Australia has asked Indonesia to explain the shooting of protesters in Papua province, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said Saturday, but he declined to speculate on whether the incident was linked to the flight of dozens of asylum seekers from the restive region.
On Friday, Indonesian security forces opened fire on a group of about 100 protesters outside a police station in the central Papuan town of Paniai, killing at least one person and injuring two others. "We've asked our diplomatic representatives to obtain an appropriate report (on the shootings) for us," Ruddock told reporters in Sydney.
The shooting occurred a day after 43 asylum seekers from the province, including independence advocates and their families, reached Cape York in northeastern Australia in a traditional outrigger boat and accused Indonesia of genocide.
Benny Giay, chairman of the human rights group ELSHAM, said that a protester shot dead by police on Friday, 13-year-old Moses Douw, was a close relative of one of the asylum seekers, according to Saturday's Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. Opposition Labor Party foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd urged the government to investigate whether the shootings came as a reprisal for the Papuans' escape.
"What are the connections between these individuals (who were shot) and those who are seeking asylum on Cape York, if any connections exist?" Rudd said to reporters in Brisbane. But the attorney-general declined to speculate on whether the two events were connected.
"You're talking about issues that might be raised in the context of asylum claims and I'm simply saying they are not matters about which it is appropriate for me to comment," Ruddock said. Nick Chesterfield, from the Australia West Papua Association which campaigns for Papuan self-determination, told Network 10 Television that the government had revealed the identities of the asylum seekers to Indonesia.
But the immigration department denied that allegation and said Indonesia has had no contact with the Papuans. The asylum seekers are being held at a detention center on Australia's Indian Ocean territory Christmas Island while their refugee claims are assessed.
"There has been no contact between ... Indonesian officials and the group," department spokesman Sandy Logan told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. Green Party Sen. Kerry Nettle has called on the government to shelve negotiations on a new security pact with Indonesia which would formally recognize the Southeast Asian nation's sovereignty over its sprawling archipelago, despite secessionist movements in some provinces including Papua.
A security treaty between the neighbors was scrapped by Indonesia in 1999 when Australia led a U.N. military force into East Timor to fight pro-Jakarta militia who launched a bloody rampage after people there voted for independence.
Indonesia has warned that bilateral relations could be damaged if Australia grants the 43 asylum. Nettle's spokesman, Kristian Bolwell, also said the party had information from three sources in Papua, whom he did not identify, that four teenagers had been killed in Friday's shooting, but he said he couldn't vouch for the accuracy of the figure.
In Papua, police spokesman Col. Kertono Wangsadisastra denied the Green Party's claim, and reaffirmed that one student was killed and two injured. Papua was integrated into Indonesia in 1969 after a vote since dismissed as a sham, reports the AP. N.U.