25 Apr 2006

Pressure on Indonesia to address Papua issue, says academic

11:11 am on 25 April 2006

An Australian academic says Indonesia has shot itself in the foot over the Papuan visa row, highlighting the need to resolve the issue of autonomy for Papua province.

Professor Peter King, a Papua specialist at Sydney University, says Indonesian objections to Australia's decision to grant asylum to 42 Papuans has brought more pressure on Jakarta to address the Papua issue.

His comments follow a visit to Jakarta of Australia's special diplomatic envoy Michael L'Estrange, designed to smooth relations between the two countries

Following his meeting with Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda, an Indonesian Foreign Ministry official described the meeting as "cool".

Professor King says political ingenuity is needed to break the diplomatic deadlock over Papua.

"It's certainly brought the issue to a prominence it hasn't had, perhaps ever, since the Indonesians took over. What's it's done though is get it a lot more prominence domestically in Indonesia. At the moment in Indonesia there's only really a nationalist response circulating and being played out politically but there are in fact a lot of groups in Indonesia who understand the Papua situation quite well and realise how essential it is for the government to do something serious about it."

Professor Peter King