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Letter to Phil Goff

13 May 2005

Hon Phil Goff,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,

Dear Phil Goff,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee is very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in West Papua and about the violent police response to a peaceful demonstration in Jayapura this week. We believe that the best way for New Zealand to respond as a concerned neighbour committed to upholding human rights would be to propose that Indonesia enter into dialogue with West Papuan leaders aimed at progressing the concept of West Papua as a 'Land of Peace'.

As you will be aware the 'Land of Peace' proposal has had the strong support of all sectors of society in West Papua since 2000. The initiative has the support of local politicians, tribal leaders, and the provincial parliament. There would be reduced fear and the opportunity for West Papuan people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to discuss political, economic and cultural concerns. The 'Land of Peace' has recently been promoted in Geneva at the UN Commission of Human Rights by an interfaith delegation coordinated by the international organisation of Franciscans.

A few days ago a senior Papuan police officer was replaced and four other are being questioned for alleged human rights violations following the violent end of demonstration on May 10. The demonstration was organised by students in support of two people, Yusak Pakage and Filep Karma, who are on trial for their role in another peaceful demonstration: a flag raising event that took place on December 1, 2004.

The demonstration began with a march from Cenderawasih University to the National Court House in Jayapura. The organisers say that the protest was peaceful until the intervention of provocateurs who began throwing stones at Brimob police units. The student organisers of the demonstration have released the names of 30 people who were badly injured by police including 3 people who were still in hospital at the time of their report.

This episode has a resemblance to the tragic events that unfolded in Abepura at the end of 2000 when three students were killed and over 100 young people were tortured and beaten by the police. There has so far been no genuine justice for the perpetrators of these crimes even although the case did go to the newly formed Human Rights Court in Makassar. Only two officers have been charged with responsibility for the atrocities and both have been allowed to continue as active policemen, while the trial remains on hold.

It is extremely worrying that the size of the military forces in West Papua is about to increase to staggering 50,000 troops, including a complete 15,000 strong division of the elite Kostrad force. However, the establishment of a "Land of Peace" is critically dependent on demilitarisation and this new deployment is a major blow to the hopes of the West Papuan people and peace-loving people everywhere.

I recently attended an International Solidarity Meeting for West Papua where there was a clear consensus that the situation in West Papua is extremely critical and international intervention is critical for the survival of the West Papuan people. We look forward to your response,

Yours sincerely,
Maire Leadbeater,
for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee

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