Three West Papuans who Occupied Australian Consulate in Bali will not be Detained

DENPASAR (BALI) - Indonesian diplomats have provided assurances that three West Papuans who occupied the Australian consulate in Bali on Sunday will not be arrested or detained.

The Greens senator Richard Di Natale on Tuesday spoke to the first secretary at the Indonesian embassy in Australia, Mulyana Esa, in an effort to obtain assurances about the safety of the West Papuan activists.

An Indonesian diplomatic official, Supri Suwito, came back to senator Di Natale on Wednesday morning. “I’m encouraged by the assurances given by Mr Suwito that the three West Papuans will not be arrested or detained by the Indonesian authorities,” Di Natale told Guardian Australia.

“Given that in the recent past West Papuans have been imprisoned and tortured for exercising basic democratic freedoms, I hope this represents a change in attitude by Indonesia on West Papua rather than simply trying to distract international attention from the issue.”

The Greens senator has flagged that he will move a motion in the Senate requesting documents relating to Sunday's occupation if the government fails to clear up conflicting reports about whether Australian officials in Bali threatened to call the police or the military to remove the activists from the compound.

Two other kingmakers in the Senate – the Democratic Labor party senator John Madigan, and the South Australian independent Nick Xenophon – have expressed concern about the wellbeing of the West Papuan activists, given concerns about human rights abuses in the troubled Indonesian-controlled province.

Madigan has suggested the activists should be granted asylum in Australia, given the vexed history of West Papua.

"Given that the lives of three West Papuans were potentially put at risk by the actions of the Australian consulate over the weekend, it's crucial that we get to the bottom of conflicting reports about what actually took place," Di Natale said on Tuesday.

"One of the West Papuans has claimed on ABC radio that the consulate threatened to call in the Indonesian authorities, an action that would likely have resulted in his imprisonment and possible torture," he said.

"This claim has been supported by Dr Clinton Fernandes, a respected academic and expert on the region, and by sources in Indonesia who claim to have overheard what happened over an open phone line."

Guardian Australia spoke to one of the three West Papuans, Rofinus Yanggam, shortly after he left the consulate, when he said the consul general told the group the Indonesian police and army would be called.

The Abbott government says the activists left the Australian consulate voluntarily. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has denied that the Australian consul general threatened to call in the Indonesian military and police.

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, has also been implicitly critical of the West Papuan protest.

"Australia will not give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia," Abbott told reporters covering the Apec summit in Bali on Monday.

"We have a very strong relationship with Indonesia. We are not going to give people a platform to grandstand against Indonesia. I want that to be absolutely crystal clear."

In a clear rebuff to any separatist sentiment, Abbott also said: "The people of West Papua are much better off as part of a strong, dynamic and increasingly prosperous Indonesia."

The newly elected prime minister has been looking to mend diplomatic fences in Jakarta after tensions between the two governments over the Coalition's policies on boat turn-backs and people smuggling. [TheGuardian]
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