Vanuatu says New Zealand should get on the right side of history and support West Papuan self-determination. However, reports James Halpin of Asia Pacific Journalism, Indonesian diplomacy with its Pacific allies Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are defiantly undermining Pacific “solidarity” on the issue.
Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu has called on New Zealand to get on the right side of history when it comes to West Papua.
Reaffirming President Salwai’s remarks at the UN General Assembly late last month, Regenvanu told Asia Pacific Report that the “people of Vanuatu have never had the opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination, which is an unalienable right under international law, and they must be given that opportunity”.
Independence for Vanuatu was achieved from the co-colonisers France and the United Kingdom in 1980.
West Papua had been a colony of the Dutch New Guinea but was annexed by Indonesia after a paratrooper “invasion” in 1962 followed by a UN-supervised vote in 1969 described by critics as fraudulent.
Asked why Vanuatu has taken the lead in advocating for West Papua, Regenvanu says:
“We take this position because of our historical solidarity with the people of West Papua – we were once together and the struggles as colonies trying to become independent; we achieved ours and we will not forget our brothers-and-sisters-in-arms who have not got theirs.”
For President Salwai and Regenvanu, the recent Pacific Islands Forum was a failure at gaining Pacific support for West Papuan self-determination.
“We are disappointed at the position of Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia to vocally oppose self-determination for West Papua. We are pleased that most other countries support self-determination, however.”
Regenvanu also criticises New Zealand for not following the advice that it gives to Pacific Island countries.
New Zealand should, “actively support with actions on this issue the ‘international rules-based order’ it is always promoting to PICs”.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group, which shares an ethnicity with the people of West Papua, has also failed at achieving solidarity over the issue.
“PNG and Fiji have strong ties to Indonesia and work actively to ensure the MSG does not address the issue.”
End colonialism call
President Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas introduced the issue of West Papua to the UN General Assembly this year.
“For half a century now, the international community has been witnessing a gamut of torture, murder, exploitation, sexual violence, arbitrary detention inflicted on the nationals of West Papua perpetrated by Indonesia.”
“We also call on our counterparts throughout the world to support the legal right of West Papua to self-determination.”
For President Salwai, it is an issue of justice and equality for the people of West Papua,
“I would like to get back to the principles in the charter of the United Nations to reaffirm that we believe in the fundamental rights of human beings in dignity and worth of the human person and in equality of rights between men and women and nations large and small.”
President Salwai has been the flag bearer of West Papuan self-determination. His aim is for West Papua to be placed back onto the decolonisation list under the UN charter.
However, President Salwai was supported by two other Pacific leaders, Marshall Islands’ President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, and Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu.
Sopoaga said: “The United Nations must also engage with the people of West Papua to find lasting solutions to their struggles.”
President Heine staid that Pacific Island countries supported constructive engagement on the issue.
At the 2016 UN General Assembly, seven countries stated their supported for West Papuan self-determination. These were: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Palau.
Decolonisation has become an important part of foreign relations in the Pacific with the New Caledonian independence vote on November 4.
After hundreds of years of European colonisation, the UN has provided a platform for and facilitated the self-determination of indigenous peoples across the world.
The Indonesian delegation denounced Vanuatu at the UN General Assembly just days ago. The Indonesia delegation used the entirety of their second right of reply in the general debate to deplore Vanuatu’s support for West Papuan self-determination.
“Although being disguised with flowery human rights concern, Vanuatu’s sole intention and action are directly challenging the internationally agreed principles of friendly relations between state, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” UN General Assembly Vice-President Muhammad Kalla said on behalf of his country.
He said: “Like any other country, Indonesia will firmly defend its territorial integrity.”
The Indonesian representative, Aloysius Taborat, said: “respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity is the cardinal rule in the relation among nations and in the United Nations”.
However, critics say Indonesia’s handling of West Papua’s vote in the 1969Act of Free Choice “was rigged” so that West Papua would vote to join Indonesia. Therefore, many see hypocrisy in Indonesia’s words, including in their reputation over press freedom.
Human rights abuses are a common occurrence in West Papua, according to human rights organisations. Simply raising the West Papuan flag can result in 15-years imprisonment.(*)
James Halpin is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies course at AUT. He is filing articles in the Asia-Pacific Journalism Studies paper.
West Papuans given jail time for rebellion
Papua, Jubi – Two West Papuans have been sentenced to more than a year in an Indonesian prison over a rebellion.
The jail terms come as several cases are being levelled against West Papuan activists and rebels in the restive region.
Yakonias Womsiwor and Erichzon Mandobar were detained in September when authorities raided the office of a Papuan independence group.
According to their lawyer, on Tuesday a judge in the Timika district court sentenced Mr Womsiwor to one year and six months jail.
