Report says West Papuans fear they will lose everything
An Australia Catholic group which sent a fact finding team to West Papua says there are no signs that the economic and social status of Papuans is improving.
Politicians in Australia have frequently claimed that the economic and social plight of the indigenous people of Indonesia's West Papua region is improving.
But a new report, based on a fact finding mission earlier this years shows this is not the case.
The report, from the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Brisbane, is called 'We will Lose Everything'
Don Wiseman asked Peter Arndt, who led the two person team to Papua in February, if he saw any evidence to back up the Australian claims.
PETER ARNDT: No, frankly no. We certainly have got the message from the Australian government in letters that we've received on several occasions. But the situation that we found in Papua is that the human rights situation is not improving. The people certainly told us that it is continuing to be a difficult situation to live in, with security forces routinely using violence and intimidation to keep the people, especially those wanting to express their political views about self-determination, at bay. And certainly that's been confirmed too by a prominent Indonesian human rights organisation, KONTRAS, which is the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, who said that their records showed that there was something like over 1200 cases of human rights violations in the last year (in Papua) and that meant there was no improvement since President Widodo was elected towards the end of 2014.
DON WISEMAN: Did your group actually see any examples, did you see anything first hand in terms of violent incidents?
PA: No we didn't see any violent incidents. But certainly on the visit we paid in February this year, and the visit I was on in January, February last year, on both occasions there was an attempt by police and in some cases other security forces to intervene, to interrogate us and so on. On this occasion, our host was able to make sure that the police didn't call us up for interrogation. On the last occasion, police and intelligence and immigration all descended on us, and wanted to take us away and interrogate us immediately. But our local hosts intervened and gave us a few hours to prepare ourselves, and then we presented ourselves for interrogation, and thankfully were let go. So we've had first hand experience of the security forces, keeping a close eye on people and trying to stop people from investigating the human rights situation. And we were shown photos and so on of people who had been bashed by the military and so on in our last visit, a very recent incident - one of the bishops showed us a photo of a person whom he knew had been bashed by soldiers for complaining about not getting paid for two months.
DW: Did you have any discussions with representatives of the Indonesian government?
PA: No, no we didn't. I did go over by myself after the end of the Papuan leg to Jakarta, and talked to some community organisations. I did make an attempt to speak to an official from the Australian embassy, to report on what we had found when we were in West Papua. But for some reason my appointment was cancelled 45 minutes before it was due to be held. So that's the closest I've got to an official. But certainly no Indonesian officials.
DW: This report, I know it's been taken around the Pacific and being presented right now. What does your group hope to achieve?
PA: Well we made it clear from the start that this report is something that we're trying to ensure is an accurate reflection of the voices of the Papuan people inside West Papua. So they worked closely with us to organise the visit and to prepare the report. Anf they gave it authorisation to be released. We want it to be something that is widely disseminated throughout the Pacific and globally as an authentic representation of the experiences of the people of West Papua, so the world hears clearly what they are experiencing on a day-to-day basis, what their concerns about their immediate future are, and what they hope can happen to change their situation, because they feel very desperate and anxious about their situation at present. The title of the report says "We Will Lose Everything", that's what one of the leaders of the Papuans said to us in Brisbane in January. They are very worried that within a few years, the (Papuan) population will dwindle to a tiny percentage of the population in West Papua, it'll be dominated by Indonesian migrants, and that they will continue to be deeply marginalised economically and socially. So they want people to hear their story and their desperation, and to take effective action to change that situation in West Papua before it's too late for them.
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