Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hamas Must Condemn Attacks on Civilians

Human Rights Watch gets it right over the latest attack on Israeli civilians by a Palestinian militant group:

The Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack in a Tel Aviv café, which killed nine civilians in addition to the bomber. After the attack Sami Abu Zuhri, a long-time official spokesman for Hamas, was widely quoted as saying that “the operation is a natural reaction to continued Israeli crimes against our people,” and that “the Palestinian people are in a state of self defense and have every right to use all means to defend themselves.”


Even in the face of Israeli violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, Palestinian armed groups have a duty to refrain from reprisals against civilians, and the Palestinian government has a responsibility to try to prevent such reprisals and punish those who engage in them.

Read the entire press release here.

Apologising for Indonesia

The Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists reports:

ICJ Australia believes that unless the Government of Indonesia makes genuine efforts to make special autonomy succeed for the West Papuans at the practical level, the demand for self-determination and independence will continue to be a source of unrest in the province and will lead to human rights abuses and further suffering of the people.

Meantime, Sidney Jones from the International Crisis Group proves to be
Indonesia's latest Western apologist. On the ABC's Lateline program a few nights back, she continually gave the Indonesians the benefit of any doubt surrounding allegations of atrocities being committed in West Papua. Jones even went as far as to note that the most recent violent acts committed by Indonesia and its proxies were retalitatory - a response to 'separatist' violence:

I think when you talk about the brutality - and there's no question there has been brutality - it's important to remember that in the cases where we've seen students getting beaten up, it's been preceded by attacks on security forces.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

West Papua

On the eve of Anzac Day, lest we forget Australia's shameful silence in the face of the decades long military occupation of West Papua by Indonesia. Quite unintentionally, a part of the archipelago which has generally suffered in silence has had drawn upon it the public attention of two Governments. Add to that our rather monolithic corporate media which has predominantly sought to abide by the analytical guidelines provided by Canberra and Jakarta.

But first, a history lesson. West Papuans are ethnically distinct from the Javanese, the ethnic group that dominates Indonesia's military, political and cultural life. Indeed, they are close if not the same, in terms of ethnic origin, as Papua New Guineans. In 1963 the Netherlands, the colonial ruler of West Papua, and Indonesia signed an agreeement that required Indonesia to hold a plesbicite on the province's future (known as the the 'Act of Free Choice') within 6 years of the Agreement's signature. As a recent report from the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies explained:

To ensure a successful outcome in the referendum, from 1963 onwards Indonesia worked assiduously to remove any sense of Papuan identity from the community, banning the singing of the Papuan national anthem, the raising of the Morning Star flag and all political assembly or activity, using “anti-subversion” measures legislated in Presidential Decrees No. 8 and 11 of 1963. Widespread military operations were conducted from 1965-69, and an AFP correspondent in Papua during 1969 noted: “Indonesian troops and officials were waging a widespread campaign of intimidation to force the Act of Free Choice in favor of the Republic.” During 1968-69 operations were conducted against the civilian population in the Arfak mountains area and Enarotali involving aerial bombardment and the dropping of 500 aratroopers.

The Government's response to the West Papuan asylum seekers proves we haven't developed much from the days of the Spanish Inquisition. Although a recent poll found that around 75% of Australians support independence for West Papua, the issue has not hindered the Howard Government in the context of domestic politics. Peoples' concerns remain local (education), immediate (petrol costs) and material (taxcuts). Information of global import remains restricted and the media and intelligentsia are generally unwilling or unable to disseminate the information and views that would help people contribute to situations like this in an informed way, thereby placing pressure on elected reps not to treat humans like crap.

But let's stand back for a second. I mean we're talking here about appeasing one of the most repressive regimes in the world, certainly one of the most repressive regimes in our immediate region. We are told to feel sympathy for Indonesia for the embarrassment and distabilising effect of accepting the asylum request of the Papuans but there is absolutely zero mention of the pivotally important fact that these people have left because Indonesia has a long stand policy of ethnicly cleansing West Papua (and other regions within the territory), which is resource rich, but has the misfortune of being inhabited by a population dissimilar to the dominant group and who, god forbid, seek meaningful autonomy and independence.

Remember, please remember, that we are not talking about Azerbaijan, another country blighted by an oppressive, brutal regime. Nor are we discussing Western Sahara, where the dominant Arab group continues to occupy and suppress the southern, African population. And let us not forget to mention Iraq, that far flung Middle Eastern nation which has most recently caught our attention not because of the rape and pillage that we have helped create there. We speak of course of a province on our very doorstep, a corner of the globe so very close that in fact it is closer to the east coast of Australia than Perth or even Alice Springs.

And yet, nothing. Silence. But it need not be that way. Want to do something about the situation? First, read this. Second, check this out.