Turning a blind eye, funding Indonesia’s genocide in West Papua, What’s the risk?

The down fall of dictators and the transition to democratic governments are opportunities to give citizens suffering under these repressive regime hope for a brighter future, writes Anthony Craig.

Opening up these countries to economic growth, democratic freedoms and opportunities is key. Yet most democracies believe or state they will, follow international treaties and conventions against torture, genocide and support for human rights.

Sadly, some regimes are not truly democratic. The fall of the Suharto regime, a military dictatorship in Indonesia in the late 1990's opened the door for those suffering years of oppression, to taste freedom for the first time. East Timorese was given a democratic vote after years of oppression, supervised by the United Nations in 1999.

The Indonesian Military who still have an enormous influence in Indonesian politics today, did not like the outcome of a free democratic vote, the aftermath resulted in a bloodbath. Thousands of East Timorese were murdered, large numbers of the population forced to relocate to West Timor and East Timor burnt to the ground.  

The evidence today in Timor is shocking. Mass graves, burnt out buildings and torture chambers can still be seen. No one has been brought to justice over these war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United Nations report on East Timor from 1975-1999 was damming on both Australia and other countries for supporting Indonesia's genocide.

The same military, murdered the Balibo Five and both Indonesia and Australia covered it up through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. These strategies are not of a military under democratic control. West Papuans are a people who continue to suffer under Indonesian military rule today. They have suffered another slow genocide spanning 50 years.The world including Australia continues to turn a blind eye.

In June the United Nations Human Rights Committee met in Geneva  and the Indonesian government made a chilling statement. They made it very clear that Human rights are not a automatic guarantee and those pushing West Papuan separation from the Republic of Indonesia will be dealt with appropriately.  

Australia through its foreign aid program gives Indonesia over 500 million a year, when Indonesia spends over 8 billion on their military. A military which coincidentally commits mass murder and torture of the West Papuan people. People might asked the question, why worry about a few West Papuans when economic growth and trade should be the overriding consideration regarding relations with Indonesia.

The answer is very simple, dictatorships and corrupt governments when appeased, continue their corrupt practices which has a significant impact on free trade and open markets as well as companies trying to compete in the marketplace.  

So to say nothing, or turn a blind eye to these crimes, only encourages these corrupt military and government officials to continue a "business as usual" approach and does nothing to support an open, honest or responsible democratic government.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade appeasement policy with Indonesia is alive and going full steam ahead. We have seen what Indonesia appeasement does. Recent history is full of examples of making a bad situation worse. If Indonesia is a democracy, then they should be able to prove it without getting up in arms and demanding payback. When politicians and Bureaucrats believe the rules don't apply to them, all citizens of a democracy need to be alarmed.

The question has to be asked, will turning a blind eye to Indonesian atrocities in East Timor, the murder of the Balibo Five and ongoing genocide in West Papua, come back to bite us. 

Anthony Craig writes from Lithgow NSW and is a Federal Executive Officer for the DLP