Indonesia tries to gag Papuan lecture

Indonesia tries to gag Papuan lecture

The Age, 11 August 2010

INDONESIAN officials have tried to put a stop to a public lecture in Melbourne tonight to discuss the troubled province of West Papua.

In an echo of the pressure brought by China last year to dump the Melbourne screening of a film about a separatist struggle, an Indonesian official this week asked the Victorian branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs to cancel the event.

Speakers at ''West Papua's Search for Self-Determination'' will include Herman Wainggai - one of 43 West Papuans granted asylum after fleeing by boat to Australia in 2006 - and Deakin university academic Scott Burchill, who was banned from travelling to Indonesia the same year.

AIIA vice-president Graham Barrett said last night West Papua was clearly sensitive for Indonesia but the Institute's policy was to present all views without favour.

Indonesian embassy spokesman Eko Junor said it was disappointing more notice of the event had not been given so the Indonesian ambassador or officials could have attended, to ''enrich the event with another side of the debate''.

Mr Junor said the request to cancel the event was most likely a misunderstanding.

Dr Burchill said Indonesia had pressured countries at the recent Pacific Island Forum to keep West Papua off the agenda.

''The less you talk about it, the more you try to block it, the more intensive the pressure becomes. You'd think they'd learned that from the East Timor experience,'' Dr Burchill said.

The event will be held this evening at Dyason House in East Melbourne at 5.30pm.