US House scraps section on Papua from bill: Official

Ary Hermawan , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 06/20/2009
The United States House of Representatives has scrapped a provision highlighting the political status and human rights conditions of West Papua from a foreign relations bill approved last week, the Foreign Ministry says. “They *US* said they did not want to disrupt the election in Indonesia,” ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

The bill brought to the House on May 14 initially contained a section calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make “a report on the 1969 Act of Free Choice, the current political status of West Papua, and the extent to which the Government of Indonesia has implemented and included the leadership and the people of West Papua in the development and administration of Special Autonomy”.

It also required President Barack Obama to file a report describing the extent to which the Indonesian government could ensure it had stopped committing rights abuses in Papua.

Faizasyah said it was not the first time the US congress blocked an effort by a few of its members to question the political status of Papua.

“A similar provision was blocked by the Senate in 2006,” he said.

The ministry’s statement contradicts reports issued by the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) in which they praised the US House for keeping the section on Papua in the approved bill.

“This bill demonstrates that the House of Representatives takes Papuan concerns seriously and Jakarta should also,” Ed McWilliams of WPAT said.

“The House should follow up this important authorization legislation by passing meaningful conditions on US security assistance to Indonesia,” said John M. Miller from ETAN.

Jakarta however is convinced the provision has been discarded.

“I have contacted my friends in the US. They have confirmed *it has been removed*,” Faizasyah said. He questioned the motive of the two individual groups for making their statements.

US embassy officials were not available for comment Friday. The amended version of the bill available on the US House’s website, however, does not show that the three-page section on West Papua has been removed.

The bill states that Indonesia orchestrated “an election many regarded as a brutal military operation.”

“In what became known as an *act of no-choice’, 1,025 West Papua elders under heavy military surveillance were selected to vote on behalf of more than 800,000 West Papuans on the Territory’s political status.”

US-Indonesia relations have continued improving under Barack Obama’s leadership, with Clinton and Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda meeting in Washington earlier this month to discuss a comprehensive partnership agreement.

Clinton said after the meeting the US wanted to have closer relations with Indonesia both politically and militarily.

The issue of Papua had long irked relations with the US. Through the Special Autonomy policy, the government had not fully resolved problems in the resource-rich yet impoverished province.

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