Kandahar, Afghanistan, Jubi/Antara/AFP – Afghan soldiers were responsible for firing mortars at a wedding party that killed 17 women and children, officials said Friday, in a mistaken strike that overshadowed the transfer of nationwide security from NATO forces.
The deaths on Wednesday evening in the southern province of Helmand came on the eve of a military ceremony in Kabul when President Ashraf Ghani congratulated the Afghan army and police for taking over from NATO forces who have ended their combat mission.
“The troops fired mortar rounds on a wedding ceremony after the militants in the same area attacked an army checkpoint,” Mohammad Jan Rasoulyar, deputy governor of Helmand, told AFP.
“Those Afghan army troops accused of firing the mortar rounds have been referred to a military court.” Four soldiers, including one commander, were arrested and taken to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah.
Officials said that a delegation sent to restive Sangin district in Helmand, where the incident took place, had been told that at least two rockets were fired at the wedding ceremony from different army outposts.
Some witnesses said the army attack was triggered when wedding guests shot celebratory gunfire into the air as the bride was brought to the groom’s house.
A room where female guests had gathered was hit, with 17 women and children killed and 49 other people wounded. Officials had earlier reported the mortars killed at least 20 guests, but Rasoulyar said the toll had been revised down.
“Eyewitnesses told the delegation that militants had earlier attacked a security checkpoint in the area,” Helmand police spokesman Farid Obaid told AFP.
“Then the Afghan army troops attacked with mortar rounds that landed on the wedding ceremony.” (*)
West Papuans rally calling Australia stands against human rights violations in West Papua
Melbourne, Jubi – Dozens of people stands in solidarity with West Papuans in front of the State Library Victoria on Saturday (14/09/2019) for calling the Australian Government to against human rights violations occurred in West Papua.
Further, the Melbourne West Papua Community is also asking the Australian Government to urges the Indonesian Government to allow the UN Right Commissioner Michele Bachelet to conduct a fact finding mission into human rights violations.
Mr. Novenus Obamak, the Chairman of the Melbourne West Papua Community, through a press release told Ms Bachelet has been trying to gain access to West Papua since 2018, but until now she has been refused to entry by the Government of Indonesia. “Contrary to claims made in Australia that the Indonesian Government is facilitating Ms Bachelet’s visit to West Papua, the Indonesian Government has been blocking her access,” said Obamak.
He also urged the Indonesian Government to restore the internet access in West Papua and allow international journalists free access to West Papua. “On behalf of the Melbourne West Papua community and our brothers and sisters in West Papua, I strongly urge Indonesia to withdraw its more than 6000 non-local military forces from West Papua to allow the situation there to stabilize,” said Mr. Obamak.
He also said, “We need to see the end of the criminalization of human rights defenders and students in West Papua. Human rights defenders and concerned students should be supported from their stand against lawlessness rather than being made out to be the criminals.”
Meanwhile, the solidarity rally was opened with speeches from speakers representing the Australian first nation, local councilors, West Papuan leaders and students. Speakers called the Australian Government to pay more attention to what have been happening and West Papua and to take action to end oppression and human rights violations against West Papuans.
Moreland Councillor Sue Bolton said in her speech that Australia could do a lot to stop the oppressions and violations in West Papua. “What Australia does will going have to impact to West Papua. Australia through different government has tragically supported the Indonesian Government to violate West Papuans through training Indonesian military forces, mining companies that contribute to the killing and torture of many West Papuans. Meanwhile, Darebin Councillor Mark Riley in his speech emphasized the needs of open access for journalists to West Papua.
In the meantime, Papuan student Cyndi Makabori said as young West Papuan student who’s living in Australia, she is fortunate for not experiencing discrimination, torture, detention or mockery like other Papuan students in Indonesia. She also criticizes that during 57 years of integration, Indonesia has committed more than five hundred thousand of murders. It means Indonesia has failed to civilize and educate its citizens about the value of humanity and human rights. Finally, in her speech she thanks to non-Papuan supporters who stand in solidarity with West Papuans. She acknowledges the spokesperson of Free West Papua Surya Anta Ginting who’s the first Indonesian citizen arrested for treason.
After speeches, the crowd goes for a rally towards Federation Square. During the rally, they continuously chanted “Papua Merdeka,” “Free West Papua”, “Kami bukan merah putih” and “Indonesia Out”.
