Papua, Jubi – Indonesia will use a landmark business and trade exposition next week in New Zealand to launch a fresh diplomatic push in the Pacific, as the Southeast Asian nation continues to face regional scrutiny over alleged human rights abuses in West Papua.
The Pacific Exposition, which will take place in Auckland from July 11-14, is expected to bring together the foreign ministers of Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, as well as senior government officials from across Polynesia and Melanesia. A bilateral agreement is to be signed with the Cook Islands at the same time.
The event is the latest foray in a determined diplomatic outreach in the Pacific region that Indonesia’s government of Joko Widodo has overseen in the past few years.
Jakarta has made no bones about its aim of greater connectivity with a region that has been critical of Indonesian administration of restive Papua. The Auckland expo is the strongest sign yet of Indonesia’s intent.
Pitched as a trade, investment and tourism forum, it will involve dozens of government and private sector representatives from several Pacific Island countries, with most of their expenses paid for by the Indonesian government.
“The exposition is also the first step towards connecting goods and people of the Pacific and Southeast Asia,” reads a flier for the event.
Indonesian embassy officials — who in April quietly toured several Pacific nations to drum up support for the forum — said it has been well-received across the region. Still, according to one person who has advised embassy officials, Vanuatu’s government has refused to attend, the only Pacific nation approached to do so.
The person, who requested anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the matter, said Indonesia also hoped to establish a trade “hub” in one Pacific Island country which it could use to facilitate the flow of goods throughout the region.
Although Indonesian embassy officials stressed that the event was apolitical and trade-focused, they said they were worried it would be protested by activists and advocates critical of Indonesia’s handling of human rights in Papua. Local government officials from Papua and West Papua will be in attendance and stalls promoting investment in the two provinces will be set up as part of the trade show.
It comes as Papua has reentered the spotlight, after an escalating war between the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesia’s military forces since December sent the Central Highlands region into chaos.
Rights group estimate tens of thousands have been displaced by the violence — which was sparked in part by the massacre of at least 16 Indonesian construction workers by the Liberation Army in Nduga regency. Disputed accounts from military forces and rebel fighters indicate dozens on both sides have been killed in ongoing skirmishes.
High level attendance
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters, who is expected to attend the expo alongside his Australian counterpart Marise Payne, last month said he would raise concerns over human rights abuses in West Papua with Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi. It is unclear whether talks would take place during the exposition, and the offices of Mr Peters and Ms Payne did not respond to emailed questions.
Senior Indonesian cabinet members have in recent months openly talked about influencing the Pacific Islands into supporting its claims over Papua.
In September, local media reported Indonesia’s top security minister, Wiranto, as proposing $US4 million in funding toward convincing South Pacific nations that Jakarta was promoting development in Papua. He also invited the leaders of Vanuatu and Nauru to see the positive work in Papua for themselves. Neither took up his offer.
Ms Marsudi, the Foreign Minister, recently said her country considers the Pacific Islands as “family”, noting that technical cooperation and capacity building with regional countries will grow significantly in the coming years.
Despite their strong ties with New Zealand, Niue and the Cook Islands have been in Indonesia’s sights and bilateral relations are expected to open for the first time in the coming weeks. In March, while pitching the opening of ties to Indonesia’s House of Representatives, Ms Marsudi said the two countries did not support “separatism” in Papua.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna will be attending the exposition next week — the only head of state to do so — and an official with his office said a cooperation agreement would be signed on July 12 in Rarotonga. Niue Premier Sir Toke Talagi was also slated to attend the event and sign a similar agreement but illness has reportedly expected to prevent him from attending.
Among those attending will be New Zealand Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis and Maori Development Minister, Nanaia Mahuta. According to a draft agenda of the event, Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister, Semisi Lafu Kioa Sika is also expected to attend. Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva is a vocal supporter of West Papuan self-determination aims. His government advocates for the relisting of West Papua on the agenda of the UN Decolonisation Committee so that there is UN oversight over the human rights of West Papuans. Vanuatu is preparing a UN resolution along these lines, but will be hard pushed to gain majority support in the General Assembly, given Indonesia’s growing influence.
The appearance of high level officials will be a boon for Indonesia’s investment pitch to the Pacific, a region where strategic competition between Western powers and China has overshadowed Indonesia’s growing economy and regional leadership ambitions.
