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Home » , , , , , , , » Pollies blind to West Papua abuses

Pollies blind to West Papua abuses

Written By Voice Of Baptist Papua on July 5, 2012 | 7:50 PM

SEEKING JUSTICE: Mako Tabuni supporters want answers after the activist was killed by police. Picture: AFP Source: AP
SEEKING JUSTICE: Mako Tabuni supporters want answers after the activist was killed by police. Picture: AFP Source: AP
 MAKO Tabuni was a powerful speaker and vice-chairman of the West Papua National Committee.
 
During rallies in Jayapura in April, the wiry Highlander stood on makeshift stages to demand self-determination for Papua and West Papua, the resource-rich provinces on the eastern margin of the Indonesian archipelago.
Details on his birth date are hard to find but we do know he died on June 14, executed by Indonesian police while he was chewing betel nut in Abepura, the university town outside Jayapura.
His death is another flashpoint in the battle for justice in the region.
And, once again, it throws light on what is a very messy and intractable crisis on our doorstep.
Witnesses say an unarmed Tabuni had separated from friends and was walking near Cendrawasih University when plainclothes police jumped from three cars and shot him six times. He was taken to a police hospital in Jayapura, where he died.
Human rights activists say Tabuni was shot by members of Detachment 88, an anti-terrorist force primarily trained and bankrolled by the US and Australia through the Australian Federal Police.
Witnesses and respected Baptist church leader Socratez Sofyan Yoman have dismissed police claims that Tabuni was armed with a gun used in the non-fatal shooting of a German tourist on a Jayapura beach in May.
Australians who know the Papuan situation well say the indigenous peoples would settle for less than independence.
They just want an end to the killings, torture and disappearances by the Indonesian military and police forces and for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to make good on his promises of "special autonomy" for the region.
For too long, the Papuans have been second-class citizens in their homeland.
The special autonomy deal announced in 2001 was supposed to give Papuans greater representation and a greater share of tax receipts from the resource-rich region.
But the reality remains that Papua and West Papua (the region was split into two administrative areas in 2003) are heavily militarised, with more than 30,000 security personnel operating with impunity.
This state of affairs goes largely unnoticed in Australia, although some politicians are disturbed by the situation.
Victorian Greens Senator Richard Di Natale has pushed for greater Australian input.
He wants Canberra to press harder for the democratic and human rights of Papuans to be upheld and for a greater opening up of the region to journalists and observers.
But Australia's major parties want to steer clear of the thorny issue of Papuan independence and justice.
They don't want to undermine our warm relations with the moderate and reformist President Yudhoyono.
There is no appetite whatsoever for an East Timor-style intervention. And, in the longer term, the prospect of another unstable Melanesian nation alongside PNG and Solomon Islands is not attractive.
Canberra's approach to the Papua issue is very straightforward. It goes to great lengths to stress Indonesian sovereignty over the provinces and accepts Jakarta's assurances it is trying to make things better.
This is all well and good. But the murder of Tabuni, allegedly by police units funded and trained by Australians, is not a good look for a country that holds itself as a champion of human rights.
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David Costello is the foreign editor of The Courier-Mail.
costellod@qnp.newsltd.com.au - http://www.couriermail.com.au/
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