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Groups Praise U.S. House of Representatives for Highlighting West Papua

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June 15 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) praised the U.S. House of Representatives for making a serious legislative statement about the conditions of the people of West Papua.

Legislation passed last week by the House calls for two reports to Congress from the U.S.State Department: A "report on the 1969 Act of Free Choice, the current political status of West Papua, and the extent to which the Government of Indonesia has implemented and included the leadership and the people of West Papua in the development and administration of Special Autonomy." The second report is to describe "the extent to which the Government of Indonesia has certified that it has halted human rights abuses in West Papua."

The provision is included in Section 1123 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 (H.R.2410), which passed the full House of Representatives last week. The full legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration.

"Papuans have repeatedly rejected 'Special Autonomy.' They want an internationally-facilitated dialogue with Jakarta to address vital issues, including demilitarization, an end to intimidation, and the right to self-determination. Also crucial are unrestricted access to the territory by journalists, diplomats and independent human rights investigators, the release of political prisoners, and international investigation of well-founded reports of their abuse in detention," said WPAT's Ed McWilliams, a retired U.S. diplomat.

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"This bill demonstrates that the House of Representatives takes Papuan concerns seriously and Jakarta should also," he added.

"The House should follow up this important authorization legislation by passing meaningful conditions on U.S. security assistance to Indonesia," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Military assistance should be withheld until there is real progress on military reform and genuine accountability for past human rights violations in West Papua, East Timor and elsewhere. These and other conditions should be included in the foreign operations appropriations bill now under consideration by Congress," he added.

The recently released West Papuan National Consensus [http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/090520usconsensus.htm] appealed "to the International Community to recognize and publicly acknowledge that the Indonesian government policy toward West Papua has been and continue to be a failure. This failure is demonstrated by the abysmal state of Papuans for whom availability of fundamental services essential to health, development, education and opportunity have been and continue to be wholly inadequate. Special Autonomy has failed in West Papua and human rights abuses, as well as impunity for those who commit those abuses, continue and grow." The consensus document also calls for an examination of the 1969 "Act of Free Choice." The consensus was reached among leaders of a range of West Papuan groups. 

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The relevant text can be found at http://etan.org/news/2009/06house.htm#text

ETAN was formed in 1991. The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site: http://www.etan.org. WPAT produces the monthly West Papua Report [http://etan.org/issues/wpapua/default.htm].

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John M. Miller is National Coordinator of the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). He is Treasurer of the War Resisters League.

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