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West Papua.

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Bob Sercombe MP Federal Labor Shadow Minister for Overseas Aid and Pacific Island Affairs

23 January 2006

West Papua

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Overseas Aid and Pacific Island Affairs has proposed a new mechanism for encouraging dialogue between Australia and Indonesia on West Papua.

“The arrival of West Papuan asylum seekers in Queensland is concerning, given their claims of ongoing human rights issues in that province. Given these claims, it is vital that Australia and Indonesia can discuss the situation in West Papua in an open and transparent way,” said Mr Sercombe.

“When I visited Jakarta and Aceh in mid-2005, I suggested to President Yudhoyono that the way ahead was to initiate a joint parliamentary visit to West Papua.

“Such a visit would involve Australian and Indonesian parliamentarians, and possibly also Papua New Guinean parliamentarians. It would promote transparency and dialogue on the West Papua issue. The visit would be premised on respect for Indonesia’s territorial integrity, but also the need to ensure universal human rights standards are protected and promoted.

“Parliamentarians would gain a greater understanding of the realities in West Papua, and the visit could serve as a catalyst for solutions on the ground.

“President Yudhoyono gave an encouraging response to my suggestion, as did the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia when I raised it with him.

“In light of the arrival of the West Papuan asylum seekers, I believe that it is now appropriate for the proposal to be more actively considered, so that Australia can work with Indonesia on the issue of West Papua in a constructive way,” concluded Mr Sercombe.

Mr Sercombe said he was impressed with the leadership of President Yudhoyono, and believed that the Aceh peace package, which involves a significant level of autonomy, is also encouraging.

Contact: Dave Peebles 0432 449 071 23 January 2005