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Australian Greens Call on Government to Grant Sanctuary to West Papuans

Australian Greens Senator, Dr Richard Di Natale, today called for the Australian Government to immediately offer sanctuary to three West Papuans.

Markus Jerewon, Yuvensius Goo and Rofinus Yanggam entered the Australian Consulate in Bali last night and have released an open letter to the APEC leaders currently meeting in Bali.

“These young West Papuans must be given sanctuary in the Australian Consulate,” said Senator Di Natale, founding co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of West Papua Group.

“They are simply calling for independent journalists to be granted access to the region and for West Papuan political prisoners to be released. They are not seeking independence and their position is entirely consistent with Australia’s response to the review of the Lombok treaty.

“By speaking out in this way, these brave West Papuans have put their lives in serious danger. If Australia fails to offer them protection, I have grave fears for their safety.

“I will be taking this matter up with the Foreign Minister and will contact the Australian Consul-General in Bali to request that the activists are not forced out of the consulate and handed over to the Indonesian Police.

“The Australian Greens and human rights groups have long advocated for free access by the media to West Papua and for the release of political prisoners. The Abbott Government must take a stand and do the same.”

Three West Papuans occupy Australian consulate in Bali

West Papuan group demands Indonesian government treat them ‘like human beings’

Three West Papuans who entered the Australian consulate in Bali overnight have left the compound after being warned by the consul-general that the Indonesian army would be called, the group says.

Markus Jerewon, 29, Yuvensius Goo, 22 and Rofinus Yanggam, 30, scaled the two-metre high fence of the Australian compound in Bali’s Renon district at 3.20am local time (6.20am AEST) on Sunday morning.

They called on the Australian government to pressure Indonesia to release all Papuan political prisoners and open the secretive province to foreign journalists.

But Yanggam told Guardian Australia the group left in fear for their lives after the consul-general, Brett Farmer, told them the Indonesian police and army would be called.

The group understood the Indonesian authorities would be able to enter the consulate only on invitation from Australia.

“They told us: ‘we don’t accept you to stay here. If you stay here for five minutes, I will call the Indonesian army to come and take you out,’” Yanggam said.

“I know that if I am arrested then my life will be over. I will have no control over my life any more. So better to get out now.”

Guardian Australia is seeking comment from the Australian consulate in Bali and foreign minister Julie Bishop.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement: “We can confirm that three individuals from Indonesia’s Papua provinces delivered a protest letter at the Australian consulate-general in Bali this morning to Australia’s consul-general. The three men left the consulate voluntarily before 7am.”

In an open letter to the Australian people, which was handed to consulate staff on Sunday morning, the threesome wrote, “We’re writing to inform you that we had [sic] entered the Australian consulate in Bali to seek refuge and to deliver our message to the APEC leaders in Bali including US State Secretary John Kerry and Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

“We want these leaders to persuade the Indonesian government to treat Papuan people better.

“Human rights abuses are our routine,” they wrote, before asking Australia to demand that all Papuan political prisoners be released. Dozens of Papuans are in jail for expressing political opinions. The crime of “treason” carries a long jail term in Indonesia.

“We [also] want the Indonesian government to lift the 50 year restriction it has imposed on West Papua,” the letter said. West Papua has beenclosed to foreign journalists since Indonesia acquired the province under controversial circumstances in the 1960s.

“We want foreigners, including journalists, diplomats, observers and tourists to be able to visit West Papua freely without asking for special permits.”

In an exclusive interview with Guardian Australia before he scaled the wall, Yanggam said, “the Indonesian army is killing our families, and taking them to jail. This is the best thing we can do in order to expose the situation in Papua. We want to survive.

“I’m not [disrespecting] the Indonesian people, I’m just saying that we want treatment from the Indonesian government like human beings.”

He told Guardian Australia that two of his brothers had been killed by the Indonesian military – and that one had died just last week.

Asked why he was prepared to risk his own safety to bring awareness to the situation in West Papua, he said “I feel it is important for not only him, but other Papuan people also.

“We don’t feel safe in Papua.”

The independent senator Nick Xenophon said before the men left the consulate it was “critical that the Australian foreign minister gives these three young men sanctuary”, AAP reported.

“To expel them would potentially put their lives at great risk.”

Xenophon said the trio’s requests deserved to be considered and they should be given sanctuary in the Australian consulate “unless their safety can be guaranteed by Indonesian authorities”.

“They’re not seeking independence,” he said.

“They are simply asking for political prisoners to be released and for international journalists to have access to West Papua as journalists have access to other provinces of Indonesia.”

A spokesman for the group, Rinto Kogoya, who is co-ordinator of the Alliance of Papuan Students, said it was time the world understood what was happening inside the province, which was officially acquired by Indonesia in 1969.

“The international community doesn’t know the reality in Papua. The military oppresses the civil society – we’re not free to do anything – and I think this is the moment to open democracy to Papua,” he said.

“People are jailed [if they] ask about rights. This is a struggle for our right to a free life.”

Asked why the group had chosen the Australian government, Kogoya said, “Australia is one of the powerful countries in the world. I think they have a strong power to push the Indonesian government to release the political prisoners in West Papua and to push the Indonesian Government to open access to international journalists.”

“More than 200,000 people have died in West Papua, killed by the Indonesian military.

“International journalists must come to Papua. They will see the reality of life for the Papuan people,” he said.

Yanggam told Guardian Australia the group intended to stay inside the consulate until their demands were met. They feared for their lives if they were expelled by Australia.

“We need your help. We seek refuge and plead for our safety,” he said.

10/06/2013 – 11:17


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