'Repeat of Timor' fear for West Papua

The atrocities committed by Indonesia against East Timor will be repeated in West Papua if the international community does not take action, according to Sr Susan Connelly of the Mary MacKillop East Timor Institute.

"The same system and the same individuals are committing the same atrocities in West Papua," she told the Catholic Weekly.

Sr Connolly was commenting on the arrival of more than 40 West Papuan asylum-seekers on a beach in far north Queensland last month.

The group, now on Christmas Island, will be processed under Australian law.

"In East Timor one of the policies used was subjugating people," Sr Susan said, "that is, changing the language of schools and commerce, changing the culture of the people.

"This was done by moving thousands, particularly from Java, in a process that could essentially be called 'Indonesianisation.'

The same policy is being used in West Papua, she said.

"A thousand people are being moved from Java into West Papua each week," Sr Susan said.

"The Muslim religion has overtaken Christianity as the new religion to the extent that the West Papuans say they are becoming strangers in their own country.

"West Papua is a hugely rich country, with their copper and gold mines, and they are saying just what the Timorese did - they want our land, they don't want our people."

A UN report from the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation issued late last year documents the deaths of more than 180,000 East Timorese at the hands of the Indonesian military during its 24 years of occupation, Sr Susan said.

The report, based on research from 2003-2005 in the cities, towns and villages of Papua, discusses the manipulation of local politics, introduction of illegal arms and militia training and recruitment and the rapid spread of prostitution and HIV/Aids.

Sr Susan urged the Australian Catholic Church and community to "take responsibility to be informed".

"The Catholic Church is really good on human rights issues," she said. "But when it gets into politics we often go running with our tails between our legs."

'Repeat of Timor' fear for W Papua

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Mary MacKillop Institute for East Timor
Johanes Budi Hernawan OFM: The Church and human rights in West Papua (Australian Catholic Movement for Intellectual & Cultural Affairs)
Free West Papua

Bishop says Jakarta sought access to Papuan asylum seekers (CathNews 25/1/06)

2 Feb 2006