INDONESIA: Media needs access to Papua, says Skogrand
Norwegian official says Indonesia should allow the international media to visit area of alleged human rights abuses
Friday, April 28, 2006
By Abdul Khalik
Jakarta --- Indonesia should not bar the international community and media from visiting Papua to counter one-sided reporting on alleged human rights abuses in the resource-rich province, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry's State Secretary Kjetil Skogrand says.
"There might be reasons for concern about the situation in Papua. However, as long as the international press is not allowed to visit the area, it is difficult to assess the situation," he told The Jakarta Post during the Norway-Indonesia dialog on human rights Thursday.
Skogrand said that he would like to see the possibility of the international community and international press visiting Papua to assess the situation.
However, he reiterated his country's position on Indonesia's territorial integrity.
"Norway supports the territorial integrity of Indonesia. We do not support any forces of separation," he said.
Indonesia has been accused of committing human rights violations in Papua by several international human rights groups and individuals. Jakarta has repeatedly denied such accusations, saying that some international groups and elements of society in several countries want to see Papua separated from Indonesia like the new state Timor Leste.
In an effort to curb foreign interference in Papuan affairs, the government has limited the entry of foreigners to the province, the scene of a sporadic and low-level separatist revolt.
The issue of human rights violations in the province emerged again after 43 Papuans, who arrived in Australia in January to seek asylum accused Indonesia of genocide. The Australian government granted temporary visas to 42 of them in March.
An angry Jakarta recalled its ambassador T.M. Hamzah Thayeb on March 24 while some nationalists, who were enraged by Australia's decision, called for severance of ties.
The incident is the worst in bilateral relations since 1999, when Australia led peacekeeping troops into the then-Indonesian province of East Timor to halt violence by pro-Jakarta militias following the territory's vote for independence.
Many Indonesians, including several members of the House of Representatives, accused Australia of aiding the pro-independence movement to enable Papua to secede from Indonesia.
Beside statements of denial, Jakarta, however, has made no real move, such as fact-finding activities, to prove that the accusations of genocide and human rights violations are baseless.
The Papua issue aside, Skogrand praised Indonesia for having made much progress in upholding human rights principles.
Date Posted: 4/28/2006