Canberra must ‘break silence’ over Papuan human rights, says AWPA

A protest over Indonesian human rights violations against Papuans outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Sydney in December. Image: AWPA

Pacific Media Watch

The Australian government should break its silence and raise human rights violations in West Papua with visiting Indonesian President Joko Widodo today, says a Sydney-based advocacy group.

Widodo is expected to deliver an address to a joint sitting of Federal Parliament in Canberra.

He is in Australia to discuss and finalise the Indonesia-Australia comprehensive economic partnership agreement (IA-CEPA), which is in the final stage of ratification.

READ MORE: Why is NZ turning its back on human rights in West Papua?

“We can expect the usual talkfest on trade and investment, maritime issues, defence/security, counter-terrorism and cyber security,” said Joe Collins of the Australian West Papua Association (AWPA) in a statement.

“However, the one issue that won’t be on the agenda is the human rights situation in West Papua.

“Canberra continuously remains silent on the issue of West Papua. Even during the mass demonstrations that occurred in August and September last year in response to racist attacks on West Papuan students, it took a question by a journalist before our foreign minister made a comment on the issue.”

Indonesia and various governments continued to claim the human rights situation in West Papua was improving, said Collins.

Blocking fact-finding
“Yet Jakarta continues to block fact-finding missions to the territory, arrest and deport foreign media, harass human rights defenders and local media in West Papua, and shuts down the internet during demonstrations in order to stop information getting out.”

AWPA is calling on Canberra to “not only raise the human rights situation in West Papua with Jokowi, but urge him to release all political prisoners who face charges of treason simply because they raised the West Papuan flag or took part in anti–racism demonstrations.

The visit by President Widodo was an opportunity for Australia to show its commitment to human rights in the region by making a strong statement of concern about West Papua, said Collins

AWPA also urged Prime Minister Scott Morrison to press the Indonesian president to allow a fact-finding to West Papua as requested by Pacific Island Forum (PIF) leaders.

Several rallies will be held today in various cities, including Sydney.

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