Millionaire Businessman supports West Papua
The Canberra Times, 21 October 2007
Crusader for West Papuan cause by Emily Sherlock
THEY have been interrupting our TV viewing for months. And with the federal
election campaign in full swing, advertisements on West Papua have become
The man behind this curious, relentless thorn in the side of the Federal
Government is millionaire businessman Ian Melrose, who said he was driven by
a child's preventable death into acting on the behalf of our West Papuan and
East Timorese neighbours.
His advertisements which are appearing several times an hour highlight human
rights abuses in West Papua and East Timor at the hands of the Indonesian
military. They also call for human rights monitors and access for foreign
Journalists to West Papua in Australia 's new security treaty with Indonesia
. Mr Melrose said the advertisements had been targeted to screen in areas
were the Government held key marginal seats and across most capital cities.
"What we are trying to do is highlight the human rights abuses that the
Indonesian military is currently committing in West Papua , there are
killings every second or third day," he said. "Because media are not allowed
in, none of these stories come out." The Optical Superstore proprietor also
put his weight behind a 2004 campaign for a better deal for East Timor over
oil and gas rights in the Timor Sea.
Last year, he also commissioned a Newspoll asking Australians if they were
for or against self-determination for Papuans, including the option of
Mr Melrose was coy in disclosing how much the campaigns had cost and said
putting his financial weight behind the advertisements had never been an
issue. "I know too many East Timorese that have been tortured or have had
family members killed by the Indonesian military," he said. "You either get
upset or you do something. Getting upset doesn't help them, doing something
will, so that is why I decided I wasn't going to sit on the couch any more."
Initially he said he was motivated to get involved after reading in 2004
about a 2-year-old East Timorese girl who had choked to death on roundworms.
A worm tablet could have saved her life, but instead she was asphyxiated
when hundreds of the 20-30 centimetre worms crawled from her small intestine
to her stomach then to her oesophagus and blocked her trachea. "I thought it
was just horrific and unacceptable that for less than 50 cents she could
have survived," he said.
Mr Melrose has also written to the Prime Minister about West Papua and is
determined to continue his campaign, sending information to all 640,000 of
his customers in the lead-up to the election.
"When you eventually make money and I've made money it doesn't do any good
to hoard it if you can do something good with it," he said. "That is what
I'm having at doing. Whether I'm successful or not is going to be another
The Prime Minister's office and Indonesian Embassy declined to comment on
issues raised in Mr Melrose's campaigns