DENPASAR, Indonesia – Three Papuan activists occupied the Australian consulate in Indonesia’s Bali overnight, calling for Jakarta to be pressured on human rights before the APEC summit opens on the island, officials said Sunday.
Markus Jerewon, Yuvensius Goo and Rofinus Yanggam scaled the mission’s walls to get inside to demand Australia, the United States and Japan pressure Indonesia over rights abuses in the restive Papua region.
“It was not difficult getting in. We climbed a tree next to a wall and then jumped in,” Yanggam told AFP by phone.
“The APEC summit is a golden opportunity for us to let the world know what’s going on in Papua. We want the leaders from these countries to pressure Indonesia to release Papuan political prisoners.”
Yanggam also called for the international media to be allowed free access to Papua, where militants have for decades fought a low-level insurgency on behalf of the mostly ethnic Melanesian population there.
Jakarta keeps a tight grip on Papua and foreign journalists are normally banned from reporting in the region.
“We came in peace. We are not troublemakers,” he added.
Yanggam said the trio left the consulate in the Balinese capital Denpasar voluntarily, and were not questioned by police or arrested.
Bali police said they have “no information” on the case, its spokesman Hariadi told AFP.
“The Australian consulate have not reported the matter to us. We are still investigating the case,” he said.
Indonesian security forces are regularly accused of abusing Papuan villagers and torturing political activists in Papua.
Indonesia took over the region from former colonial power the Netherlands in 1963, but denies allegations of systematic human rights abuses.
In a video of the three activists released online, Yanggam said at least 55 political prisoners were in several prisons in Papua, including independence leader Filep Karma who is serving a 15-year sentence.
“The Papuan political (prisoners) did not do any violence. The prisoners suffer a lot behind Indonesian bars,” he said.
Demanding that foreign visitors be allowed to “travel freely” in Papua, the activist said: “This restriction has taken place since 1963. Fifty years is enough. We need to be open like Bali.”
Australia’s foreign office said that “three individuals from Indonesia’s Papua provinces delivered a protest letter at the Australian Consulate-General in Bali this morning to Australia’s Consul-General,” making no mention of their method of arrival.
“The three men left the Consulate voluntarily before 7 a.m.,” a foreign office spokesman told AFP.
Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb told reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bali that the activists had “left voluntarily so the matter’s been resolved”.
The trio had ended their protest letter with the phrase “we seek refuge and plead for our safety” — but Robb said they had not sought asylum.
The incident came ahead of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s arrival in Bali for the summit on Monday.
In their letter, the men demanded that Abbott, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Secretary of State John Kerry pressure Indonesia on Papuan rights.
“We want these leaders to persuade the Indonesian government to treat Papuan people better,” it said, demanding the release of political prisoners who had “committed no crime”.