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Thursday, 23 March 2006

Protection visas put Papuan human rights back on the agenda

The Uniting Church has welcomed the Government’s decision to grant protection visas to 42 West Papuans who arrived in Cape York on January 18.

Uniting Church President, the Rev. Dr Dean Drayton said the decision to grant protection sends a clear message that the Australian Government is taking seriously the issue of human rights abuses in Papua.

‘By making this decision, the Australian Government has acknowledged there are human rights abuses occurring in Papua. The Uniting Church’s experience in working in Papua confirms that regular abuse and violence has occurred in recent years. The Uniting Church and its partner churches in the region have witnessed the effects of these abuses first hand,” Rev Drayton said.

Rev. Drayton said the recent tensions in Papua were a stark reminder that reform is desperately needed in the province.

“We recognise that the current situation in Papua is very tense. Church and civil leaders have been encouraged by the steps being taken by the Indonesian Government to put in place measures to prevent further human rights violations following the demonstrations last week.

“We are saddened by the recent violent outbreaks and condemn the brutal killing of 5 Indonesian security officers and one civilian. This recent violence highlights the level of anxiety and fear in the community – tensions which can only be addressed through genuine dialogue and reform.

“It’s important to acknowledge the progress which has been made in reforming the democratic and human rights situation in some parts of Indonesia. The recent democratic reforms in the country are encouraging but at this time, they are not sufficiently reflected in Papua. I urge the Indonesian Government to continue the process of reform in Papua through open dialogue and just processes.

“There are still major issues to be resolved in Papua. We hope and pray the decision to grant protection to these 42 Papuans will keep the issue of human rights on the agenda in our region.”


Media Contact: Gavin Melvin, Manager, National Media and Communication – 0417 416 674