US Voices Concern on Papua Rights
Honolulu, Hawaii. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday voiced alarm about human rights conditions in Indonesia’s Papua and called for dialog to meet the aspirations of the restive region’s people.
In rare public US criticism of emerging ally Indonesia, Clinton said that the United States has “very directly raised our concerns about the violence and the abuse of human rights” in Papua.
“There needs to be continuing dialog and political reforms in order to meet the legitimate needs of the Papua people, and we will be raising that again directly and encouraging that kind of approach,” Clinton said in response to at student’s question after a speech at the East-West Center in Hawaii.
Jakarta in 1969 took over Papua — a vast, mineral-rich territory bordering Papua New Guinea with a population ethnically distinct from most Indonesians — and has since faced a low-level insurgency.
Indonesia denies the allegations but refuses to allow foreign media or aid workers into the region to conduct independent inquiries. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said last month that his government would meet with rights groups to avoid “misconceptions” over the jail conditions of Papuan activists.
Indonesia has rapidly embraced democracy since the 1990s. In 2001, it introduced autonomy in Papua, although local activists say that the policy has had little practical effect.
President Barack Obama’s administration has made relations with Indonesia a priority, attracted by the archipelago’s democratization, moderate form of Islam and strategic location in a fast-growing region.
Clinton, in her speech at the East-West Center, described Indonesia and India as “two of the most dynamic and significant democratic powers in the world.” She will head next week with Obama to Bali for the East Asia Summit.