INDEPENDENT NEWS

PM urged to press for opening of West Papua & Aceh

Published: Thu 25 Nov 2004 10:07 AM
Foreign Minister urged to press for opening of West Papua and Aceh
The Indonesian Human Rights Committee is calling on the New Zealand Government to make urgent representations to the Indonesian Government to allow diplomats, international agencies and journalists renewed access to West Papua and Aceh. This urgent request was faxed to Minister Goff today.
"Prime Minister Helen Clark held friendly meetings with the new Indonesian President in Chile, but did she mention the death and despair in Aceh and West Papua?" asked Maire Leadbeater speaking for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee. "Our trade advantage must not be at the expense of the victims of the hidden wars in Aceh and West Papua. Before he was elected President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono raised hopes that he would seek to resolve the conflicts in the two troubled provinces in peaceful ways, but now he is beating the military drum."
The President has just announced the extension of the state of civil emergency in Aceh. The move has been strongly criticised by prominent Indonesian NGOs and even by the government's own Human Rights Commission. In May 2003 martial law was imposed and since then at least 2,100 people have died - an average of four to five a day - a death toll that is even higher than in Palestine.
In West Papua there has been a recent escalation of military operations in the Punjak Jaya region which has resulted in the violent deaths of at least 8 people including a prominent Papuan pastor. Around 5000 people have fled the area and at least 15 people, mostly children have died from hunger.
Journalists, both domestic and international, have been barred from entering West Papua since shortly after the election of the new President. Over the last two years there has been a build up of military strength and there are now more than 25,000 troops stationed in the province.
In Aceh local NGOs have reported that the restrictions and threats of violence have made their tasks of providing humanitarian assistance and carrying out human rights monitoring virtually impossible. They desperately need the moral and financial assistance of outside organisations. They also need independent international witnesses to support them when they make statements about the violence against civilians.
New Zealand must insist that Indonesia lift the prohibition on foreign journalists entering Aceh and West Papua and ensure that they are able to carry out their work free from threats and intimidation. New Zealand should also insist that the current restrictions on diplomats, international agencies and NGOs working in Aceh and West Papua are lifted immediately.

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