Indonesian Students Accused Of Spying On West Papua Activists


West Papua independence activists have accused Indonesian students of spying on behalf of the Indonesian Government, with one advocate saying it has become blatant.

The self-declared Federal Republic of West Papua opened its first office in Melbourne earlier this year. The FRWP was formed at the 3rd Papua Congress in October 2011 where a President and Prime Minister were elected.

Both the President Forkorous Yaboisembut and Prime Minister Edison Waromi were incarcerated by Indonesia for three years on subversion charges following the formation, according to the FRWP’s official website.

The resource-rich province of West Papua has been under Indonesian rule since the departure of the Netherlands in the 60s. There has been continual allegations of human rights violations by the Indonesian military and police, news of which is often hindered by a foreign media ban and intimidation of local activists and journalists.

Last night, ABC’s Lateline programme aired allegations of Indonesian student spies at the opening of the Melbourne branch – where the free West Papua movement is strongest.

The gathering attracted three Indonesian post-graduate students who admitted they were providing information to the Indonesian embassy, West Papuan Foreign Minister Jacob Rumbiak told Lateline.

“(One of the men) explained that he’s… studying a PhD at a Melbourne uni and also he works in the Department of Foreign Affairs, so he works at the government of Indonesia office,” Mr Rumbiak told Lateline.

The men also took a photo of the office.

Mr Rumbiak also told the program the FRWP website had been attacked twice and he believes, based on ISP data, that it came from Jakarta.

Foreign Minister of the FRWP, Jacob Rumbiak, pictured on ABC Lateline last night.

West Papuan independence advocate Peter Woods told the program the surveillance had been well-known for years.

“It seems to be very blatant. It’s well known amongst the activist community in Australia that this does go on. It seems overt and not very subtle,” Mr Woods told the program.

The Indonesian embassy told Lateline it “does not assign its students studying in Australia, or anywhere, to collect or gather information from any sources. The possibility of Indonesian students’ presence at open-to-public events, including Papua-related ones, might relate to their studies or personal interests”.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.