Academic calls for more media scrutiny of West Papua

Dr Clinton Fernandes, Senior Lecturer in strategic studies at the University of New South Wales, is highly critical of the Howard government's reluctance to raise Indonesian human rights issues and monitoring with the Indonesian government.

Dr Clinton Fernandes, Senior Lecturer in strategic studies at the University of New South Wales, has serious concerns over the Australian government's commitment to implement the majority report recommendations of its own parliamentary JSCOT Inquiry into Australia's latest Security Treaty with Indonesia (Lombok Treaty).

Dr Fernandes, who is visiting Brisbane this week to give a public lecture to the Australia West Papua Association, believes that the Federal government's commitment to human rights in our region will hit an all time low if it fails to implement the recommendations of the report.

"The JSCOT Report came about through open community consultation earlier this year and is indicative of strong public support for an Australian commitment to Indonesian human rights,”said Clinton.

“The Howard Government struck heroic poses about the need for public consultation when it came to office and it will make a mockery of it's own rhetoric if it ignores these recommendations.

“Of the five recommendations of the JSCOT Inquiry, one to four are concerned with Australian engagement with human rights abuse in Indonesia and especially in the two Papuan provinces.

“If the Howard government was truly committed to a peaceful solution in Papua it would call for greater access for the media and human rights monitors as recommended by the JSCOT Report.

"The restricted access to Papua has enabled the Indonesian Security Forces to act with impunity and military style operations have displaced entire regions of the already impoverished Indigenous Papuan population, leading to human hardship and in some cases deliberate starvation of entire communities.

“Only last week, the very credible NGO, Human Rights Watch, published documented accounts of rape, extra-judicial killings and detention, beatings, torture and starvation of the Papuan population of the central highlands by the Indonesian Security Forces in the period 2005 to 2006.

“Understandably, the HRW Report made similar recommendations for greater access for the media and human rights monitors in Papua as outlined in the JSCOT Report.

“While the Howard government has a history of ignoring human rights abuses in Papua, it does have consequences which are not in the interests of the Australian community.

“Each time supportive speeches are made in favour of non-involvement in West Papua, it constitutes de-facto support for the Indonesian Security Forces' destabilising and counter-democratic practices not only in Papua but across the entire Archipelago.

“Each time the Howard Government supports stronger military links with the TNI instead of greater engagement with Indonesian civil society, whatever the intention maybe, it ends up supporting the anti-reformasi hardliners in Indonesian society over reform minded moderates.

“Human rights and concerns for them, as outlined in the recommendations of both the JSCOT and HRW Reports, should not be seen as superficial concerns of idealistic minorities but rather realistic building blocks for strengthening democracy in our region for a secure and stable future,” concluded Clinton.


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