Papuans missing at sea as crisis talks start
By Mark Forbes in Denpasar and Cynthia Banham
April 21, 2006
A BOAT carrying 21 Papuans suspected of being asylum seekers has sunk with one confirmed dead and 18 more missing, Indonesian police say.
Police said they believed some passengers were student supporters of Papuan separatism, and evidence suggested they planned to seek asylum in another country. Two passengers were saved by fishermen yesterday morning after the boat was struck by large waves several kilometres north of Papua's capital, Jayapura. One dead body was sighted, said a police spokesman, Colonel Kartono.
He said the survivors claimed the boat's destination was Papua New Guinea. Police were still searching for other survivors and conducting an investigation into the motives for the trip, which comes in the midst of a diplomatic crisis between Australia and Indonesia.
A Papuan independence flag and pamphlets advocating independence were found near where the boat departed, but it had not been confirmed if they were linked to the voyage, Colonel Kartono said.
The news emerged as the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, indicated he would demand further concessions from Australia on its decision to grant asylum to 42 Papuans when he meets the secretary of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Department, Michael L'Estrange, today.
Mr Wirajuda said he appreciated that Australia's new hardline stance on asylum, announced last week and to be detailed by Mr L'Estrange, demonstrated that Canberra had considered Indonesia's sensitivity over the Papua issue.
"Adopting a kind of Pacific solution for new flows of boat people or asylum seekers deals with the future problems, but how do we deal with the existing problem of 42 Indonesians of Papuan origin who have been granted asylum?" Mr Wirajuda said.
The changes did not address the conflict between the granting of asylum and Australia's stated support of Indonesia's sovereignty over Papua, he said.
Mr Wirajuda also said he would discuss with Mr L'Estrange what the Australian Government would do to suppress support for Papuan independence.
He said a decision on returning Indonesia's recalled ambassador, Hamzah Thayeb, and a review of co-operation with Australia could only be made after today's meeting in Jakarta.
Mr L'Estrange will also meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's adviser, Dino Djalal, paving the way for follow-up visits by the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer.
The already tense trip was last night complicated by reports that Dr Yudhoyono had ordered Mr Wirajuda to mount a "diplomatic push" to get back a Papuan refugee, Anike Wanggai. The four-year-old girl and her father, Yunus Wanggai, were among the 42 Papuans given temporary protection visas by Australia last month.