent out the navy 360 innocent men, women and children died. There was 146 chidren, 142 women on SIEVX and 2 other women on another boat that caught fire, 65 men on SIEVX and 5 others on two other boats after we sent them back to sea.

    Not one of the pack of animals were worried that a 2 month old baby might have perished out there in the sea – just don’t bloody come here because we don’t ff.ggg want you.

    What about our debt to the fuzzy wuzzy angels?

  14. “What about our debt to the fuzzy wuzzy angels?”

    Well Marilyn it seems we can agree about some things after all. Well at least one.

    Even if you do still uses intemperate and wrong headed language.

    Unfortunately the situation is very complicated.

  15. BTW Marilyn we are agreeing because I’m not going to split hairs (fuzzy or otherwise) about the western and eastern halves of new guinea.

  16. im in two minds now hahal
    on the one hand if all the acusations about torture are tru i say they need protection no problem
    but on the other hand if this is a stunt buy a very good lawyer (there leader)trying to get a political advantage from a distance i think they should all be sent back now.

    if i was saved from persicution and taken in buy a country i would not be shoving another countrys flag in there faces.what i saw on t.v. tends to push me towards political( sorry)

  17. Red Crab
    when you say ‘lawyer’ I guess you mean Herman Wangaii whom I understand is not a lawyer.

    There is no doubt this group are political dissidents, however I do not think your distaste for their morning star flag waving would be a reasonable excuse to satisfy you it was right to send them back to suffer at the hands of the Indo military. Or would it?

    What do you reckon about Australia working collabratively with Indonesia in pushing back those WP’s reportedly now fleeing, who may be in the same position as Herman’s group, given that Australia accepts persecution in WP is real and the visa decisions by the Department of Immigration were based on the US report outlining torture and extrajudicial executions by the Indo Military ?

  18. Geoff
    I agree with you that this is a very complicated matter and do not think that there are easy answers.

    The West Papuan issue has a long history and will not be remedied with a single pill.

    Our own history in regards to boatpeople is poor and has unfortunalty allowed to have been driven by politics. Collaborative partnerships with the Indonesians appears to have backfired and is being used like political thumbscrews to pressure our Government into submission on human rights absue issues.

    I certainly do not agree with today’s moves by the Australian Government delegating our PM’s (awful) 2001 stand, whith Indonesia now appearing to be given a green light to decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.

    Bit like giving the defendent the Judges job!

    What do you think is a step to fix this matter Geoff?

  19. :-)
    Don’t you think that asking me to supply answers to something you’ve just now agreed is very complicated is replying to my questions with questions Kaye?

    Sorry… I’ve acknowledged it was very complicated from the start. I’ll wait till you provide more of an insight into your thinking before I address it.

    Perhaps the Papuans need to talk to the East Timorese.
    Perhaps the situation is changing there as it is in Aceh.
    Perhaps the answer is indeed within Indonesia’s ability to provide.

  20. I only asked for your thoughts on a step if you had one, you gave some ‘perhaps ideas’ and all 3 are interesting to me.

  21. I don’t like people being left completely in the dark. But I am still interested in what you WERE thinking.

  22. Marilyn, your claims about SIEVX are nonsense.

    It sank in Indionesian waters and never even got close to our Navy.

    Stop blaming Australia for other people’s problems.

  23. the pm also sead that australia accepted west papua is part of indonesia. we cant have it both ways.i dont beleve or trust howard for e second.

    hypothetical question if west australia with all its wealth wanted autonamy for its self .do you not think that the commonwealth would not try to keep control whatever it takes.
    do you think if indonesia tried to help w.a. they would not be told to mind there own business very quikly by the fed govt.

    australia went into east timor then went about ripping there oil off

    cant blame the indonesian,s for being a little upset and not trusting the australians

    What about our debt to the fuzzy wuzzy angels?
    lets talk about that there is no dout we owed them but on the other hand who was fighting the japs in papua.if the australians and there alies were not there west papua would be part of the japanese empire.i think we mite be even on that score.

  24. 80 post red crab

    I agree we should mind our own business. There is enough here to be sorted out. This is going to cost us all our necks sooner or later. Look after our own backyard and respect others laws even if we do not agree . We could have gone there and helped those people years ago. We did not. Now it is way way too late..

  25. M Australian white people get bashed and left for dead too. Look at todays paper. 89 years old bashed for thirty dollars and pushed into a river where she lay for two hours. poor old darling. White Australian. What is your point.

  26. your right halal kind meats.

    Thing is that if those in power in the Government didn’t meddle in the business of administration of other countries then they might have nothing to do and they might have to actually turn their attention to the business of administration in their own Country!

    They are trying to avoid that at all costs! Its far better for Governments for the attention to be on someone or something else and not on them.

    That of course is just my opinion and I am no expert.

  27. Comment #81.We could have helped all those years ago?

    Well we were outnumbered… by the US the UN and the Netherlands even though the Netherlands and we had the same idea… in the end we capitulated.

    Comment #83. that last sentence is sooo true.

  28. 84. Of course that last sentence is sooo true. I have never said otherwise! Your point in making a point about it is?

    What I say is my opinion based on my experience and exposure, just like what you say is yours. I do not have a Universtity Degree on this subject and therefore I cannot be classified as an expert.

    It doesn’t mean that I am wrong!

    You appear obsessed with trying to discredit me. If you have a problem with what I say then why dont you argue my opinion instead of just attacking and making belittling comments about me!

    If you say you are not a racist, then what are you Geoff? A bully?

  29. be nice if someone provided a list of what causes effects to work on this blog????? just a thought.

    Seems to me you should take a look in the mirror before casting stones at others Jolanda.

  30. Geoff. You always make out like you are so innocent! I would say that has taken alot of years to perfect.

    My post wasnt’ about you or to you yet you still managed to say something to try to belittle my comments. I guess I would have to ask what I have done to you for you to have such a dislike to me and want to discredit me personally so publicaly all the time?

    You seem to believe that you are so innocent just because of the way that you place your words. I would think that you should take a look in the mirror first!

    Now thats two questions that I have asked you and you have just done what you always do…….

  31. Backgroung Briefing did a comprehensive report yesterday on the Papuan Issue and you can hear it here.

    Politically Pesky Papuans
    Presented by Di Martin
    When Australia decided to grant protection visas to 42 Papuans, it was always going to upset Indonesia. While Australia reaffirms their support for Indonesia’s sovereignty in West Papua, Indonesia is still furious about the decision. This difficult decision was co-ordinated at the highest levels of government. It could also be just the first in a series of shocks, if reports are true that hundreds more Papuans are trying to get to Australia. [more]
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/

    Also an interview with Justice Minsiter Ellison on the matter of the measures our leaders are prepared to go to to repel West Papuans who may come on a boat seeking asylum is well worth the listen here;

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/nationalinterest/stories/2006/1610904.htm

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