West Papua invited us to visit: Greenpeace

West Papua invited us to visit: Greenpeace

The Australian, 16 October 2010


GREENPEACE has told the Indonesian government its Rainbow Warrior vessel has been invited to visit a natural disaster area in politically sensitive West Papua.

The ship remained anchored outside Indonesian territorial waters yesterday as officials and MPs wrangled over the government's refusal to allow it to port in Jakarta on Wednesday.

West Papua was not listed on Rainbow Warrior's Indonesian itinerary, with Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo telling The Weekend Australian that an invitation from the provincial governor came after the visit application was lodged.

Mr Naidoo said Rainbow Warrior had been asked to visit Wasior, where flooding and landslides killed 145 people 12 days ago, by governor Abraham Octavianos Atururi, but would go only with proper authorisation.

During a visit on Thursday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono denied the Wasior disaster had been caused by deforestation, as claimed by Greenpeace and local NGOs.

The Foreign Ministry cited discrepancies between the three-month permit Greenpeace sought for Rainbow Warrior and the one-week schedule of visits it supplied as its reason for withholding permission to enter.

The ministry, however, insisted the ship was not banned and the proposed visit was still under review. Greenpeace called the incident a misunderstanding.

While House of Representatives deputy speaker Pramono Anung said blocking Rainbow Warrior's entry damaged Indonesia's reputation abroad, other MPs have accused Greenpeace of running a "black agenda" to damage the country's palm oil and pulp logging industries.

A senior member of the parliamentary legal, security and human rights commission, Azis Syamsuddin, said visiting West Papua was "not possible in the current situation and conditions".

Deforestation is the focus of Greenpeace's Indonesian activities, while Jakarta is sensitive to the risks of foreign activism stirring separatist currents in the Papua provinces.

Greenpeace is locked in battle with PT Sinar Mas, accusing the Indonesian forestry giant's palm oil and logging activities of destroying native forests while the environmentalists are accused of fraudulent evidence.

Greenpeace was involved in a July protest against a coal-fired power plant and mine in Cirebon, West Java, which was broken up by police, with 12 foreign activists arrested and deported.

Mr Naidoo said Greenpeace wanted to work with Jakarta, particularly in implementing Dr Yudhoyono's proposed two-year moratorium on forest clearing and exploiting peatlands. But, he said, Indonesia with its vast forests and natural resources was on the front line of the struggle to save the planet and Greenpeace did not resile from disagreements with governments.