SYDNEY (The Wire/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Pacific human rights activists have personally handed Indonesian President Joko Widodo a protest letter which includes a list of deaths and political prisoners in West Papua.
Written by West Papuan activists and signed by Greens leader Adam Bandt and Senator Richard Di Natale, the letter listed the names of 57 political prisoners charged with treason and held behind bars in seven cities across Indonesia, reports the community and indigenous radio The Wire.
The letter also included the names and ages of 243 civilians who have died during the Nduga military operation since December 2018, 110 of them children.
“These revelations ask the question of why President Widodo and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison would discuss economic ties and climate change, when human rights are at risk?”, The Wire asked.
Jokowi, as President Widodo is known, has been in Australia this week on a bilateral visit.
According to a media release made available to The Jakarta Post, the president was handed details on West Papua’s civilian death toll and political prisoners by activists in a bid to urge an end to the political and humanitarian crisis while he was visiting the Federal Parliament in Canberra.
“Our team in Canberra has managed to hand over letters to President Jokowi directly. The letters include names and locations of 57 political prisoners charged with treason and held behind bars in seven cities across Indonesia,” Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman said.
“We also listed the names and ages of 243 civilians who have died during the Nduga military operation since December 2018.
“At the beginning of his first term in 2015, President Jokowi released five West Papuan political prisoners. Indonesians and West Papuans alike saw the move as a new hope for West Papua.
“But now, at the beginning of his second term, there are 57 people awaiting trial for treason, facing life imprisonment. This route will only fuel further conflict,” she said.
Koman said that the West Papuan governor, regents, church leaders, customary leaders, academics, activists and students had begged President Jokowi to withdraw troops from Nduga regency since December 2018, but the request had been ignored.
She said she hoped that Jokowi would halt the humanitarian crisis in the region as he now had the data, including the names of 110 dead children among the total of 243 people.