Labor must come clean about the Biak Massacre 25 years on during President Widodo’s visit


Indonesia’s President Widodo’s visit to Australia has ignited a pressing demand for an open and honest conversation about the ongoing West Papua crisis. With the 25-year anniversary of the Biak Massacre on 6th July, it serves as a stark reminder of the need for truth and accountability. 

Since his election in 2014, President Widodo promised social reform for West Papua. However, the situation has only deteriorated, resulting in escalating tensions and deepening divisions between the Indonesian Government and the West Papuan people. 

Almost 54 years since the ironically named ‘Act of Free Choice’ referendum for West Papuan independence, the human rights abuses, colonialism and impunity for the Indonesian military have continued. Successive Australian governments have remained silent and inactive. 

We know that the Australian Defence Force has concealed war crimes committed by Indonesian military police in West Papua. The Australian Government Defence Intelligence Report, dated July 17 1998, uncovers an investigation conducted by an Australian military attache and intelligence officer, shedding light on the massacre of West Papuan men, women and children by Indonesian defence and security forces on Biak Island.

The hostage-taking of Phil Mehrtens by the West Papuan Liberation Army has raised significant concerns, and while Greens strongly condone this abhorrent act, it underscores the desperate cry for international attention towards the West Papuan crisis, and Australia must actively engage. 

The Australian Greens will continue to call for an opportunity for the indigenous West Papuan people to participate in a free, democratic process to decide their own future.

Lines attributable to Senator Steele-John, Australian Greens spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Peace & Nuclear Disarmament :

“The Australian Greens are calling on President Widodo to allow unfettered access to West Papua for United Nations officials and foreign journalists, as well as drop charges against political prisoners. For the Australian Government to continue to stay silent is to condone these abuses.”

“The Greens recognise that the indigenous people of West Papua should have the opportunity to democratically decide their own future in accordance with international standards of human rights and the principles of international law.”

The government and ADF decision-makers must be held accountable for concealing the truth about the Biak Massacre.”

“Being complicit in covering up human rights abuses is on our region is shameful. Without the ability of West Papuans to exercise self-determination, stability and peace in the region will remain elusive.

“We watched as the Prime Minister & Foreign Minister championed President Modi during his visit to Australia, whilst the diaspora of the minority Indian community shared their concerns and fears. The Labor Government must not let this visit be the same if they want a free, peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific region. 

“Friends must be able to talk frankly when they disagree and President Widodo must be included in that.”

Lines attributable to Senator David Shoebridge, Australian Greens spokesperson for Defence 

“Tomorrow marks 25 years since the devastating Biak Massacre which saw Indonesian defence and security forces torture and kill West Papuan men, women and children yet we are still no closer to finding out details of the attack and our government remains silent.

“The Australian Defence Force must come clean about what it knows about the atrocities that took place 25 years ago and tell what they know about war crimes by the Indonesian military in West Papua.

“We know that an investigation took place and evidence was gathered and provided to Defence but we are yet to see any of those findings. 

“Allegations that Defence has destroyed photographic evidence are deeply troubling and require a detailed response from the ADF.

“West Papuans deserve justice, transparency and access to the truth and we support them in these calls.

“The Greens are calling for full transparency of Australia’s role in training Indonesian military units and the suspension of any funding for units found to be involved in human rights abuses.”

Media Contacts

Steele-John - Sophie Greer 

Shoebridge - Siavosh Sahebi 0433 212 071