Australian Foreign Affairs Minister poor stance on West Papuan Human Rights

The following work is by Monaro Chrisitan Forum and is taken from report published by US based ETAN.

Stephen Smith defends Australia’s historic human rights stance in West Papua
The Dept. Foreign Affairs and Trade has written to the Monaro Christian Forum to defend the track record of this and previous governments in speaking up for human rights in West Papua.

A letter signed by about 50 Monaro Christians, community members and with the support of members of the Sydney Muslim community has asked for evidence that the Rudd Government is dealing with the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua more effectively than previous governments have.

The letter ( Letter to Stephen Smith) outlines that not only are the Indonesian military (TNI & Kopassus) still involved in well documented atrocities such as beatings, kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of Papuans, but the officers involved are still being protected from prosecution for their actions. The letter asked for evidence that this government was strengthening its stance in ways such as involving the international community as recommended by a Joint Select Committee on Treaties in 2007.

The response from Mr Smith’s office( Letter from Smith office) was extremely disappointing for the following reasons.

1) As with the Howard Government and in denial of the UN findings and numerous reports from human rights organisations, abuses are referred to only as “alleged” abuses. It appears that the current diplomatic stance is still to downplay the abuses publicly. A 2003 report by the United Nations into abuses by the Indonesian military in East Timor found that this diplomatic policy was instrumental in allowing Indonesia to continue with these abuses for so many decades.

2) The letter defends the actions of previous Governments with the words: “The Australian Government has a strong track record of representations in urging the Indonesian Government to investigate alleged human rights abuses”. Presumably this track record includes the original turning of a blind eye when Indonesia falsified the 1969 “Act of Free Choice” where 1000 West Papuans were forced at gunpoint to vote for their country to be put under Indonesian control. It would also include the Keating Government’s efforts to confiscate footage of the 1993 Santa Cruz massacre by Indonesian troops before it could be shown internationally. More recently it would include the Howard Government’s suppression of Defence Intelligence showing the Indonesian “Scorched Earth” policy for the massive slaughter of East Timorese when they voted for independence in the 1999 Referendum, and Mr Howard’s efforts to draft legislation that would stop legitimate West Papuan refugees from being given asylum in Australia.

It would have been a little heartening if the DFAT letter had at least recognised past failures, but unfortunately it seems this Government has chosen to close ranks with the very Government that was voted out for its weak and selfish stance on such issues. It’s understandable – new oil deals in West Papua provide Australia and the US with the opportunity to postpone our energy crises for just a little longer if we can keep Indonesia happy with us. Not only this, but retired General Prabowo Subianto, a former head of the Kopassus (Indonesia’s Gestapo) responsible for a range of massacres is rapidly rising in power and appears to be a serious contender for the upcoming Presidential elections in July.

I don’t envy Mr Rudd’s position. To stay in charge and get the support necessary for important changes Governments need to make popular decisions. It would be very unpopular if we were to lose important trade deals or peaceful diplomatic relations with Indonesia. Unpopular, but to us Christians aren’t there worse things? It does seems that to gain this part of the world we are being asked to lose our souls. I wonder how much this matters to Australian Christians; how many of us are prepared to put the welfare of our Papuan brothers ahead of our own pockets?

http://bloodwoodtree.org/2009/02/22/stephen-smith-defends-australias-historic-human-rights-stance-in-west-papua/

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: