Revd Sofyan Yoman & Peter King Interview

GEORGE NEGUS: Reverend, what you make of the allegations in Mark Davis’s piece? Do you think it’s believable, do you think it’s possible that the Indonesians would have actually murdered a young West Papuan who was trying to escape? Do you think that is believable?



I think, I trust, I believe that they arrested him and tortured him, they killed him and they brought to the hospital.

GEORGE NEGUS: Are these student activists, are they trustworthy people? Are they believable? Or are they so anti-Indonesian that they would possibly even make up a story like this?

REVEREND SOCRATEZ SOFYAN YOMAN: No, they are not anti-Indonesian. But they are struggling how to get justice, to get peace, how the Indonesians respect their dignity, their rights and their freedom in West Papua. There is no anti-Indonesia.

GEORGE NEGUS: So what would be the Indonesian motive? If this is true, if is killing actually occurred, would they be doing it to intimidate all West Papuans so that people would not try to escape that way?

REVEREND SOCRATEZ SOFYAN YOMAN: Yes, absolutely. When West Papua was integrated into Indonesian territorial and they didn’t respect human life and human dignity in West Papua.

GEORGE NEGUS: You’ve come to this country this time to actually tell people – you’ve described here as “a climate of fear and intimidation that exists in West Papua.” Is it getting worse?

REVEREND SOCRATEZ SOFYAN YOMAN: Yes, in West Papua, the current situation is very worst, terrible situation. The police, they took my car and they damaged my car.

GEORGE NEGUS: And your family have been harassed too.

REVEREND SOCRATEZ SOFYAN YOMAN: Yes, Sunday morning before I leave to Sydney the intelligence and they know you plan to visit an outsider in Australia, you have to go, will stop you in airport and they will take your passport. Well, I said that, “No, you will not and you never are stopping me.”

GEORGE NEGUS: Independence, is that the sticking point, independence?

REVEREND SOCRATEZ SOFYAN YOMAN: This is not my position. That is not my position. I am a church leader. And we promote human dignity, human rights and justice and peace how to to live equal life equal life in West Papua.

GEORGE NEGUS: Professor let me ask you, because the Australian Government is now saying that anybody who supports people who are active advocating independence in West Papua are actually making the situation worse and they’re endangering the lives of people like the Reverend here and others who are advocating independence. Where does that leave people like you?

PROFESSOR PETER KING, WEST PAPUA PROJECT, SYDNEY UNIVERSITY: Well, it’s up to the Papuans to say whether they support independence or support a quest the human rights and some justice and some historical recognition of their problems. It’s up to the Papuans in the end whether they pitch for independence, which has particular risks, or pitch for a fairer deal.

GEORGE NEGUS: Autonomy within Indonesia?

PROFESSOR PETER KING: Autonomy has not been made to work. Autonomy is said to have failed by the Papuans certainly. They want another deal, they want a new negotiation and a new deal, as the Acehnese have now got.

GEORGE NEGUS: But isn’t it the case that while there are people – whether it’s here, whether it’s in West Papua, whether it’s people like the Reverend or people like you – advocating that West Papua should be independent from Indonesia, things are going to get worse and worse, the persecution, the activities of the Indonesian military are going to get tougher? And isn’t it, therefore, a futile exercise?

PROFESSOR PETER KING: That’s a call for the Papuans in the end. I don’t think it’s futile at all. I think the Indonesians have had an easy ride in Papua in the Suharto period and now they are being asked to make good on their promises for reform and they’re pretty clearly not making good on the promises and they need the international pressure now. Because the pressure is coming from the nationalists, who dominant in the Indonesian parliament, are against any prospect of reform. And the outside pressure is now becoming a key ingredient of reform and justice for the Papuans.

GEORGE NEGUS: We’re running out time. Reverend, what you think the Australian Government should be doing. Because it’s very hard to work out where the Australian Government’s stands on this. On the one hand, they let people into this country because they say they need political asylum against persecution but on the other hand we’ve now offended the Indonesians and Australia seems to be doing what the Indonesians want them to do.

REVEREND SOCRATEZ SOFYAN YOMAN: OK, we hope that Australian Government does seriously say to Jakarta how to look for another way, an international mechanism to solve West Papua problem, not special autonomy, because special autonomy is failed.

GEORGE NEGUS: Well, we have to leave it there unfortunately. But, Professor, thank you very much. Reverend, thank you. Safe journey home.