A small and identifiable group of Aussie servicemen is entitled to wear the Australian Service Medal with clasp "Irian Jaya" for service on Operation CENDERAWASIH in Irian Jaya during 1976-1981.
One man was killed during operations and many wounded.
Last week the Hong Kong based Asian Human Rights Watch released this report:
As a result of that single-source and inaccurate report, much of Australia's loyal media has been happy to verbal our nation and troops with horrible smears like the ones below.
We didn't just lend Indonesia military assets like helicopters. We had flight crew, SASR troops, Royal Australian Survey Corp diggers and others deployed in Irian Jaya for various periods.
Our aircraft were flown by our people. I can only imagine how I would feel if I woke up to a false smear like the reports below from the past week in Fairfax, Guardian, SBS and ABC outlets.
It's a very low act.
Our reader, PeterR was there. And he wants to set the record straight.
I've now researched this myself and so I feel it's a great privilege for me that PeterR has chosen our website to tell his story and to honour the late Flight Lieutenant Ralph Taylor, killed during flight operations in Irian Jaya 29th July, 1977.
Lest we forget.
Last week the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC and SBS ran stories with the hysterical headlines "Australia link to '70s atrocities", “Claim Aussie choppers used in Papuan 'genocide'” “Australian defence department rejects claims its helicopters were used in Papuan 'genocide'” and “Indonesia accused of using Australian helicopters in West Papua 'genocide'”
The reports are based on a report by the Asian Human Rights Commission The Neglected Genocide - Human rights abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977 - 1978
According to the report the Indonesian military decided to use two Bell helicopters as well as two Iroquis (sic) helicopters. Whereas the Iroquis (sic) helicopters were provided by the Australian government the Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters came from the US in their operations against the OPM (Organisasi Papua Merdeka – Free Papua Movement).
This shows ignorance as the UH-1H Iroquois helicopter was manufactured by Bell and is known as a Huey. They are actually referring to the same aircraft type, not two different aircraft types!
Australia had three Iroquois helicopters operating in Irian Jaya in 1977 in support of Operation Cenderawasih: A Defence Cooperation surveying, mapping and aerial photography operation conducted by 2 Field Survey Squadron (Royal Australian Survey Corps) supported by RAAF and Army Aviation aircraft. We were there from 9 May 1977 to 10 October 1977. We were unarmed and apart from a couple of exceptions, did not operate in any areas of conflict. Unfortunately, the media reports have leapt to the inaccurate reference to Australian helicopters to inaccuratley link Australia to the actions of the Indonesian military referred to in the AHRC report. We had no helicopters in Irian Jaya in 1978.
The SMH report claimed that:
RAAF pilots had been sent to West Papua for a six-week mapping exercise in 1977 as a form of military assistance to Indonesia and were flying Iroquois helicopters.
One of them crashed in July 1977, according to The Sydney Morning Herald of that year, reportedly due to weather conditions.
An Australian army Pilatus Porter plane was shot at over West Papua by unknown assailants in August 1977.
All true, except that we were there for six months, not six weeks and it was an operation, not an exercise.
The (AHRC) report claims two helicopters provided by Australia were used in bombing attacks on the Central Highlands villagers.
This is absolutely false and it is not supported anywhere in the AHRC report which simply refers to the fact that Australian helicopters were operating in Irian Jaya at the time. They were not armed and were never involved in any attacks.
In 2002, all participants in Operation Cenderawasih were awarded the Australian Service Medal with clasp “Irian Jaya” (Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. S 64, 28 February 2002) in recognition of the difficulties and danger involved in the operation. (Note: we did not carry any weapons during the operation)
Now, for the record, here's what happened.
The ABC to its credit has now reported that the Australian Defence Force has strongly repudiated any claim that we were involved in attacking innocent civilians. Here's a link.