FORUM WARNED WEST PAPUA COULD BECOME ANOTHER EAST TIMOR

admin's picture

YAREN, Nauru (August 16, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---A West Papuan independence leader deported from Nauru before the Pacific Islands Forum summit opened made an impassioned plea for regional support, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Dirk Kereway, of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), warned that neglect could lead to a repeat of the violence in East Timor, during its struggle to be free from Indonesian rule.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying: "Australia and the Pacific Islands Forum should be helping to see there is a peaceful solution before the problem becomes too big."

He called on Australian Prime Minister John Howard to soften blanket opposition to independence for the Indonesian-ruled former Dutch colony.

Nauru's President Rene Harris has said pro-independence West Papuans would not be allowed to attend the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum summit. This is because of factional arguments over representation, he said.

The West Papuans claim the Australians have been applying pressure to keep them away from the meeting.

Mr. Kereway told the Sydney Morning Herald he had come from The Netherlands, where he has lived in exile since the 1960s. It had been too late to turn around and go home, he said.

His passport was taken when he arrived on an Air Nauru flight on Monday, and he was later ordered on to a flight to Brisbane.

But the Sydney Morning Herald said Mr. Kereway was able to meet behind the scenes with senior officials of some Forum delegations.

The Forum last year called for dialogue on West Papua, which the Indonesians rule as Irian Jaya.

Mr. Howard attended that meeting in Tarawa, Kiribati. The Sydney Morning Herald said there has been speculation that one of the reasons he pulled out at short notice this year was due to heightened sensitivity over the issue in Indonesia.

Mr. Howard told Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri in Jakarta this week that Australia supports Indonesia's territorial integrity.

Mr. Kereway told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I think that Prime Minister Howard is putting a knife into the struggle - people are hurt."

The Indonesian military had been "killing people" since it forced out the Dutch in the 1960s and took control of West Papua, he said.

The Free Papua Movement (OPM) has been fighting a jungle war with the Indonesians ever since and Mr. Kereway told the Sydney Morning Herald: "The Forum needs to include the OPM when they want to talk about the Papuan cause. If they keep OPM out they have no right to talk about the West Papuans as if they were objects like cars; we are human beings."

Mr. Kereway claimed that a relatively new West Papuan group, the Papua Council, were "puppets" who had been backed by senior elements in Indonesia, including former president Abdurrahman Wahid.

Jakarta's aim was to achieve a shift in West Papuan aspirations from independence to greater autonomy, Mr. Kereway said.

The Sydney Morning Herald said Australia is behind a push for the Forum this year to pass a resolution that encourages greater autonomy for Irian Jaya as a province of Indonesia rather than it seceding.

Indonesia is also for the first time sending a delegation to take part in meetings with the Forum known as post-Forum dialogues.

Demands for independence have been mounting in West Papua. Human rights activists accuse Indonesian security forces of human rights abuses and say thousands of people have died in years of fighting.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment