Indonesia threatens Australia over Papuan refugees
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Indonesia threatens Australia over Papuan refugees

Leake cartoon

Indonesia has a long history of threatening and intimidating Australia and its citizens as this article from our archives reveals.

Elizabeth Krantz 24 April 2006

 Indonesian President
Don't insult us, don't toy with us and don't deny us justice - Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono laying down the law to Australia.

The scurrilous cartoon that appeared in the Indonesian newspaper Rakyat Merdeka and  triggered a response from cartoonist Bill Leak (above).


On 27 March hundreds of chanting demonstrators carrying placards with messages such as "Australia go to Hell" converged on the Australian embassy in Jakarta. About a dozen  demonstrators painted slogans on the walls, such as "Leave Indonesia now" and "Australia fuck".


Indonesia's belligerence towards Australia was again on display when 43 West Papuan refugees in a dugout canoe washed up on Cape York last January and demanded asylum, claiming they were fleeing a brutal, repressive regime in their home country. Australian immigration officials assessed that they faced real danger if returned to Indonesia, and granted them temporary protection visas.

The Indonesian government immediately demanded the refugees be returned to Indonesia. Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono personally demanded of Prime Minister Howard the return of the refugees.  Howard initially stood up to the Indonesian bullying, refusing to interfere in the immigration process. 

Indonesia stepped up the threats. Indonesia's Ambassador to Australia was recalled. Five Indonesian warships were despatched to patrol the waters to prevent further refugees escaping. 

Indonesian newspaper Rakyat Merdeka ran a highly insulting cartoon on its front page depicting a dingo with John Howard's face shagging a dingo with the likeness of Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

The row hit the business world when  the Indonesian government banned  the import of Australian cattle breeding stock and an Indonesian trade group called for the boycott of Australian goods. Indonesian  Importers Association chairman Amiruddin Saud said the boycott of Australian goods would begin immediately and continue until the Papuans' visas were withdrawn.

There was no mention of a boycott on the millions of dollars of Australian foreign aid given  to Indonesia each year, including the one billion dollars promised to assist with rebuilding of Aceh following the tsunami disaster.

Howard buckled under the pressure. In a craven act of appeasement, he quickly changed immigration procedures to force all asylum seekers entering Australia by boat to be sent to offshore islands so as not to be subject to normal immigration procedures.

On March 26, Prime Minister John Howard stated: “We do not support for a moment the West Papuan independence claim. To those who are urging us to do so, I say we will not.” 

John Howard for once has misread the mood of the electorate. His kowtowing to the Javanese bullies has gone down badly with the majority of Australians.

"Don't insult us, don't toy with us and don't deny us justice"

These threatening words were uttered by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on 17 April to an Indonesian forum. Howard's gutless appeasement had only emboldened the Indonesian bullies.

John Howard should be utterly ashamed. He is prepared to leave the people of West Papua to their  fate at the hands of the brutal Indonesian military and rampaging militias just to appease the dictatorial Indonesian government. Howard is taking the wrong line in supporting Indonesia at all costs. This cowardly action abandons one and half million indigenous Papuans to a regime of repression, rape torture and poverty and, according to Papuan leaders, genocide

The Papuans 43-year struggle against the Indonesian military has claimed more than 100,000 lives according to both Amnesty International and the University of Sydney's Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

The Javanese empire never had a legitimate claim to West Papua. When the Dutch withdrew from Papua in 1962, Indonesian troops moved in and took control. 

This occupation was ratified in 1969 by a corrupt United Nations in a vote called the 'Act of Free Choice'. Rather than being a majority vote by the people, it was carried out by a group of 1,026 Papuans who were selected by the Indonesian military and intimidated into 'choosing' Indonesian control. The Papuans were warned that a vote for independence would be regarded as treason.

Thus the invasion was complete. The UN representatives slinked off back to their cocktail parties in New York.

Since then the Javanese have moved in one million Muslims to overwhelm the Melanesian population.

Muslim extremists setting up militias in Papua

In a repeat of the murderous militias in East Timor, there are claims the Indonesian military in Papua is arming and supporting militant Muslim militias. Papua New Guinea Catholic bishop Giles Cote whose diocese borders Papua, said Muslim extremists from The Philippines  and Sulawesi were entering Papua to fight supporters of the Free Papua Movement (OPM).

"Our information indicates that jihad militants are in Papua to do the dirty work of the police and military", said Bishop Cote.

Recent history shows that diverse ethnic and religious groups held together by a brutal central regime ultimately split away and the more force expended in holding them together, the more violent the split 

However, West Papua is not ready for full independence. Such a move would be a ticket for a descent into hell. Just look at the their Melanesian neighbours in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Such an undeveloped society cannot govern itself. 

The only realistic solution is for Papua to be declared a United Nations protectorate, with Australia acting in a caretaker role to build up a functioning democracy. Papua should not be granted full independence until it has all the necessary institutions in place, including a functioning economy, a trained public service, a reliable police force, a corruption-free judiciary, a free press and a fair and just legal system, particularly in relation to property rights and contract law. The transmigration must be reversed and the Indonesian interlopers sent home.

Only then can Papuans look forward to a happy future. 

To hell with Javanese threats. Howard's appeasement will only work until the next incident triggers them off again.


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