EU committee hears West Papuan testimonies
West Papua has been described as a place marked by fear, violence, and isolation, during a hearing with an EU parliament committee.
Indonesia's West Papua region has been described as a place marked by fear, violence and isolation, during a hearing with a European Union parliament committee.
West Papuan campaigners gave testimony at the Human Rights subcommittee in Brussels last Friday into the situation in the region.
They asked the committee to press the Indonesian government to allow for greater media freedom and an open dialogue with Papua.
Bridget Tunnicliffe reports:
Zely Ariane from the National Papua Solidarity in Jakarta, spoke on behalf of Indonesian Civil Society living outside Papua, who are disappointed with the Indonesian government's attitude to Papua. She says after 15 years of Indonesian reform there is no fundamental change of approach by the government to deal with Papuan issues.
"It is therefore important to continue encouraging the central government to honour its commitments and to show a visible progress in resolving the conflict peacefully in light of the upcoming national election. An end to human rights violations are the pre-condition to a peaceful and sustainable end of the conflict in Papua that continue to cause the suffering of the civilians."
But the Indonesian government's representative Arif Havas Oegroseno disputed the claim that Papuans haven't seen any progress.
"To say that nothing changes since the last 15 years in rather mis-leading we the government believe that the dialogue since 1999 have established Papuan policy that move away from a security approach to a prosperity approach facilitated Papuans to manage their own affairs through wide-ranging autonomy."
Norman Voss from Human Rights and Peace for Papua told the committee there is an underlying current of fear in West Papua, perpetuated by the military presence. He also told the hearing there is a high level of social disparity and Indonesia is pilfering Papua's natural resources.
"The exploitation of natural resources usually without the free prior and informed consent of local communities and the ongoing influx of non-Papuan settlers result in a marginalisation of indigenous Papuans who now make up less than 50 percent of the population."
Victor Mambor from the Alliance of Independent Journalists listed cases of attacks against journalists in Papua and called on the EU to ensure protection of media freedom in Papua.
"Intimidation and violence by the police against journalists are increasing every year. It is limiting press freedom therefore I call on this parliament to urge the Indonesian government to allow free access for foreign journalists as this would also protect the work of local journalists."
The Indonesian Ambassador to the EU, Mr Oegroseno, admits that poverty remains high but says the trend is reversing. He told the committee that a recent World Bank report found about 25 percent of the population is living in poverty, compared to 54 percent in 1999. Norman Voss says before any real change can happen Indonesia must follow through on promises to hold open discussion with Papua.
"We call on the EU to support president Yudhoyono's pledges to hold a dialogue with Papua. Churches and other peace activists have been calling for years for a peaceful dialogue under neutral mediation between hard-liners on both sides. Jakarta shows reluctance while violations continue and conflict tensions are escalating."
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