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Act now for West Papua
Current campaign! the Alert below was written for the Pacific Island Forum, August 2003. However, action for the people of West Papua is needed on an ongoing basis - pressure on the NZ government needs to be kept up; please read the information below and contact the politicians as outlined in the 'what you can do' section. For up to date information, check the articles, statements and alerts on the West Papua index page.
12 August 2003
On Thursday of this week, Pacific heads of government will gather in Auckland for the annual Pacific Island Forum (PIF) meeting. Please fax or email NZ government politicians today, tomorrow or on Thursday to demand that this year some progress is made at the PIF meeting to protect the people of West Papua and enable them to fulfil their aspirations of self-determination. West Papua has no official status with the PIF; but ironically, Indonesia (the occupying power) is a PIF dialogue partner. News updates on West Papua and the Pacific Islands Forum will be posted here.
This alert is in five parts:
Since 1963, the people of West Papua have been subject to brutal occupation by the Indonesian armed forces. In 1969, instead of organising a full referendum so that the West Papuans could vote on their future, the United Nations supervised the Act of ‘Free’ Choice (aka the Act of No Choice) -1,025 handpicked Papuans were intimidated, bribed or forced to vote at gun point for West Papua to be integrated into Indonesia. West Papua was consequently removed from the United Nations List of Non Self-Governing Territories and the people abandoned to Indonesian military occupation.
Since then, the people of West Papua have been subjected to gross human rights violations including rape, torture, murder and massacre, and cultural genocide. West Papua’s natural resources have been exploited to an extraordinary degree by multi-national corporations in cahoots with the Indonesian authorities for their own profit. This has resulted in massive social dislocation and destruction of the environment. As but one example, the Freeport-McMoRan gold and copper mine has decapitated and destroyed Namakjawin (the mountain sacred to the people of the area); devastated the rainforests and polluted the streams and rivers throughout the region and on the coast on which the local people are defendant for food and water - the tailings from the Freeport McMoRan mine cover an area of more than 121 square kilometres.
Since 1963 more than 100,000 West Papuans have been killed; more than 15,000 West Papuans are currently living in authorised or unauthorised camps in Papua New Guinea; and others are forced to live in exile around the world as it is not safe for them to return to West Papua. The Indonesian government’s transmigration programme has resulted in around 850,000 non-Papuan transmigrants being moved to West Papua.
Since April of this year, the situation has worsened considerably with the deployment to West Papua of Indonesian special forces (Kopassus) and other army units. A widespread military operation in the central highland town of Wamena has resulted in the arbitrary detention and arrest of many Papuans, rape, mutilation and torture, civilian deaths, and the destruction of homes, schools and crops. Around 1,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and gardens, and hide in the forests where they are vulnerable to extreme conditions and starvation. The Indonesian military are refusing to allow church, humanitarian and human rights workers any access to the area.
As well as the direct violent repression by Indonesian armed forces, they are now creating armed militias, similar to what they did in East Timor.
Everyone knows the outcome of the lack of action by the world community for the people of East Timor, the final wanton terror and destruction by the Indonesian armed forces and their militias in 1999. It is the responsibility of the NZ and other Pacific governments to act now to ensure that the people of West Papua do not have the same fate inflicted on them. It is time for them to turn West Papua from being the forgotten Pacific country, to the Pacific country which is not forgotten.
If you require more information about West Papua, there are alerts and articles, as well as links to other web sites, on the West Papua index page. In the context of the PIF, see the statement below, and ‘West Papua and the Pacific Islands Forum’, (Indonesia Human Rights Committee). Details of the campaign calling for a review of the Act of ‘Free’ Choice, together with background information as to why it is necessary, are available here.
Statement from the Fourth International Solidarity Meeting for West Papua (Southern Hemisphere Component), Otara, Aotearoa New Zealand, 8 - 10 August 2003.
West Papua: The Forgotten Pacific Country
The international solidarity movement for West Papua, meeting in Otara, Tamaki Makaurau, Aotearoa (New Zealand) from 8-10 August, calls upon the members of the Pacific Islands Forum to remember the unresolved tragedy of the Pacific people of West Papua when they meet in Auckland later this week.
The movement urges Forum leaders to grant West Papua observer status as a step to resuming its role in Pacific regional affairs, a right denied to the West Papua people for the past forty years.
It welcomes the Forum’s previous expressions of concern about the human situation in West Papua, but urges the Forum leaders to take further action in response to the deteriorating situation in the territory and the targeting of human rights defenders.
The solidarity movement calls upon the Forum leaders to send a fact-finding mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation there and to press Forum dialogue partner Indonesia to:-
a) end military operations in West Papua, start the process of de-militarisation and halt the activities of Laskar Jihad and all militia forces;
b) renew efforts to resolve the conflict by peaceful means in accordance with the call by the people of West Papua for their country to be made a Land of Peace;
c) ensure the safety and protection of all human right defenders, enabling them to carry out their activities without intimidation or obstruction;
d) bring to justice those responsible for serious crimes committed in West Papua, including the killing of Papuan leader Theys Eluay in November 2001.
The movement strongly urges the Forum members to condemn the violations against West Papuan women and children as a result of the Indonesian militarisation of the territory. The Forum should resolve to end all forms of military cooperation with Indonesia, including the training of military personnel.
The movement further condemns the systematic destruction of the environment and cultural structures of the West Papuan people, and calls on Forum leaders to address the dire humanitarian situation of West Papuan refugees in Papua New Guinea and to take steps to protect their legal and human rights.
Recognising that the root cause of the human rights problems in West Papua is the fraudulent Act of ‘Free’ Choice, which was part of an attempt to legitimise the take over of West Papua by Indonesia in 1969, the solidarity movement urges the Forum to support widespread demands for the United Nations to review its conduct at the time and for West Papua to be reinstated on the agenda of the UN Decolonisation Committee.
(Delegates to the conference included people from West Papua, USA, Ireland, Australia, Indonesia, UK, Hong Kong, Fiji, Aotearoa.)
What you can do
Please as a matter or urgency fax or email Helen Clark, Phil Goff and Taito Phillip Field (contact details below) - urge them to take a position at the PIF meeting in support of the people of West Papua. Points you could include in your letter are that the NZ government and the Pacific Island Form must:
Contact details: Helen Clark, Prime Minister, email or fax (04) 473 3579; Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister of Pacific Islands Affairs, email or fax (04) 495 8444; Taito Phillip Field, Associate Minister of Pacific Islands Affairs, email or fax (04) 472 8063. Please also send a copy of your letter, and of any replies you receive, to Peace Movmement Aotearoa email.
Vigils for the people of West Papua, Thursday 14 August
National speaking tour by John Rumbiak, West Papuan Human Rights Advocate
Focus on West Papua - ‘Oppression and resistance: A critical issue for the Pacific - what are the hopes for dialogue?', national speaking tour by John Rumbiak, West Papuan Human Rights Advocate, of the West Papua Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM). ELSHAM has been at the forefront of efforts to establish Papua as a Zone of Peace, an initiative involving Papua's governor, key officials, church and other civil society leaders - it is internationally respected for its human rights monitoring work but has been under strong pressure from the Indonesian military, its people, including John, have received death threats and been subject to violence, intimidation and harassment. John is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University's Center for Human Rights Study, where he is also a Director of the Papua Resource Center. John's tour began on 10 August, below are the details of his remaining public meetings.
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