A Western diplomatic source who spoke on condition of anonymity said Indonesia had “relentlessly pursued” Pacific Island nations into attending the event, adding that its no-expenses-spared policy of providing travel and accomodation costs to delegates had likely encouraged many to attend. (*)
A tragic story from Deiyai Regent Office
Jayapura, Jubi – A rally to protest racism against West Papuans in front of the Deiyai Regent Office on Wednesday, 28 August 2019, turned to a tragedy. A local parliament member Alfret Pakage told Jubi about the tragic story.
The story began when a young man called Yustimus Takimas died in a car crash involving an Indonesian soldier. His death triggered a mass rampage that ended with the police’s gunshot.
“I don’t have an idea about what was happening at the Regent Office’s backyard because I was standing at the side door watching people coming. After the car accident that killed young Takimai, people killed a soldier who was in the car. Then, all young men joined the crowd. Some entered through the front while others from the back via BKD Office. At that time the joint security force stood at the corner of the Regent Office. I was there too facing the BKD Office,” Pakage told Jubi by phone on Wednesday, (11/9/2019).
Furthermore, he said the mob threw stones to the soldiers, and they responded it with tear gas shots. However, when they found out a soldier killed, they threw bullets against the crowd. “I told the Crime and Investigation Department Chief of Paniai Police to hold. It happened when they (security force) knew a soldier died. They shot their guns to the people,” he said.
Then, the Military District Commandant immediately came out of his office located across the street in front of the Regent Office. “He shouted ‘my soldier is dead. Where’s the Regent? He must be responsible for this. The soldiers took their gun out. Brimob personnel were also there,” he said.
Pakage was alone at the scene, while the regent, deputy regent, local parliament members and all government officials already left their office. The police step on the body of the dead victim lying under the flagpole at the office’s front yard.
“I shouted at them to stop.” While he was confused about how to stop it, he also could not do anything because he was alone and under gun threat.
“I saw people died lying under the flagpole. It’s just me. I was alone. When the soldiers found out that people taken away their guns, they prevented me from being a mediator. They even pointed their guns against me and said ‘you want to back up or not? If not, you’ll be responsible for this’. After that, I backed up. But I still told them not be overwhelming,” he said.
Furthermore, according to Pakage, he moved to a kiosk opposite the Regent Office to join some police officers of Mee origin. It was only 17:12 but already so quiet, and nobody dared to pass. He then saw the ambulance from Deiyai Public Hospital going to the scene.
“I saw the ambulance coming from Deiyai Public Hospital to collect West Papuans who injured and fell because of the shooting. But the police came to block the car, pulled out the victims and took the ambulance’s key. They put their injured friends (soldiers), sent both driver and medical workers home. Then ambulance went to Paniai and left the injured West Papuans,” he said.
It was getting late, so he hurried to go home. He reminded himself that he must keep safe from the danger. Of returning home, he observed that Waghete became so quiet. Only found the security forces standing along the street from the Regent Office to Waghete II until the airport compound.
On the next day, Thursday (29/8/2019), he returned to the scene to check whether the dead bodies are still there or taken to the hospital.
“I only saw the soldiers standing along the street. I didn’t meet any residents. First of all, I checked the Deiyai Public Hospital, but the gate was locked and no activities there. I came inside knocking the door but no one there. So, I went to the scene to check whether the victims are still there or not. So I parked my vehicle at the entrance of the Regent’s office. Suddenly, the joint security force came investigating me with anger.
“They asked, ‘where are our guns?’ I told them I am also a part of this country. Those weapons are the state’s tools; I try to find those losing guns. However, the victims were not there anymore. So I went to Damabagata, Tigi Timur sub-district because I heard from someone that they keep the weapons there. At that time, the Military District Commandant was well-equipped guarding at the intersection of Waghete, Dogiyai and Paniai,” he said.
He continued the story by saying that the Paniai Police then asked him to come to their office as a witness. “At that time, the police acted without thinking. It was a big mistake. They examined me as a witness at the regency police station,” he said.
Meanwhile, Father Santon Tekege Pr said the investigation of the Secretariat of Peace and Justice (SKP) of Paniai Dean – Timika Diocese concludes that a car accident involving a soldier that caused the death of Yustinus Takimai triggered this shooting incident.
“As a result of the gunfire and tear gas shots, seven civilians were dead, while 43 people injured with both minor and serious injuries,” said Father Santon. (*)
Reporter: Abeth You
Editor: Pipit Maizier
JDP: Government must arrange the customary-based dialogue in Papua
Jayapura, Jubi – A dialogue on Papua should represent the people of Papua, Father Jhon Bunay Pr, the Coordinator for Papua Peace Networks (JDP), told reporters in a press conference held in Jayapura on 7 September 2019.
