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Letter to Helen Clark re West Papua

28 July 2002

Rt Hon Helen Clark,
Prime Minister,
Parliament Buildings,

Dear Helen Clark,

Congratulations on your re-election, and your government's return to power.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is writing to you in advance of this years Pacific Islands Forum to request that the New Zealand government takes a strong stand in support of the rights of the people of West Papua.

We are aware that for the previous two years the issue of human rights abuses and violence in West Papua has been the subject of Forum resolutions.

However, this year we believe that there are two further issues which should be supported by the Forum leaders:

The need for a United Nations Review of the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" in West Papua.

As you know there is now a strong international campaign for a Review of the 1969 "Act of Free Choice". The call is gaining momentum from human rights groups, church groups, peace and justice groups and British, Australian and New Zealand members of parliament.

There is growing awareness that the UN which was responsible for supervising the Act of Free Choice, did a gross disservice to the West Papuans by accepting the vote of just 1025 Papuans. These 'representatives' were hand-picked by Indonesian military and police, and forced, under extreme duress, to vote to remain part of Indonesia. Papuans were threatened with being killed if they did not co-operate.

Morevoer the vote as conducted, was contrary to Clause 18 of the 1962 New York Agreement signed between the Netherlands, as former colonial power, and Indonesia. This agreement clearly stated that all adult Papuans had the right to participate in an act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice.

Late last year UN official Chakravarthy Narasimhan who helped to organise the Indonesian take-over described the Act of Free Choice as a "whitewash". Since this Act of "No" Choice, it is estimated that at least 100,000 Papuans have died in ongoing conflict, and a new military and militia build-up raises fears of more killing.

There has been a recent influx of Laksar Jihad militia into the territory and the violent deaths of West Papuan leaders, Chief Theys Eluay, chairman of The Papuan Presidium Council Yafeth Yelemaken, director of the Civilian Custom Institute in Wamena, have heightened tensions to breaking point.

The review conducted into the United Nations' role in peacekeeping in Rwanda in 1994 is a clear precedent for the United Nations to review and be held accountable for its past practice

The need for West Papuan representatives to be granted observer status at the Pacific Islands Forum

West Papua has always been considered a part of the Pacific Community and was a former member of the South Pacific Commission (SPC). A West Papuan leader Mr. Marcus Kaisiepo attended the first SPC Conference held in Fiji in 1950 and West Papuans continued to participate in the SPC meetings until the Dutch ceded its authority to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) in 1962).

We understand the criteria for observer status agreed by Forum Leaders is - "a Pacific Island territory on a clear path to achieving self-government or independence may be eligible for observer status at the forum, subject to the approval of Forum Leaders".

As West Papua has been granted special autonomy by Indonesia, we believe this criteria fits an autonomous West Papua. Also, as Indonesia is now a post Forum dialogue partner, we believe if West Papua was granted observer status, it would be an excellent arena for the West Papuan leadership and Indonesia representatives to discuss peaceful ways forward for the province

We also urge you to encourage the Indonesian government to control its military in the province and to raise concerns about the dangers the Laskar Jihad pose for stability in West Papua. Stability and mutual trust are essential to promote peaceful dialogue between all parties wishing to solve the problems in the province

Yours sincerely
Maire Leadbeater
(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

Copy to Keith Locke, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Green Party.

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