Saturday, January 28, 2006



Two Indonesian warships are now patrolling on the edge of Australian waters.

Officially, the Navy has sent the warships to tackle the problem of Indonesian fishermen illegally crossing the border as they sail closer to the Australian coastline in search of bigger fish hauls.

Unofficially, the Indonesian Navy is moving into position to stop an expected rush of political refugees from West Papua taking to the water in the hope of reaching the Australian coastline, as 43 of their colleagues two weeks ago.

The Indonesian government has found it all but impossible to stop the fishermen who regularly slip into Australian waters and come ashore in the Northern Territory to cook and sleep and wash.

The Indonesian Navy is currently disabled by a severe shortage of vessels. With only 114 ships of various types to patrol and protect more than 17,500 islands in the archipelago, Indonesia says it needs more than 300 ships to do the job and has begun a massive shipbuilding project.

With at least two warshiops on the edge of Australian waters, the Indonesian government has now told Australia it must hand over the West Papuan political asylum seekers.

The Australian government swept the asylum sekers off the coast and into a camp on Christmas Island, and within hours of the Indonesian demnad reaching the media, the government ramped up the processing of asylum seekers, but contended that all would be considered on a case by case basis.

With Australia poised to sign an agreement which states it will not interfere with Indonesia's handling of the crsis in West Papua, it seems unlikely the Howard government would dare upset their regional allies by granting asylum and allowing the refugees a world stage to tell their horror stories of life under occupation by the Indonesian government.

Indonesia says there's no truth behind the refugees claims of massacres, torture and suppression of the independence movement.

But then, that's what Indonesia said about East Timor in the late 1990s, when their independence movement was gaining major ground, and shortly before the Indonesian military and military-backed militias shot, hacked, burned and raped their way through tens of thousands of East Timorese men, women and children.