The Indonesian Consul to Darwin, Andre Siregar, has denied he pressured the owner of a wall to paint over a mural which features the West Papuan flag, but said he had reported its existence to Jakarta.
“It is something that we respect, we have to respect, but please note that it, itself is offensive to us,” Mr Siregar said.
Mr Siregar said as the Indonesian Government’s representative in Darwin he had conveyed Indonesia’s position on West Papua.
“Of course that is a flag of a separatist group — they want West Papua to be their own country,” Mr Siregar said.
“They ignore the 2.5 million Papuans who have gone to the election and voted, and the 3.9 million Papuans that live there.
“So as the government representative in Darwin I have conveyed this situation to the NT Government, [and] we don’t want them to be ill-informed.”
Mr Siregar told the ABC he was the last to find about the “external pressure” and urgency to remove the mural.
“I guess I found out last, that someone feels pressured, and someone wants their walls clean, someone had to choose someone to blame,” Mr Siregar said.
Mr Siregar said the building’s owner — Carlo Randazzo, the honorary Vice-Consul to Italy — had contacted him about the issue last week.
“He just said ‘we’re going to clean it up’, I said ‘it’s your wall, it’s your wall’ — and he just gave me some updates regarding where it’s been with those people who have painted on it,” Mr Siregar said.
“I’ve also casually spoken to Peter Styles about this, and he as the Minister for Multicultural Affairs, would take note of that. But again I have not really followed up on this discussion.”
Issue flared after ‘external pressure’
The issue of the large depiction of the West Papuan flag in the city’s centre flared after the artists who painted it in June 2015, were told to paint over it by an employee of Randazzo Properties.
The email to the artists cited “external pressures” as the reason for the sudden, urgent removal of the mural.
The mural itself also depicts the Aboriginal flag, and was painted as a symbol of solidarity between the two groups.
Mr Siregar said the Indonesian Consulate respected freedom of expression in Australia, and he had explained to visiting Indonesian officials the West Papuan flag mural did not necessarily reflect the position of Australians.
“Now after eight months there are many Territorians who also came to me and asked me ‘what’s with that flag?’,” Mr Siregar claimed.
Mr Siregar also said Indonesia was working at improving its human rights record.
“If there’s some concerns about human rights, as a developing country we’re all striving to make sure there’s no more human rights violations, even if there were violations, we are committed to rectifying those mistakes.”