5 May 2016

West Papua report dismisses Canberra's claims

7:13 pm on 5 May 2016

Claims by Canberra that the plight of West Papuans in the Indonesian region is improving are false, according to an Australian Catholic Church fact finding mission's report.

The mission in February by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Brisbane has produced a report called 'We will Lose Everything'

Peter Arndt, who led the fact finding team, says the indigenous people they met made it clear the human rights situation was not improving and it remains a difficult environment.

"With security forces routinely using violence and intimidation to keep the people, and especially those wanting to express their political views about self determination, at bay," he said.

Following his last trip to West Papua, Mr Arndt said he went to Jakarta where he said he made an attempt to speak to an official from the Australian embassy, to report on what his team had found in Papua.

"But for some reason my appointment was cancelled 45 minutes before it was due to be held."

Peter Arndt said it's hoped that the report, which is being progressively launched around the Pacific, would lead to a greater understanding of what is happening in West Papua.

Some Papuans say life in their region has improved significantly, compared to the years under the rule of Indonesia's President Suharto who fell in 1998.

But the proportion of West papuans to the overall population of their region is declining quickly as non-Papuan migrants stream in on a regular basis, via the state-facilitated transmigration system.

Yafeth Felle is a Fisherman in Yobe Village on Lake Sentani, about 20 kilometres away from downtown Jayapura.

Papuan fisherman prepares his line, Lake Sentani. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Mr Arndt explained that Papuans he had spoken to were very worried that they would continue to be deeply marginalised economically and socially.

"So they want people to hear their story and their desperation," he said, "and to take effective action to change that situation in West Papua before it's too late for them."