Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2308


Senator MISSEN(11.16) —I rise to speak tonight on a matter which is connected with matters which arose earlier this month in relation generally to the actions taken by our Government and our Department of Foreign Affairs in respect of the problems in West Irian and relations between our Government and the Governments of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. In particular, on 9 May this year I raised these matters in a speech in the adjournment debate. I was then particularly concerned, among other things, with the death of Arnold Ap, a Melanesian who died allegedly while escaping from custody from an Indonesian goal where he and several others were awaiting without trial, without charge. It was a matter about which I had been questioning the Government and had had no reply for some weeks. Subsequently, it was discovered that he had been killed. On the day that I made that speech I received a very unsatisfactory answer to a question asked some weeks before which among other things said:

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 was known to the rest of the world that he had been killed. I expressed my concern at that time at how little I believed the Foreign Affairs Department had done to check up these matters which were being questioned by me and many parts of the media in this country. With respect to other matters in the same area I shall read to the Senate what Mr Hayden, the Foreign Minister, had to say when he saw Mr Gromyko only a matter of a few days ago. Among other things, he said:

. . . I will raise with you during my visit certain matters relating to human rights. My reason for doing so is not to use human rights as an instrument of propaganda against the Soviet Union, nor to interfere in the purely internal affairs of your country. That would be wrong. Rather, I will do so as a reflection of our belief that human rights know no boundaries.

I stress the point that human rights know no boundaries and agree with it. It has been the policy of this Government and previous governments to recognise that fact and never to allow the idea to get abroad that somehow domestic matters are the only matters that are the concern of the government in question and that human rights perpetrated against its citizens are not within the province of the whole world. As Chairman of the Parliamentary Amnesty Group, I would never agree with the proposition which is often raised by governments which seek to hide from the world their particular brutal behaviour towards some of their own citizens.

Arnold Ap was a man of peace who was promoting Melanesian culture. We regret that the Indonesians who conquered and now have control of West Irian are determined to suppress that culture among other things by the importation into that area of a million or a million and a half settlers. In that way they are taking the lands of the indigenous Melanesians and overriding their culture. The foreign affairs ministry and the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Lionel Bowen) have ignored my speech and the question I asked. They have not replied further. They have never indicated in any way what they did, whether they made any inquiries or whether they brought any pressure to bear on the Indonesian Government in support of Arnold Ap and the other people who were detained without trial. It appears that the Australian foreign affairs ministry thinks that if one says nothing about these matters they will go away. I assure it that they will not go away as far as I am concerned. On 23 May this year I wrote a letter to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have spoken to the Attorney -General (Senator Gareth Evans), who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this place-I regret to say that he is not in the chamber; he knows that I intended to speak on this subject-and he is quite happy for me to have the letter incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to do so, Mr President.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA

THE SENATE COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENT OFFICES 400 FLINDERS STREET MELBOURNE, VIC. 3000

23rd May 1984

Hon. L. F. Bowen, M.P.

Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs

Parliament House

Canberra, A.C.T. 2600

Dear Minister,

Re: Arnold Ap and Melanesian Prisoners in Irian Jaya

I draw your attention to a speech I made on Wednesday, 9th May 1984. I enclose a copy in case it has not come to your attention. I am most concerned at the complete lack of information as to what the Australian Government has been doing in respect to the imprisonment and death of this noted Melanesian who has obviously been eliminated in a complete breach of human rights. I want to know what the Australian Government did about the matter and I want to know what it is doing to try to protect the other detainees who are languishing without trial in Indonesian jails.

I have always been aware of the strong element of appeasement of Indonesia which exists in the Foreign Affairs Department and I do not want to see this as another cause for shame for Australia in connection with its human rights record regarding subject peoples of Indonesia.

It has also been suggested to me that there is great danger that refugees across the border in Papua New Guinea may be returned to Indonesian control against their will and I am concerned with references in the weekend papers that suggest that the Australian Government has both been advising the PNG Government against giving assistance to the OPM and to send refugees back to Irian Jaya. Plainly a statement ought to be made publicly or in the Parliament about this matter.

