Asia-Pacific

Indonesia deports Australians for participating in Papua protests

0:00

Three Australians have been deported from Indonesia for participating in protests 'demanding independent Papua'.

Indonesia has deported three of four Australians for joining in pro-independence demonstrations in West Papua, where deadly protests have erupted over the last two weeks prompting Jakarta to deploy thousands of security forces. 

Tom Baxter, Cheryl Davidson, Danielle Hellyer and Ruth Cobbol were all arrested in Sorong on Monday and flown to Bali after protesting outside the local Mayor's office and could face an Indonesian travel ban.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the organisation was providing consular assistance to the four.

Tom Baxter, one of four Australians to be deported from West Papua.
Tom Baxter, one of four Australians to be deported from West Papua.
Supplied

Mr Baxter, Ms Hellyer and Ms Cobbol were all due to arrive back in Sydney from Bali on Tuesday morning on a Qantas flight. But Ms Davidson was not due to leave Bali until September 4.

An Indonesian immigration statement said: "Sorong Timur Sorong city, West Papua, has monitored the activities of the deportation of four Australian foreigners" for taking part in a "demonstration demanding independent Papua". 

Four Australians to be deported from Papua.
Four Australians to be deported from Papua.
SBS News

Unrest has gripped West Papua since 40 Papuan students were arrested in Surabaya, in East Java for allegedly damaging the Indonesian flag.  

With retaliatory protests erupting in response to allegations of racism against Indonesian authorities. 

The Australians were flown to Bali before being deported to Australia.
The Australians were flown to Bali before being deported to Australia.
Supplied

Pro-independence violence

The death toll continues to climb in the Indonesian province with SBS News confirming a student has been killed during an attack on a dormitory in Abepura.

West Papuans told SBS they remain under siege in the Papuan capital of Jayapura as hundreds of security officers were flown to the region. 

A 21-year-old Papuan student was killed during an attack on a dormitory in the early hours of Sunday morning, according to sources contacted by SBS.

They said the victim, Maikel Karet, died from a bullet wound to the chest, inflicted at close range and at least 16 other people were injured.

An image allegedly showing the body of 21-year-old Maikel Karet.
An image allegedly showing the body of 21-year-old Maikel Karet.
Supplied

West Papuan National Committee Activist Victor Yeimo told SBS News he fears for his safety and that of his people. 

"He [Maikel Karet] died by gunfire from the civil militia direct to his body."

"I'm still in danger because [it is] difficult for me to get out from here because all of the place is still monitored by TNI and police in Jayapura."

21-year-old Maikel Karet.
21-year-old Maikel Karet.
Supplied

But the activist remains defiant.

"I will not go out from West Papua. This is my island. I born here and I will stay here and I will die here," he said.

Witnesses said students in the dorm had called on help from security forces at midnight after Indonesian civilians with weapons had gathered.

They claim the attack happened two hours later and it's alleged security forces were present at the time. 

West Papuan activist Victor Yeimo.
West Papuan activist Victor Yeimo.
SBS News

More social media videos have trickled out from the region despite an earlier internet shutdown enforced by Indonesian authorities. 

One appears to show Indonesians carrying machetes in Jayapura as some members of the group rally others to join them.   

In another video obtained by SBS News - Indonesian forces appeared to open fire on Papuan protests in Deiyai - resulting in eight deaths, according to witnesses.  

A specialist on the region, Deakin University's Damien Kingsbury told SBS News, it's the worst violence seen in West Papua in decades. 

"This is a very serious situation and there's been nothing like this for four decades and that was back in the days when the Indonesian military cracked down in a way that led to the deaths of thousands of people," he said.  

Indonesia analyst Damien Kingsbury.
Indonesia analyst Damien Kingsbury.
SBS News

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has responded to the escalating situation. 

"This is a matter that the UN is dealing with a current human rights investigation and that's got the full cooperation of the Indonesian government," he said.

"It is very important that that process is able to be facilitated and undertaken and we'll wait for the outcomes of that process."

Mr Kingsbury said Australia is unlikely to intervene in part because of a treaty signed with Indonesia more than a decade ago.

"Australia is not likely to ask the United Nations to intervene in any way for a number of reasons the least of which is the Lombok Treaty which precludes Australia's involvement in West Papuan matters and respect for Indonesian sovereignty."

"The UN Security Council itself is unlikely to want to be engaged in this issue." 

Papuan students shout slogans during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
Papuan students shout slogans during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.
AP

Port Moresby's Governor is calling on the Indonesian government to respect the will of West Papuans for an independence referendum.

"Our people of West Papua have not accepted by free choice, agreed to be part of the Republic of Indonesia," he said.

"It is obvious now they are voting with their feet with their actions and this is what we must come to terms with."

He said Indonesia must face this reality.

"That means giving our people that right that they are entitled to under international law," he said.

"One person, one vote."

Protesters march during a violent protest in Jayapura, Papua Province, Indonesia, 29 August 2019.
Protesters march during a violent protest in Jayapura, Papua Province, Indonesia, 29 August 2019.
EPA

Indonesia's security minister has described the situation as peaceful but sources say many West Papuans are now in hiding.

Indonesia's control of West Papua has long been a flashpoint between Indonesian forces and Indigenous Papuans.

The region has been an Indonesian-controlled province since a disputed referendum vote in 1969.

Australia's travel advice for Indonesia advises Australians to reconsider travelling to Papua Province because of safety and security risks. 

It also advises Australians to avoid protests and rallies. 

Australian politicians weigh in

Labor Senator Penny Wong said she is deeply concerned.

“Labor is deeply concerned about ongoing reports of violence in West Papua and against Papuan students," she said.

“We call for calm and restraint, and strongly urge respect for human rights.

“This issue was discussed with the Indonesian Government during my recent visit to Jakarta.

"Labor also confirmed it fully respects the territorial integrity of Indonesia. Respect for each other’s territorial integrity is enshrined in the Lombok Treaty, which remains the bedrock of security cooperation between our two countries.”

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said: "Information regarding ongoing protests is still unfolding and we are seeking to confirm reports of violence."

"Our Embassy in Jakarta is closely monitoring the situation as it continues to develop," the spokesperson said.

"Australia recognises Indonesia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over the Papua provinces. Our position is clearly defined by the Lombok Treaty between Indonesia and Australia."

- with additional reporting from AAP

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch