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Letter to Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,
Box 68-419,

Hon Mr Winston Peters,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,

18 March 2006

Dear Mr Peters,

As you are no doubt aware there is a major crisis in Indonesian controlled West Papua in the wake of a demonstration two days ago which was forcibly ended by the security forces. In the ensuing violence 3 policemen and an air force officer were killed and there are also reports of many severe injuries to the student demonstrators. The situation is now one of escalating tension and fear.

We understand that police opened fire on the demonstrators using rubber bullets and also possibly live ammunition. Tear gas and water cannon were employed. The protestors responded by throwing missiles at the police.

There is now a security crackdown in process and large numbers of young people have been arrested. Reports state that the police are firing at random in the area near the Cendrawasih University Campus and the I.S. Kinje Theological Seminary. Reports suggest that military troop reinforcements are moving in and that the students are hiding or have fled into the jungle in fear of their lives.

We believe that this tragic episode is symptomatic of the profound impact on the West Papuan people of years of marginalisation and repression.

The current crisis situation has arisen following a series of rolling demonstrations against the Freeport McMoran gold and copper mine in West Papua. While Freeport is a huge earner for the Indonesian regime - bringing in more than $33bn between 1992 and 2004- the people of West Papua live in dire poverty and are dying from preventable diseases, an epidemic of HIV/AIDS and even from starvation. Freeportís funding of the Indonesian military has contributed to the gross human rights abuses. Thousands of the indigenous Amungme and Kamoro people were displaced so that the mine could operate and in the process devastate their tribal lands and destroy their sacred mountain.

Since the Indonesian authorities are known to have a dire record for holding themselves accountable and the security forces have an entrenched history of impunity it is essential that there be an independent investigation into this latest crisis.

We therefore call on the New Zealand Government to mount an urgent lobby for an independent human rights investigation preferably to be conducted by the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

We also urge the New Zealand Government to advocate for the opening up of West Papua to independent journalists, human rights workers and peace monitors.

New Zealand as a regional neighbour should also undertake to use its good relations with Indonesia to gain urgent access for a fact finding mission of parliamentarians and NGO leaders to go to West Papua.

We believe this would be in line with the comments you made yesterday (New Zealand Herald 17 March, 2006) that New Zealand "should always be engaged in our own neighbourhood."

Urgent action is desperately needed now to prevent further bloodshed.

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

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