The response given by Damien Kingsbury to my op-ed article (Is Papua a danger of becoming another E. Timor?) published in The Jakarta Post on 29 March 2006 was quite understandable. I accepted his judgment that my article was just trying to highlight the misunderstandings between the two neighbors so that solutions to the current situation can be formulated for the benefit of both the countries in general and specifically for the Papuans.
However, I feel that there are several aspects that need to be clarified about the claim he made in the response to my article.
First, how different is the circumstances in Papua and the one in Afghanistan or Iraq for that matter when the Australian government decided to refuse their claim as political asylum seekers or to delay their process up to 6 to 12 months as opposed to the relatively quick response by the Australian government to grant the emergency visas to the 42 Papuans?
If human right abuse is the basis for granting the visas, didn’t these Afghans or Iraqis deserve the same treatment? Or there should be differences in their treatment? Wasn’t there any “long and well-documented history of human rights abuses” in these countries?
The seemingly hasty decision by the Australian immigration department to accept the claim of these Papuans as political asylum seekers and granted them visas rose some suspicion on the genuine intentions of the Australian government in supporting the sovereignty of Indonesia.
Secondly, by claiming that there is no Australian involvement to the current situation in Papua, it seems Damien forgot the fact that it was the international communities who had permitted the Indonesian government to implement the New York Agreement and conducted a ‘referendum’ for the future of West Papua in 1969.
Australia as a part of the international observers in the referendum left West Papua before completing its duty. This incident, in turn, resulted in the choreographed referendum that led to the integration of West Papua to Indonesia. No objection by the Australian government was raised to this result.
Thus, Australia is, in my opinion, also responsible to all the problems in Papua. And as a good neighbor, Australia should not exploit the current situation for its short-term objectives but instead Australia should support Indonesia in its efforts to solve the problem in Papua through shared civic values, in which all Indonesian citizens are treated with equality, respect and dignity.
Papua is Indonesia’s internal problem and should not be internationalized. The Government should resolve the matter as soon as possible to avoid being dragged into the traps of those agents who do not want to see Indonesia’s transformation into a powerful nation.
Published in The Jakarta Post on 13 April 2006.
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