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MPs respond (kind of) to West Papua questions

Foreign Minster Julie Bishop was recently interviewed on ABC TV’s Insiders program, during which the show’s host Barry Cassidy asked her about Australia’s likelihood of being successful with its bid to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Committee for the 2018-20 term.
During the interview Ms Bishop said, pending selection: “We certainly will have a very vocal voice on the issue of human rights. And we’ll bring to it the pragmatic, principled approach that we bring to all our international relations and engagements.”
This Friday night The Road to Home, which tells the story of Benny Wenda, a West Papuan tribal leader whose village was bombed by the Indonesian military when he was a child, screens at the Yamba Cinema.
The Independent addressed questions – which contextually outlined alleged atrocities perpetrated by the Indonesian government in West Papua – via email to Foreign Minster Julie Bishop and Page MP Kevin Hogan.
The questions were: What is your opinion on this issue?
And: Will Australia (and how), particularly if it takes a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, be addressing the alleged human rights violations taking place in West Papua?
Both MPs responded via email: Kevin Hogan’s was the most detailed, however, Minister Bishop’s ‘words’ were exactly the same as some of those in Mr Hogan’s response.
Minister Bishop responded thus: “Officials from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta regularly visit the Papuan provinces and engage a wide range of people, including local community leaders, civil society, NGOs and religious leaders. These visits inform our assessment of the situation on the ground.
“The human rights situation has improved in recent years but clearly there are still problems to be addressed
“The Australian Government maintains its commitment to help Indonesia confront the social and economic challenges in the Papua provinces.
“Our aid program in the Papua provinces ($21.7 million in 2014-15) is focused on generating economic growth, addressing health and education priorities.”
Mr Hogan, whose response was in dot point form (Minster Bishop’s words have been removed from Mr Hogan’s answers), added, in part, that “Australia has long recognised Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Papua provinces … underlined by the Lombok Treaty between Australia and Indonesia.
“The Australian Government condemns all violence in the Papua provinces … the rights of all citizens should be upheld and credible allegations of human rights abuses should be investigated.
“We do not see evidence to support assertions of ‘genocide’ in Papua or that 500,000 Papuans have been killed.
“President Widodo’s visits to Papua … in December 2015, and his public pledge to prioritise investment in health, education and infrastructure signal his commitment to address the challenges in these provinces.
“We welcome this and the President’s decision to grant clemency and release five Papuan prisoners [and] … Mr Filep Karma [in 2015].
“President Widodo’s May 2015 announcement that reporting restrictions for foreign journalists in the Papua provinces would be lifted is a positive development. We will encourage Indonesia to fully implement this commitment.”

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