Millionaire's ad puts Canberra-Jakarta relations to the test

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2007, 12:00am

An Australian millionaire's financing of television advertisements across Asia urging Indonesia to allow journalists and human rights monitors into Papua may shake the fragile relations between the countries, activists say.

Matthew Jamieson, from the Australia-based Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights, said Australians sympathised with the Papuans and were not happy with Canberra's dealings with the Indonesian military.

'The TV advertisement will again put West Papua on the agenda in Australia and will increase tension from Jakarta to Australia,' he said.

'The bloody, past history of the [Indonesian forces] in East Timor and elsewhere is well understood among the Australian public.'

The advertisements were launched in Australia last month and were expected to be aired overaseas on ABC Asia-Pacific soon.

The intention of the sponsor, Perth-based businessman Ian Melrose, is to force Canberra and Jakarta to amend the Australia-Indonesia security treaty signed in November.

'My hope is that, as a result of this, both governments decide to put human rights monitoring into the treaty. That would be a good outcome both for the West Papuans and Indonesia,' Mr Melrose told ABC radio.

The treaty, which is yet to be endorsed by the Australian Parliament's treaties committee, was drafted to soothe a crisis started when Canberra granted 43 Papuans political asylum early last year.

It calls for a strengthening of military co-operation and for the two countries to respect each other's territorial sovereignty.

Australia hosts several pro-Papua organisations. Some elements of the Indonesian military do not trust Canberra and fear Australia is supporting independence for Papua, as it did for East Timor.

'Australia's relationship with Indonesia will always be difficult because of West Papua, and the military is an occupation force in West Papua,' Mr Jamieson said.

Situated in the eastern corner of the Indonesian archipelago, 250km north of Australia, Papua - previously also knows as West Papua, a name preferred by Australian organisations - is involved in a low-level pro-independence war.

Papua was invaded by Indonesia in 1962 and officially annexed with a flawed UN-sponsored referendum seven years later.

According to several reports, more than 100,000 people have been killed by the Indonesian military.

The province remains off limits to foreign journalists and international organisations.