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Australia wants transparency as Indonesia sends troops to Papua

Publication Date : 17-07-2012


The Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, raised sensitive issues relating to alleged human rights abuses and violence in Indonesia's poorest province, Papua, during a yesterday meeting with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa.

Natalegawa said that Carr told him that Australia wanted the Indonesian government to promote transparency in matters concerning Papua.

"But he also reiterated the principal position of Australia: that it recognises Indonesia's integrity and sovereignty which includes Papua," Natalegawa said at his office after the meeting with Carr.

The Australian media had reported that Carr was aware of the human rights issues in Papua, and would bring the issue up in his Indonesian visit.

Carr arrived in Indonesia on Friday, and has since visited several projects funded by the Australian government in Yogyakarta, including a village hit hard by Mount Merapi's eruption in 2010.

"We've quietly worked with the Indonesians to see that there, as elsewhere, reasonable standards of human rights protection are maintained," Carr said in Yogyakarta.

The Papua issue has remained a sensitive issue for most Indonesian politicians, particularly when it comes to the role of Australia.

Many have regularly blamed Australia and the Western countries for meddling in the province's affairs, alleging that they have engineered the worsening security through their sponsored NGOs.

Indonesia's obvious concern is that Papua may end up breaking away from Indonesia as in the case of Timor Leste, which benefited from intense advocacy and support from Australia and the West world before its independence from Indonesia in 2002.

The government has also remained the subject of criticism for failing to resolve the prolonged violence in Papua, including a series of deadly shootings.

Dozens of civilians, police and military personnel have been killed in various locations in Papua over the past few months.

The latest bloody incident was the killing of a soldier and two civilians last week.

With the killing remaining mostly unresolved, the Indonesian Military, the police and the intelligence services have also been blamed by human rights activists for having a role in allegedly creating the security instability in the province for their own ends.

Papua is home to the operations of US-based Freeport McMoran, one of the world's biggest gold miners, and London-based energy company BP.

With the protracted violence, Papua has probably the world's highest ratio of police and soldiers to civilians.

With around 2.85 million people, Papua has more than 20,000 Indonesian army personnel and 25,000 police officers, according to a source at the Defence Ministry. These numbers exclude intelligence officers from various agencies.

The army is building up its forces in Papua by sending more troops to help secure the border with neighbouring Papua New Guinea, which has been used as a refuge by members of the Free Papua Movement.

The Wirabuana Military Command in Makassar, South Sulawesi, shipped yesterday 620 personnel to Merauke, Papua, to help secure the borders and infuse a "nationalist spirit" in the remote communities there.

"Their task is to ensure order, guard the border, and develop a nationalist spirit there. The troops will be there for a one-year tour of duty," said Wirabuana commander Maj. Gen. Muhammad Nizam.


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