Australia urged to raise West Papua with Jokowi

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) held a meeting on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 4, 2019. (Biro Pers dan Media Setpres RI). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

CANBERRA, Feb 10, 2020, RNZ. Australia’s government has been urged to discuss human rights abuses in West Papua with Indonesia’s visiting president. Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, is in Australia for a state visit, Radio New Zealand reported.

Jokowi, who is to address Australia’s parliament in Canberra today, is expected to finalise an economic partnership agreement between the two countries.

The Australia West Papua Association’s Joe Collins said the visit would feature usual references to trade and investment, maritime issues, defence and security.

But he said one issue not on the agenda was the human rights situation in West Papua.

Indonesia describes rights abuses in Papua as largely a thing of the past.

However, Mr Collins said Jakarta continued to block fact-finding missions to the territory, and harass human rights defenders and journalists in West Papua

He said Canberra should not remain silent on the issue but support the call by the Pacific Islands Forum for Indonesia to allow the UN Human Rights Commission access to Papua.

The Association is calling on Canberra to also urge Jokowi to release all political prisoners who face charges of treason for raising the West Papuan flag or taking part in anti-racism demonstrations.

“The visit by the Indonesian President is an opportunity for Australia to show its commitment to human rights in our region by a making a strong statement of concern on the issue of West Papua,” Mr Collins said.

“AWPA also urges Scott Morrison [as leader of a Pacific Islands Forum country] to urge Jokowi to allow a fact finding to West Papua as requested by the PIF leaders.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International Australia and Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman have also urged Australia’s government to bring up the human rights situation in Papua with Jokowi.

Jakarta Post reports that Ms Koman has highlighted the plight of dozens of Papuans and Jakarta-based activist Surya Anta who are currently facing trial for treason following widespread protests in favour of Papuan self-determination between August and September last year.

She also mentioned the ongoing military operation against the West Papua Liberation Army in Nduga regency, which has displaced thousands of people in the region.

According to Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid, 263 displaced Nduga residents had died from hunger and illnesses as of the end of last month.

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