I also draw attention to the fact that the late Arnold Ap's wife and other family members are now in a PNG refugee camp and apparently are seeking asylum abroad. I would suggest that we in Australia might offer sanctuary to them and we certainly should take every effort to ensure that they and others of a suffering Melanesian minority in Irian Jaya are not further endangered.

I would appreciate an urgent reply.

Yours sincerely, Alan Missen Senator for Victoria Enc.


Senator MISSEN —In that letter I stressed the fact that no information had been received. I pointed out:

. . . there is great danger that refugees across the border in PNG may be returned to Indonesian control against their will and I am concerned with references in the weekend papers that suggest that the Australian Government has both been advising the PNG Government against giving assistance to the OPM-

that is, the Free Papua Movement-

and to send refugees back to Irian Jaya. Plainly a statement ought to be made publicly or in the Parliament about this matter.

I now propose to speak on further matters which were dealt with in that paragraph of my letter. Very considerable concerns exist and to some extent they have been glossed over because of the controversy in the last week involving the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. That is important in itself but it is only peripheral to the major concerns which I think should worry all Australians. We should not be giving advice, as has been suggested we have done, to Papua New Guinea to take such an action. I would like to know whether we have given that advice. I am aware that in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs there are many people whom I would describe as appeasers in regard to Indonesia.


Senator Georges —That is an understatement.


Senator MISSEN —It may well be. They have pursued through one government or another, policies which suggest that we should do whatever Indonesia wants, that we should not cross her in any way and that somehow we will then be respected. Our sad experience has been that we are not respected for that type of conduct. There have been plenty of examples of that over the years. Of course, East Timor remains one of the great examples and one of the matters of shame as far as this country is concerned.


Senator Georges —The five journalists.


Senator MISSEN —And the five journalists. There are many other matters. I refer to the people who have gone across the border due to the troubles, the strafing of villages and the general persecution of Melanesians in the border areas. Approximately 6,000 of those people are now in Papua New Guinea. They are threatened with the possibility that they may be returned across the border and with that may have the prospect of death or certainly very severe attention from the Indonesian authorities. There has been a war in this area. Many of the people who have moved across the border have a high profile. They are known to be critical of and hostile to the Indonesian control of West Irian.

I make a specific plea on behalf of the people in the border district, some 705 refugees at Kambratoro, which is a Catholic mission in the north. The Bishop of that district, John Etheridge, gave information to Australians about the situation. Those people arrived at the mission a week or two ago and they are now being supported by the mission at great expense. Apparently it is costing about 4,500 kina, about $5,000 a week. The church, which is fairly poor, is unable to carry on this type of expenditure. It is my belief that the Australian Government ought to be contributing and helping the Papua New Guinea Government to maintain people who are in that situation. Some of the people in those areas will ultimately go back-they will want to go back-when the position clears. Others will not be able to go back to West Irian at all or will do so only at great risk to their lives.

I remind the Senate that an urgent situation has arisen in this regard. The Papua New Guinea Government has given the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees two weeks in which to persuade Indonesia to accept United Nations involvement in the handling of Irian Jayan refugees. This was reported in an article in the Australian on 19 May 1984 written by Robin Osborne, who is a very well informed correspondent in respect of these matters. He said:

Should the UNHCR fail to do so, the first group of the estimated 6000 refugees now in Papua New Guinea will be sent back to Indonesia regardless of whether they wish to go. About 1300 Melanesians would start returning on May 29.

I understand that has not yet started. Of course, the deadline has passed. I believe I should read a further paragraph from this article:

Papua New Guinea's behind-the-scenes attempt to internationalise the refugee issue, and thus to delegate some responsibility for solving it, contrasts sharply with its recent public statements. The Foreign Minister, Mr Namaliu, has said that an involvement by an outside body such as the UN could ''open up a can of worms for the Indonesians'' and that the resulting embarrassment may have '' tremendous repercussions for us militarily and politically''.

