Friday, September 6, 2013

PNG promotes engagement with Indonesia over West Papua - 44th Pacific Islands Forum - News - Islands Business magazine

PNG promotes engagement with Indonesia over West Papua - 44th Pacific Islands Forum - News - Islands Business magazine

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called for engagement with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the way forward for the issue of West Papua.

Attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro this week, the PNG Prime Minister said: “We are generally encouraged by the response that we are getting from the Indonesian government – especially the President – where he has stated to us very clearly that he wanted to engage with us to resolve issues in West Papua, so there is a level of autonomy for the people of West Papua.”

The issue of West Papua was high on the agenda at the June 2013 summit of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) in New Caledonia, where delegations from the Indonesian government and the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) both addressed the summit plenary.

However the topic of West Papua was not on the Forum agenda in Majuro and there was no mention of human rights concerns in the final Forum communique.

At the time of the MSG Summit, Prime Minister O’Neill and PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato were leading a major delegation to Indonesia.

This week, O’Neill stressed the importance of engagement with Indonesia, given their opposition to independence for the western half of the island of New Guinea, which Jakarta administers as the provinces of Papua and West Papua.

“I want to make it very clear again that any resolutions we may have to come to in respect of West Papua will always include Indonesia,” O’Neill said. “It pays for us to stay engaged with Indonesia.”

The major focus of O’Neill’s June visit to Jakarta was trade and investment, but security issues and border relations were discussed.

“We look forward to working closely with them and also developing joint economic areas with the border area,” O’Neill said. “Some of the vast natural resources we have around the border area we can develop together.”

The PNG Prime Minister said that over time there has been improved dialogue on the issue: “I’m encouraged by the events that are taking place, including the Melanesian Spearhead Group ministers are going to have a tour to West Papua. But I’m also happy that the Indonesian government has asked us, the Papua New Guineans, to resolve some of the issues in West Papua.

As yet, details of the proposed MSG Ministerial Mission to Jakarta and Jayapura have not been finalised. In Majuro, Vanuatu’s Deputy Prime Minister Edward Natapei confirmed to Islands Business that no dates have yet been set for the visit.

In unprecedented language, the final communique of the MSG Summit in Noumea supported “the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination” and criticised “human rights violations and other forms of atrocities relating to the West Papuan people.”

The West Papuan nationalist movement has been lobbying for the Forum to follow the MSG’s example, and address these issues in their meetings, as occurred at the time of the “Papua Spring” in the early 2000s.

In the lead up to the Majuro Forum, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL) said the Indonesian government was unlikely to allow a ministerial visit, despite the commitment given to MSG leaders.

WPNCL Secretary General Rex Rumakiek told Radio Australia: “Their way of breaking MSG solidarity is a divide and rule policy. They’ve done that to the West Papuan people and been very successful, and they think they can do it to the MSG leaders as well.”

He says the agreement was for MSG Foreign Ministers to visit West Papua for an inspection tour together, but, Jakarta is “using the tactic of divide and rule by inviting the Group's leaders one by one.”

For the Vanuatu government led by Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil, the MSG’s engagement with Jakarta must be conducted together.

The leader of Vanuatu’s delegation in Majuro, Deputy Prime Minister Natapei told Islands Business: “We believe that the MSG should conduct this ministerial mission together, with all of us intact.”

Last month, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo made a state visit to Indonesia - the first Solomon Islands leader to visit the South East Asian nation.

In a statement after the visit, the Solomon Islands government said: “Prime Minister Lilo’s recent trip not only produced greater technical cooperation, trade commitments and people-to-people relations, but has been hailed by Indonesia for the country’s ongoing active role in multilateral forums such as the Coral Triangle Initiative, the G7 Plus and also APEC.”

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