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Papua and Montara oil spill raised with Julie Bishop in Jakarta talks
Sydney Morning Herald - March 6, 2017
The Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said the "openness of Papua" had been discussed and revealed Ms Bishop had agreed to visit the province later this year. "We love to see other countries visit Papua to have a look at what is really going on," Mr Pandjaitan said.
The proposed visit comes as seven Pacific nations last week called on the United Nations to investigate allegations of widespread human rights violations in Indonesia's restive Papuan province.
Vanuatu's Justice Minister Ronald Warsal said various UN bodies had raised concerns about extrajudicial executions and beatings of West Papuan activists committed by Indonesian security forces.
The Indonesian Foreign Ministry replied last week that Vanuatu's statement did not reflect the current situation in Papua, which had seen big changes under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, with infrastructure development boosted to improve the quality of life of the Papuan people.
Ms Bishop said she planned to return to Indonesia later this year for a range of reasons including the opening of the new Consulate General in Surabaya. "There hopefully will be an opportunity for me to visit Papua at that time," she said.
There has been a deep-seated mistrust of Australia's position on Papuan independence among some elements of Indonesian society ever since Australia's intervention in East Timor in 1999.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull emphasised that he had assured President Jokowi, as he is popularly known, of Australia's commitment to Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial integrity during his visit to Sydney last month.
He said the 2006 Lombok Treaty, which recognises Indonesian sovereignty over Papua, was "the bedrock of our strategic and security relationship".
Meanwhile Mr Pandjaitan said he and Ms Bishop had also discussed the 2009 Montara oil spill, which fishermen and seaweed farmers from East Nusa Tenggara say devastated their livelihoods.
More than 13,000 seaweed farmers have launched a $200 million class action in the Federal Court in Sydney against PTTEP Australasia, a subsidiary of Thai state-owned oil company PTTEP.
The Indonesian Government is also planning to file a lawsuit against PTTEP Australasia in the Central Jakarta District Court.
"Australia as a very good partner can do something also to help the people of the area in eastern part of Indonesia especially in that Montara area," Mr Pandjaitan said.
Ms Bishop said the Australian Embassy was continuing to work with Indonesian authorities in relation to the oil spill.
"It will be a matter before the courts so there is a limit to what I can add to it," she said. "But we most certainly had a very open and frank discussion about the matter and we will continue to work closely with Indonesian authorities to the extent we can."