“The dialogue should conduct in seven Papuan territories, namely Mamta, Anim Ha, Lapago, Meepago, Saireri, Domberai and Bomberai and involve each representative of the central government, military and police, liberation army, Papuans living in Papua, Papuans domicile outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, investors and mass media,” he said.
Furthermore, he emphasises that the involvement of indigenous representatives in the dialogue is crucial. He hopes the government does not initiate the discussion with Papuans from outside of Papua because it could make problems difficult to solve.
“We are the same. We are brothers, no suspicion. There shouldn’t be the police or military’s spies or those who have no concern come in this dialogue. It’s important to ensure that everyone is free to express their feeling and thought, and we’ll find a solution together,” he said.
He also reminds the government to not organising the dialogue in the form of a seminar. It would not work in terms of producing a satisfactory result for everyone. “We will never find a real solution (through seminar); the result is null. Instead, we must invite local peoples to speak,” he said.
Moreover, he says the dialogue between Jakarta and Papua would never happen due to the high suspicions amongst stakeholders. “Perhaps we are too suspicious of each other. Talking about Papua’s issues should not be done with another approach, because the dialogue is the best approach,” he said.
Therefore, he said the relevant stakeholders must sit together to recover painful and bitter memories during the long conflict that occurred in Papua, including to put suspicious away.
“We must do reconciliation in the seven Papuan territories with involving all relevant stakeholders in Papua. Meanwhile, other components such as military and police, liberation army, Papuans from inside and outside of Papua, other residents of Papua, and mass media must attend (and involved in the process of) in the reconciliation,” he said.
Therefore, the process of reconciliation will turn out to be a transformation point for Papua to plan the best future for Papua. He also reminds that instead of discussing Papua in or inside Indonesia, it is more important to talk about the indigenous rights in Papua, and the welfare of all indigenous Papuans.
“I believe that the dialogue will solve all the problems from the past. Using guns, arresting and putting people in jail would not solve the problem. Instead, it makes it worse,” he says.
Meanwhile, JDP Deputy Daniel Randongkir said authorities must prioritise the principles of human rights and justice. “Once again, for JDP, the dialogue is the only way to solve the problem in Papua with rights and pure. Therefore it can be solved on behalf of justice and dignity,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
ULMWP: Military and mass organisation in Surabaya are responsible for demonstration waves in Papua
Jayapura, Jubi – Buchtar Tabuni, the Chairman of Legislative Committee of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), declined that ULMWP was behind the mass protests and rampages in Papua. Instead, he accused the Indonesian military, and local mob committed in persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya are responsible for these incidents.
“Those who should be responsible for these protests and rampages in Papua are soldiers, police officers, municipal police officers and the local mob in Surabaya. Those who attacked Papuan students and called them ‘monkeys’ have triggered demonstrations occurred in Papua,” he told Jubi on Sunday (8/9/2019) in Waena, Jayapura.
He further said that for the couple last weeks, the Indonesian Government has attempted to build a discourse to put the ULMWP as the actor behind the anti-racism movements in Papua. “The Indonesian government is panic, terrifying in addressing the issue of free Papua that currently becomes a headline in the rest of the world thanks to the South Pacific countries,” he said.
He also said the way military and police in addressing the outrage speared amongst Papuans is not right. Instead of acting promptly, the government denied the persecution and racism against Papuan students in Surabaya. They even deployed more soldiers to Papua. “ULMWP considers the current situation is similar to what had happened in Timor Lester ahead to their independence,” he said.
Moreover, Tabuni stated the struggle for a referendum is open for everyone in Papua, including the migrants. He said the migrants have two options to response the growing demand of referendum amongst Papuans. “First, if they want to stay, they must declare their support to referendum for West Papua, just like indigenous Papuans did. Second, if they want to return to their hometowns, they must go nicely, like Papuans student currently did,” he said.
Separately, Victor Yeimo, the Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), said Papuan people are not ‘animals’. They are not easy to provoke by the ULMWP, KNPB, Veronika Koman or Benny Wenda. People go to the street because they want to fight against colonialism.
“The Indonesian Government still perceive Papuans as sub-human (half-animal) who easy to provoke. Up to now they always blame on particular organisations or certain people as the actors. Just asks Papuans whether they go to the street because of being provoked by KNPB? Veronica Koman? Benny Wenda? The answer is not,” he said. (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
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