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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1873


Senator MISSEN(7.10) —I rise to address the Senate tonight in connection with the death of Arnold Ap, a man who was in the custody of the Indonesian Government and who has been shot and is now reported as being dead. Mr Ap, the curator of Cendrawasih University Museum at Abepura, was detained with four others in November last year. He was one of a number of people who were concerned with the Melanesian position in Irian Jaya. I will read the report which appeared in the Canberra Times yesterday and which spoke of the death of the detained academic and stated that it was confirmed. The report states:

Mr Arnold Ap, an Irian Jayan academic detained last year for alleged anti- Indonesian activities, had been shot dead after escaping from jail, it was confirmed today.

This is a report from Jakarta. The report continues:

Reliable informants who witnessed his funeral said it was not clear who had killed him or why. They spoke by telephone from the Irian Jayan capital, Jayapura, but they declined to be named, for security reasons.

Mr Ap, 38, had been dead from gunshot wounds in Jayapura morgue about April 21, shortly after reportedly escaping from jail, where he had been detained without charges for five months. He was buried at his native Abepura just west of Jayapura, on April 29.

Mr Eduard Mofu, 30, a student who had been detained at Abepura on March 9 for alleged OPM activities-

that is, the Free West Papua Movement-

had also been found dead, but the circumstances were vague.

Jayapura police declined to comment late last week when unconfirmed reports of Mr Ap's death reached diplomats in Jakarta and Port Moresby.

I am very concerned by this. I am very concerned at what action the Australian Government may or may not have taken about this matter. I point out to the Senate that we have seen a period in Irian Jaya where there is great concern by the local Melanesian people at the intended migration of a great number of Indonesians into the territory from the over-crowded island of Jave. It is obviously the desire of the Indonesian Government to bring something like one million or one and a half million people into this part of the country, giving them lands, which, of course will deprive the local inhabitants of their lands. This has caused a great deal of concern. We know that there is trouble, particularly in the border area with Papua New Guinea. Robin Osborne, a reporter and one who is very well informed on this situation, in a broadcast on 18 September 1983 dealing with the position in Irian Jaya, gave a description of the extent to which this migration is taking place. He said:

The people arrive at either Jayapura in the north, or at Merauke in the south in large Hercules transport aircraft. And you stand there at the airport and watch them being unloaded and it's the usual sort of Asian large scale migration thing where everybody gets off with a huge number of cardboard boxes all tied up with string and all the rest of it and they are obviously not very rich people, and they stand out fairly significantly by comparison to the taller dark-skinned people of Irian Jaya and then they are moved by trucks or other forms of transport to the camps.

Around this whole question of the death of Arnold Ap, an academic, is this real problem with regard to the people who are being dispossessed in that area. As a result of reading reports like this I asked this question in the Senate on 4 April this year of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs:

I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs to recent articles by Mr Robin Osborne relating to political arrests by the Indonesian Government in the province of Irian Jaya and the imprisonment of Melanesian suspects without formal charges or prompt trials. In the light of an answer given by the Minister in response to my question without notice on 13 September 1983 that the Government 'will keep Parliament advised as appropriate' on human rights abuses of the Melanesian population in Irian Jaya, I ask the Minister: Firstly, what information has the Government received from its various diplomatic missions in respect to the arrest two months ago of 30 alleged supporters of the Melanesian underground who included the curator of the Condrawasih University's anthropology museum, Mr Arnold Ap? Secondly, will the Australian Government use its good offices with the Indonesian Government to make inquiries about the safety of Mr Ap and his co-detainees and to make every possible effort to ensure that they all receive proper trials or are released without delay?

On that occasion, in answer to the question, the Attorney-General (Senator Gareth Evans) who represents the Foreign Minister in this place, said:

Senator Missen's question is an important one. I do not have a detailed briefing on these matters at the moment. I will draw the matter to the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and get an answer for him as soon as possible.

Until this afternoon I had not received any answer, no indication of what the Department of Foreign Affairs has been doing to take up this matter. I have been told indirectly by a member of that Department that it has made some inquiries of the Indonesian authorities. But it was only after pressure by me that I received, late this afternoon, an answer to that question. In fairness to the Foreign Minister I will read that into the record. The Foreign Minister said, in answer to my question:

Information available to the Government is that Mr Ap and about 20 other persons were arrested in Jayapura late in November 1983 for alleged involvement with the Free West Papua Movement (OPM).

Since all the detainees are Indonesian citizens, the Australian Government has no consular standing in the matter. It is reported that the 20 are still in detention.

Firm information on the whereabouts of Mr Ap is not available but we are continuing to pursue our enquiries. Enquiries were made about Mr Ap for example during the recent visit to Irian Jaya by our Ambassador in Jakarta.

We are aware of press reports that Mr Ap has been killed, but these reports have yet to be confirmed.

It may be that those reports have not been confirmed. But I am really concerned at the failure of the Government to treat this matter with urgency and seriousness. I have not got an answer, even at this stage, and I do not expect tonight to get any answer from the Government as to what it knows and what it has done. It seems to me that we have a situation where I cannot draw conclusions as to the way in which Mr Ap, the curator of this museum, was shot, was arrested and never brought to trial and had no charges made against him. We know of many difficult situations of unlawful killings taking place in parts of Indonesia. But I would have expected that the Government would have raised that question strongly with our Ambassador in Jakarta and with the Indonesian authorities to find out why Mr Ap was there, why he was not being tried, why no charges were being made and what was going to happen to him.

If the spotlight of public attention in this obvious breach of human rights had been drawn to the attention of the Indonesian Government I believe there might have been some chance that this man might not have been killed in the circumstances in which he appears to have been killed. We know that, because of the concern of many of the Melanesian people in that area, as reported in today' s news, the OPM group were tonight trying to get a petition to Pope John Paul II saying that refugees would face harsh punishment if Papua New Guinea sends them back to the Indonesian province. That is the position of people who have gone over the border and are threatened with return to the Government of Indonesia.

I am extremely concerned, first, at the inability of the Government to answer this question before now. In fact, in the answer which I received only this afternoon, and which has now been included in Hansard, there is no indication of what our Australian Government has been doing, what inquiries it has made or whether it has had any answers in the last few weeks about Mr Ap and his co- detainees.

I believe it is a serious concern that we appear to have been negligent in regard to our pressure for human rights in that country. I draw this matter to the attention of the Senate, not in any party political way or anything of that sort, but because I am concerned. I am concerned not only in my ordinary capacity but also as Chairman of the parliamentary group of Amnesty International. This obviously is a breach of normal human rights. I want to know what the Australian Government has done and what it is doing now to try to ensure that, if Mr Ap is dead, his co-detainees will be treated in a normal, civilised way. I hope that the Government will quickly respond to that matter and quickly go on with any representations it is making to the Indonesian Government. We are concerned, as people in this country, to see these things happening. We believe that they should be brought to the notice of world opinion .