I can imagine that that may be so as far as Papua New Guinea is concerned and I am sorry if that will be the case. On the other hand, it will involve more than embarrassment if those people are sent back. That ultimatum period is over. There is now a strong possibility of forcible repatriation of these people across the border. I think that the United Nations and its High Commissioner for Refugees ought to be brought into this. It is apparent that it has not been possible yet to persuade the Indonesian Government that it should be involved. Consequently, the threat is that Papua New Guinea may send people back. Mr Somare has commented on this and has criticised the United Nation's efforts. He has said that they are somewhat ineffective. I remind the Senate that the record of the United Nations High Commissioner for Regugees over the years has been a magnificent one. Since 1945, of the 25 million people who have been displaced, some 15 million have been resettled by reason of the action of the United Nations.

It is my belief that Australia should take a positive step to try to persuade Indonesia to accept the United Nations' action in this regard and also to persuade Papua New Guinea that it should not send these people back. If it is the case, as was suggested in my letter to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, that Australia has acted contrary to this and has advised Papua New Guinea to send the people back, we may be creating another great shame, similar to the shame that has pursued us in relation to the subject people of Indonesia. We may be doing another Timor in regard to this area. Therefore, we would not be surprised if Papua New Guinea did not feel that it could rely upon the support of Australia when it was giving that advice. I want to know from our foreign ministry whether it gave that advice. If not, what advice did it give? I expect answers to those questions.

There are a number of things that Australia could do regarding these people. We could provide material assistance to them, even if it is only to hold them in that situation for the time being so that no precipitous action is taken. We must realise that many of these people who have been driven from Irian Jaya may resettle in other Melanesian countries. They may want to do so. Some of them, the high profile ones, might want to go to other countries in other parts of the world. Some may return to their villages in Irian Jaya after things have settled down. They must surely do that only under monitoring and under an assurance that when they go back, they will go back with people from the United Nations, who will see that they will not be killed or ill-treated on their return to the country.

I want to point out that I believe the feeling in Australia on this matter is quite considerable. Today we have had a report that Australia's 140 Roman Catholic religious orders will lobby the Papua New Guinea Government to grant asylum to Irian Jayan refugees genuinely seeking it. So in Australia there is a very considerable feeling on this question. I am very concerned, and have been for years, at the appeasing attitude which successive governments in Australia have affected in their relations with Indonesia. We have surely found that Indonesia respects us no more for the weak attitude that we have demonstrated--


Senator McIntosh —Less; it has less respect.


Senator MISSEN —Yes, it has less respect. I am afraid the Indonesian attitude has been something of a bullying one, and we know that bullies do not respect those who give way to them. That is not unusual. I draw attention to the fact that it is not as though we are somewhat dependent on Indonesia. Indonesia is very substantially dependent on funds from abroad. Yet it is going through with this resettlement program and is pouring people out of Java into West Irian. An article, written by Kenneth Davidson in the Age today, headed 'Pathetic attitude to Indonesia', criticises our attitude over the years. He says:

The present policy accommodation over East Timor and vacillation about making any sort of commitment to the legitimate security needs of PNG is a policy of appeasement. Its latest expression was in the Foreign Affairs request to the ABC management not to run the interview with the Free Papua Movement leader, Mr James Nyaro.

More importantly, he says that the cost of this extravagant transmigration program is such that it cannot be economic. The article states:

The $12,000 cost of transmigration for each family has to be set against per capita incomes in Indonesia of about $700 a year.

The previous paragraph states:

There is about $1500 million a year in aid channelled to Indonesia each year through the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI) of which the World Bank contributes half. Japan and the US are the major country donors while Australia contributes about $40 million a year.

We are therefore contributing to the cost of this extravagant policy designed to increase the strength of Javanese control in these outer islands of Indonesia. I believe we should be taking a much stronger stand than we are. I know I have raised these matters at a time when the media in this country has gone to sleep. I hope that this subject will be picked up by people who are concerned with the standing of this country. I am afraid that we have a record of shame in respect of human rights in a number of our relationships, and with Indonesia in particular. I hope we will not see a tragedy unfold for which Australia will be very substantially to blame.