A supporter from Vanuatu who wish anonymous said she joined the rally to show her solidarity to West Papuans. “In solidarity as Pacific region. We are Melanesians; and all together we are strong. We support sovereignty as an obligation to the international laws.”
The West Papua solidarity rally in Melbourne marked a series of peaceful protests conducted in dispersed cities in Australia including Canberra, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. (*)
Reporter: Pipit Maizier
PNG governor wants West Papua referendum
Papua, Jubi – The governor of Papua New Guinea’s capital district wants Indonesia to allow West Papua to undertake an independence referendum.
In a statement, Powes Parkop also backed a call from Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers to raise the issue of human rights abuses in Papua at next week’s Forum leaders summit.
Mr Parkop said the crisis in Papua had escalated due to Pacific nations letting fear of Indonesia dictate their approach to it.
He said the Melanesian Spearhead Group should also accept an application for full membership by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
“Indonesia must realize that when it choose to restore the rights and dignity of the West Papuan people it will unleash great joy.”
Mr Parkop said he had delivered the same message on West Papua to PNG Prime Minister James Marape and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovare.
According to him, he planned to also deliver it to the governments of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the US, adding that he had requested a meeting with Indonesia’s government.
Jakarta says Papua’s incorporation into the Indonesian is final and non-negotiable.
Papuan Liberation Movement welcomes foreign ministers’ call
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has welcomed a resolution by Pacific foreign ministers to push for a UN Human Rights office visit to Papua.
In January, the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Indonesia’s government agreed in principle for a team from her office to visit Papua.
However, Pacific Forum members are concerned that the invitation is not being honoured. Forum foreign ministers have called for the timing of the visit by to be finalised by both parties.
They also seek for a resulting report on the Papua situation to be presented before the next Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in 2020.
The Liberation Movement’s chairman, Benny Wenda, urged Pacific Forum leaders to endorse this call when they meet for their annual summit in Tuvalu next week.
Mr Wenda said such a stand reflected the values at the heart of the Blue Pacific campaign to develop a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity where all Pacific people can lead free healthy and productive lives.
Accordnig to him, Pacific civil society networks continue to provide support to Forum Leaders and Government regarding the human rights issues of West Papua. (*)
Wales calls on PM to support West Papua agenda
Papua, Jubi – The Leader of the Official Opposition Mathew Wale has called on the Prime Minister to join the Government of Vanuatu in pushing for the review of the earlier resolution made by the Pacific Forum on the West Papua issue.
This call followed the leaders concluding remarks in Parliament on Friday during the wind down debate on the Speech from the Throne and the motion moved by the Prime Minister for a special adjournment to allow for the Prime Minister to attend the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu next week.
Mr. Wale calls on the Prime Minister to join the government of Vanuatu in championing the push at the regional level for the Pacific Island Forum to take a stronger stand on the issue against Indonesia.
This matter was voiced by the Foreign Affairs Minister for Vanuatu, who noted that human rights abuse in West Papua is once again escalating hence he is going to push to ensure that the existing resolution passed earlier by the Pacific Islands Forum is strengthened.
“Just like Vanuatu, the struggles of the people of West Papua is one quite close to our hearts as Melanesians hence Solomon Islands cannot turn a blind eye to cries on human rights violation and their struggles for self-determination.
“There will be intense lobbying and promises of benefits around the fringes of the upcoming Forum meeting by Indonesia but the Prime Minister must know that what is really at stake is the cry of West Papuans to be given the right to rule themselves and the excessive use of force to suppress their cries,” the Opposition Leader stressed.
Wale adds that the Pacific Island Forum had officially resolved that it will seek constructive engagement with Indonesia over West Papua but that wording may need to be stronger now that there has been a surge in conflict there, and PM Sogavare can help Vanuatu by putting more emphasis on this at the meeting.
“This is one matter that the Prime Minister must look beyond the usual politicking and do the most decent thing that he should do,” the Opposition Leader points out.
He further added that Solomon Islands and others could play a part in putting pressure on Indonesia to allow transparent investigations into alleged human rights abuses in West Papua through the Pacific Islands Forum.
Solomon Islands is known for its strong advocacy on this issue in past governments under the leadership of current Prime Minister, both on regional and international levels, and the Opposition is hoping to see that energy reignited. (*)
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