By Hayley J. Campbell
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Two West Papuan refugees were discovered in Jakarta today after they went missing from their home in Australia two weeks ago. Supporters of the Papuan separatist movement have raised concerns over whether the Indonesian government coerced the refugees’ return for “propaganda purposes.”
In 2006, Yunus Wanggai, age 43, and his daughter Anike, age 7 made the dangerous sail from Merauke, Indonesia to Cape York, Australia. Mr. Wanggai and his daughter were among several separatists who claim they were victims of persecution by the Indonesian government. The Australian government granted Mr. Wanggai and his daughter refugee status, and before returning to Indonesia, they were on the path to receiving permanent Australian residency.
Mr. Wanggai’s wife, Siti, did not go to Australia but instead fled to Papua New Guinea before continuing to Vanuatu. Ms. Wanggai is awaiting Australia’s decision whether to grant her refugee status, but in the meantime, must remain in Papua with a sick older daughter. Mr. Wanggai decided to return to Indonesia because his wife had to stay behind.
“I miss my family. I want to be together with my family again,” Mr. Wanggai said today after arriving in Indonesia.
Political instability and public protests have long marked Papua’s history. Once a Dutch colony on New Guinea’s western end, Papua became Indonesia’s largest province in 1969. Violence erupted in 2003 after President Megawati Sukarnoputri separated Papua into three provinces: Central Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Tengah), Papua (or East Irian Jaya, Irian Jaya Timur), and West Irian Jaya (Irian Jaya Barat). But the establishment of the central province was declared unconstitutional by Indonesian courts as a violation of Papua’s Special Autonomy status.
The separation has divided Papuans who protest the Indonesian military for allegedly violating human rights. Many Papuans complain that the money earned from Papua’s natural resources mostly ends up profiting Jakarta. As a result, many Papuans have been campaigning peacefully for independence from Indonesia.
After a two week disappearance, members of Australia’s West Papuan independence movement are concerned that the Indonesian government coerced Mr. Wanggai to return to Indonesia for “propaganda purposes.” The Indonesian government denies all claims, however, that any sort of intelligence operation was conducted.
Nick Chesterfield, a Melbourne-based Papuan activist said, “We still have concerns about the manner which they were repatriated, the secrecy surrounding it, and that there was pressure brought to brought to bear on them.”
For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand International – Concern over two Papuan refugees missing in Australia – 28 November 2008
ABC News – Indonesia denies intelligence operation in Aust – 29 November 2008
Sydney Morning Herald – Papuan asylum seekers return to Indonesia – 30 November 2008
The Age, Australia – Indonesian refugees return to their homeland – 30 November 2008