Message on West Papua to the Pacific Islands Forum

19 Aug 2008
Message to forum leaders on West Papua
39th Pacific Islands Forum, 19-21 August 2008, Alofi, Niue

The Pacific Islands Forum is meeting at a time when the Indonesian security forces and police in West Papua continue to violate the most basic rights of its population. Earlier this month, a Papuan man was shot dead while attending a huge rally to mark World Indigenous People’s Day. The crowd was violently dispersed apparently because various flags were being flown, including the Morning Star flag, which symbolises the hopes of the Papuan people to seek recognition from the international community for their many legitimate grievances. As reported by witnesses, the dead man, Otinus Tabuni, was killed when Indonesian security forces opened fire. Their actions were in flagrant violation of the right of Papuans to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

The simple act of flying the Morning Star flag was declared illegal by a presidential decree last year and scores of Papuans have suffered imprisonment and even death for daring to carry out such an act of defiance. Nearly two dozen Papuans are now serving heavy sentences for flying the Morning Star flag.

As Indonesia prepares to hold national and regional elections in April 2009, there is little likelihood that these will be free and fair in West Papua, bearing in mind the presence of Indonesian security forces in the territory. Moreover, the law on political parties in Indonesia prohibits the establishment of local parties, which means that there are no parties that are devoted to the special interests of the Papuan people.

The Indonesian state earns huge profits from the exploitation of West Papua’s natural resources while the vast majority of Papuans live in poverty. Serious illnesses such as HIV/AIDS are rampant and largely go untreated. A recent outbreak of cholera is reported to have killed more than 150 Papuans.

The Papuan people desperately need the support of the international community. We believe that an organisation like yours should help the Papuan people, by drawing attention to their plight.

TAPOL urges you to grant observer status to West Papuan representatives so as to give them the opportunity to explain their situation. TAPOL also urges you to consider supporting their call for dialogue with the Indonesian Government and to send a fact-finding mission to the territory. This would be the most effective way of increasing international awareness about the dire circumstances in which the Papuan people now live.