His co-defendant got one year and three months in prison.
Both were sentenced under a criminal law for coercion and rebellion.
Lawyer Veronica Koman says she’s considering an appeal of the judgement.
During their arrests in Timika, the defendants were shot several times and denied medical attention until rights groups brought attention to their case.
Mr Womsiwor was shot six times in total, while Mr Mandobar was shot once, according to Amnesty International and Ms Koman.
“They were shot without warning as the law required,” Ms Koman said, adding that they were later allowed to be treated by their families.
Their arrests were part of a raid on the Timika secretariat of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), which was later seized by police.
Earlier in the trial, police and prosecutors had claimed the men were found with ammunition and guns, which the defendants denied was theirs, according to Ms Koman.
She said during the trial two police officers, including a deputy police chief, called as witnesses testified that military personnel had placed the ammunition and guns at the KNPB offices.
Ms Koman added that the sentencing on Monday did not give proper consideration to statements made by the defence.
The sentences come just days after a Polish tourist was jailed for five years for plotting to sell arms to West Papuan rebels. (*)
Indonesia loses Pacific asset in Franzalbert Joku
Papua, Jubi – Indonesia has lost a significant asset from in its Pacific diplomacy efforts with the recent passing of the West Papuan, Franzalbert Joku.
The prominent Sentani landowner was the international spokesman for the Papua Presidium Council which galvanised momentum in the independence struggle at the turn of the century.
But in his last decade, Mr Joku strongly advocated autonomy for Papua within Indonesia rather than independence. He often represented Indonesia at regional meetings of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum.
Mr Joku, who died at the age of 66 late last month in Jayapura, had fled from Indonesian rule in his homeland as a youth with his family in the early 1970s. For around three decades he lived in various parts of Papua New Guinea where Mr Joku worked as a journalist and a PNG government advisor who developed extensive links in the Pacific.
An expert in Indonesian history and politics, Richard Chauvel of the University of Melbourne, says Mr Joku’s career in PNG was significant.
“His great utility both in the early 2000s (for the Papua Presidium) and post 2007/8 for the Indonesian government has been his intimate knowledge of Papua New Guinea politics, through his role as a journalist and then as a political advisor or spokesman for (former PNG PM) Julius Chan and other senior PNG politicians,” Dr Chauvel said.
“I think it’s that knowledge of local PNG politics, and through networks into the Pacific, that made him such a formidable figure, both initially for the Presidium, in the lobbying of the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum, and then subsequently for doing much the same thing, utilising the same skills and knowledge for the Indonesian government,” he explained.
As an effective envoy for Jakarta, Mr Joku had a forthright approach to his diplomacy, as evidenced last year by his instrumental role in pressing the Solomon Islands government to mollify its support for West Papuan self-determination aspirations:
Occupying both extremes of the Papuan political spectrum over time made Franzalbert Joku a polarising figure in the eyes of West Papuans.
“The way he executed those positions was remarkably the same – with great commitment, very articulate, he was obviously a bright guy… you could never accuse him of being nuanced,” Dr Chauvel said.
Dr Chauvel first met Franzalbert Joku when he was lobbying for the Presidium, the organisation which energised the independence struggle as democatic space opened up briefly in post-Suharto Indonesia around the time of the Papua People’s Congress in 2000 in Jayapura.
“He was just as vigorous and forthright in his advocacy of that position as he later became from 2007/8 onwards when he’d clearly joined the other side,” he said.
Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry has a number of officials who have led delegations to MSG and Pacific Forum meetings over the past decade.
“They have acquired some of that background knowledge, but I don’t think that they can speak to their counterparts in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and PNG from the same position as Franzalbert could, as a Pacific Islander,” Dr Chauvel said. (*)
Polish man charged over links to Papua arms deal to appear in court
Papua, Jubi – The trial of a Polish man charged with treason for allegedly supplying arms to Papuan rebel fighters continues today.
Indonesian prosecutors have demanded 10 years’ jail for Jakub Skrzypski, who was arrested in August last year.
According to his lawyer Jakub Skyrzypski was a tourist who wanted to see the culture, customs and history of Papua.
Instead, he was detained and charged on suspicion of arranging an arms deal with the West Papua Liberation Army, a rebel group which is waging war on state forces.
Mr Skrzypski’s lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar told the Wamena city court on Wednesday he hasn’t committed a crime by meeting with the armed group, according to a copy of her plea.
The public prosecutor, who has called on ten witnesses in the trial, will respond in court on Thursday.
Judges will deliver a verdict after final responses from both sides on Monday.
Mr Skrzypski is being charged alongside his co-defendant, West Papuan student Simon Carlos Magal, who was arrested in September. (*)
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