Subject: JP by Damien Kingsbury: Get Facts Right Re: Papua, E. Timor and Australia

also: JP Op-Ed referred to by Damien Kingbury in report below: Is Papua a danger of becoming another E. Timor? and JP Op-Ed: Questioning Australian asylum granting policy

The Jakarta Post Tuesday, April 4, 2006


Gets facts right and focus on the real problem

Damien Kingsbury, Melbourne

In asking the question, is Papua in danger of becoming another East Timor, Ahmad Qisa'i does little more than highlight a number of misunderstandings about East Timor, Papua and Australia ( The Jakarta Post, March 29, page 7/[See report below]).

To start, the Australian government did not change its policy regarding East Timor in the late 1990s or following the fall of Soeharto. That change only came after the East Timorese voted for independence.

This is not to say that prior Australian policy was morally correct -- in supporting Indonesia's occupation of East Timor, it had been complicit in the many crimes against the East Timorese people committed by Indonesian forces. But that policy did not change until, by Indonesia's own agreement, East Timor chose to separate from Indonesia, and in light of TNI and its proxy militia destroying most of East Timor's infrastructure and murdering a further 1,400 of its people.

It is also worth noting that the UN-sponsored intervention in East Timor included a number of other countries, including New Zealand, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and others, and had the strong support of the United States. That is, the post-ballot intervention under the auspices of the UN involved many countries, not just Australia.

That is now history, and if some Indonesians choose not to let it go then they will only remind others of how badly Indonesian forces behaved from the moment they invaded East Timor in 1975 until their departure in 1999.

But Papua is not East Timor, and the circumstances of the events of 1999 and now are very different. Just as Australia accepts all other people requesting asylum who can demonstrate a legitimate case of fleeing actual or potential harm, the decision by Australia to accept 42 of 43 Papuan asylum seekers was not a political decision by the government. It was an administrative decision by an independent body. This operates under the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, which Indonesia also follows.

In highlighting this case, Qisa'i succeeds only in raising the question; why were the Papuan asylum seekers granted asylum? The answer is because there is a long and well documented history of human rights abuses by the Indonesian Military (TNI) and police in Papua against indigenous people, and these asylum seekers were able to show that they had been and were again likely to be victims of such abuses.

There was no "pretext of harassment"; there was well documented abuse. Indonesian government promises that the asylum seekers would not face prosecution if they returned meant little when the TNI and police continue to act outside government purview in Papua. I am sure the government did not condone the murder of Theys Eluay either, but it still happened.

Australia's administrative decision to accept the asylum seekers makes no comment one way or the other on any sympathy that might be felt for Papuans in Australia. The Australian government continues to reaffirm its commitment to the sovereign unity of Indonesia, as it should under conventional diplomatic protocol, and Qisa'i would struggle to find any evidence that official and indeed unofficial policy in any way differed from that.

In so far as many private Australian citizens are concerned over human rights abuses in Papua, this is their legitimate right to do so. Australia is a free country in which its citizens can hold whatever political views they like about domestic or international issues.

To be concerned over human rights abuses wherever they occur is to recognize the universal value of human rights rather than to be concerned about the specific and sometimes narrowly conceived interests of those who wield power in a particular country. That is, universal human rights expresses concern based on the general quality of being human, not on the specific quality of being Indonesian, or Australian, or Papuan.

Like some others in Indonesia, Qisa'i is concerned about Australia's "insensitivity" towards Indonesia over Papua. One might better ask what about insensitivity towards the indigenous people of Papua who are, after all, the primary victims in this sorry mess.

In so far as Papua represents a "delicate problem", the way Papuans are treated in their own land is a long way from delicate. Perhaps a refusal to acknowledge the truth of what has been happening in Papua does raise the tricky question of how to reconcile contradictions between perspective and fact. But sometimes we just have to face facts, and "sensitivity" has to adjust to reality, or else we just end up deluding ourselves.

But perhaps Qisa'i is correct when he says the Indonesian government should act positively to avoid Papua breaking away from Indonesia. To that end, the government should give very serious consideration to fully and properly implementing genuine autonomy as a way of placating the legitimate grievances of the Papuans.

For this, it must be prepared to talk openly and honestly with Papuan leaders, who do exist and who have a common, united view, despite some views in Jakarta that this is not the case. It must listen to them, and find a settlement based on negotiation and agreement, not imposition.

The government of Indonesia did reach a reasonable outcome to the conflict in Aceh. Everyone who cares about peace and the future of Indonesia as a united country hopes this is now honored in the required legislation. Perhaps a similar outcome is also possible in Papua.

The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has demonstrated with Aceh that unity and peace can only be achieved through shared civic values, in which all Indonesian citizens are treated with equality, respect and dignity.

Perhaps, then, those "nationalists" who are concerned about the future of Papua should focus their attention on the real problem, which is not in Australia, but in Papua. Perhaps, then, this problem could be resolved.

The writer was adviser to the Free Aceh Movement in the resolution of the Aceh conflict and he is director of International and Community Development at Deakin University, Melbourne.


The Jakarta Post March 29, 2006


Is Papua a danger of becoming another E. Timor?

Ahmad Qisa'i, Aligarah, India

The granting of emergency visas by the Australian government to 42 of the 43 Papuans seeking political asylum there has reopened the memory of East Timor's referendum. After faithfully backing Soeharto's incorporation of East Timor as part of Indonesia since 1976, Australia reversed its policy after Soeharto's fall in 1998.

A United Nations-sponsored referendum in East Timor one year later saw the majority of East Timorese opt to create their own independent state. Australia's change of stance angered many parties in Indonesia.

However, realizing the importance of building a better cooperation with its neighbors, all four of Soeharto's successors have tried to improve relations with the neighboring country. However, while many Indonesians thought the relationship was showing significant signs of improvement, the Australian government seemed to have thought of some short-term objectives. It granted visas to the Papuans seeking political asylum on the pretext of being harassed by the Indonesian government.

The decision resulted in an angry response from Indonesia, and the government recalled its ambassador to Australia in protest.

Australia's decision also seemed to strengthen allegations of the country's support for pro-independence movements in Papua. It is commonly believed in Jakarta that Australia, or Australian NGOs, has been very much involved in the freedom struggle in Papua.

Whatever the reasons given by the Australian government to counter the angry reaction from Jakarta, the damage has already been done.

On East Timor, Australia was long a supporter of its integration with Indonesia. For national security reasons at the height of the Cold War, Australia thought it was better for East Timor to be ruled by an American friendly country like Indonesia than to be controlled by a Communist state.

However, with the changing landscape in international politics and the continuing internal struggles in Indonesia in the late 1990s, Australia decided to reverse its policy on East Timor and support independence for East Timor.

Now, with the simmering situation in Papua in recent weeks, Australia's decision to grant visas to the Papuans seeking political asylum there seems to be like rubbing salt in the old wound. There is an indication of insensitivity on the part of the Australian government toward the delicate Papua problem.

The decision can be understood as an early warning for the Indonesian government to scrutinize and investigate the motives behind it. The Indonesian government should act immediately to avoid a repetition of the East Timor tragedy. The current government should realize that there must be no East Timor, Part II. If the government can successfully and peacefully end the conflict in Aceh, why should there be any doubts as to the government's ability to resolve the problem in Papua peacefully as well?

As for Australia's insensitivity toward the Papua problem, the Indonesian government has to respond strongly and correctly so as not to create an impression that Indonesia is the "sick man" of Southeast Asia.

The writer is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India.


The Jakarta Post Tuesday, April 4, 2006


Questioning Australian asylum granting policy

Yasmi Adriansyah, Oxford

The granting of Temporary Protection visas by the Australian authorities to 42 Indonesians from Papua Province has caused diplomatic problems between the two countries. Indonesia has called its envoy home while waiting for a convincing explanation and further reaction from the Australian Government. Diplomatic ties between the two have plummeted, instead of peaking as they should have after a recent official visit by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Australia.

Indonesia's position is clear -- Australia should not have granted any visas since the Papuans were not under threat or facing political abuse. Furthermore, Indonesia knows that Australia officially recognizes Indonesia's integrity and does not support the Papuan separatists. Hence, granting visas to Papuans is considered a double standard, a game played by Australia, as the fleeing figures often claim human rights violations in the easternmost province of Indonesia.

Since the ball is now in Australia's hands, let us now ask Australia why this policy took place.

Australia's statement that its asylum policy is independent is its right. Because of this, Australia should be able to convince Indonesia of the legal basis of the policy's principles. If Australia fails to provide a legal explanation of the policy, it is logical for Indonesia to consider Australia as having a vested interest in Papua.

Based on this reason, Australia should be very careful in stating the explanation since Indonesians are not people without knowledge. Indonesians might also have questioned how a policy of one government body could be independent from the Federal Government.

There is no doubt that Indonesia should respect Australia's claim that the granting of the visas to the Papuans was in accordance with the country's legislation and international law. It is commonly understood in international relations that national jurisdiction and international law are put in high esteem. Again, it is the right of Australia to conduct any policy it wishes to.

Nevertheless, the policy on seeking asylum within Australia should be conducted consistently in order not to be regarded as having a hidden agenda.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a non-governmental organization, has released a report titled By Invitation Only: Australian Asylum Policy. In this report, HRW writes that Australia has been using a double standard in its treatment toward asylum seekers by accepting some "preferred" asylum seekers while at the same time rejecting others.

Why did the Australian authorities move so quickly to grant the Papuans visas? This question is legitimate since there is no coherence between the previous policy (in rejecting the asylum seekers) and the current one. Even though Indonesian President Yudhoyono had told Prime Minister John Howard that the Papuans were not suffering political abuse and requested Howard send them back to Indonesia, Australia chose to move backward by granting the visas.

As one of its closest neighbors and friends, Australia definitely knows how sensitive this issue is for Indonesia. The top priority on Indonesia's agenda is national integrity. The tragedy of East Timor was very bitter for Indonesia and it has been trying hard not to repeat its miserable history. Therefore, any attempts to upset national integrity will heavily counteracted by the Government.

Australia keeps saying that it supports Indonesian national integrity. Sadly, by granting visas to the Papuans, Australia has already given fuel to the separatist movement which Indonesia for years has been trying to control. That Indonesia feels betrayed by Australia is understandable.

Indonesia has shown its clear and strong position against Australia's behavior. By recalling its envoy, Indonesia has given a signal that it is even willing to sacrifice good relations with its neighbor for the sake of national integrity.

Australia could buy time and hope Indonesia's anger will ease later. Nevertheless, since Indonesia is very firm in its position, the quiet reaction of Australia might not help at all. As long as there is no change of its policy toward the Papuans, it is very unlikely Indonesia will consider recovering its ties with Australia.

In other words, diplomatic relations between the two countries at the current time depend on Australia. Indonesia has made its opinion of the matter clear. The choice to make relations better or worse rests, at this point, with the other side. Quo vadis, Australia?

The writer is Postgraduate Scholar at Oxford University, the UK and can be reached at

---------- Joyo Indonesia News Service

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