‘Take action’ over West Papua plea to Pacific Forum leaders


Alistar Kata’s video report on the campaign for a fact-finding mission to West Papua produced before the 2015 Pacific Islands Forum. Video: Pacific Media Centre

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

West Papua Action Auckland has appealed to Pacific Island Forum leaders to take action over West Papuan self-determination in an open letter in advance of next week’s summit in Apia, Samoa.

The group has also sent individual letters to each leader.

“We are pleased that West Papua is on the agenda at this year’s Forum meeting on September 4-8 and we are calling on the leaders to take decisive action to help resolve the region’s most serious human rights crisis,” the group’s spokesperson Maire Leadbeater told Asia Pacific Report.

West Papua Action Auckland has urged the leaders to do more than just express concern, as has happened in the past.

“They should follow the lead of the seven Pacific nations which have raised the issue at the UN General Assembly and at the UN Human Rights Council,” she said.

“Vanuatu, Nauru, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Palau have called for the UN to take account of the evidence of widespread human rights violations and conduct a systematic investigation with recommendations for actions.

“We note that the Forum has granted observer status and even full membership to other Pacific nations which are yet to achieve independence.

“In the 1980s the Forum was instrumental in having New Caledonia re-inscribed with the UN Committee on Decolonisation.

“But the Forum has turned away from addressing self-determination for West Papua, despite the fact that the people of West Papua were denied any say in the matter when Indonesia took over the territory in the 1960s.

“The Forum should grant observer or associate status to the representatives of the West Papuan people, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). This would put the Forum in a strong position to mediate dialogue between the ULMWP and Jakarta.”

Decisive action needed
The open letter to the Forum leaders:

West Papua Action Auckland
PO Box 68419
New Zealand

28 August 2017

Decisive Action needed on West Papua from the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Meeting

Dear Pacific Island Forum leaders,

We are pleased to note that the issue of West Papua is on the agenda for the 48th Pacific Island Forum being held this year in Apia, Samoa.

The suffering of the indigenous people of West Papua is the most serious human rights crisis in the Pacific region, and Pacific leaders can no longer side-step their responsibilities to their Melanesian neighbours. This year the Forum should resolve on decisive action to support the rights of the people of West Papua, recalling that they have been subject to grave human rights violations ever since 1963 when West Papua first came under Indonesian rule. The Forum leaders must also take into account the right of the Papuan people to self-determination as it has been well-established that the so-called “Act of Free Choice” of 1969 was a fraudulent exercise carried out under extreme duress.

The Indonesian security forces in West Papua have been responsible for extensive use of torture and killings, but still operate with almost total impunity. For example, there has been no justice for the well-publicised massacre of four schoolboys at the end of 2014. At the beginning of this month Brimob paramilitary police opened live fire on demonstrators in Deiyai, killing one man and injuring many others. The villagers were protesting against the actions of a local construction firm which had refused to help transport a dying person to hospital. In the weeks that have followed a police chief has been transferred but the perpetrators have not been brought to justice. Instead many young people demonstrating against this police abuse in West Papua and a number of cities in Indonesia have been illegally arrested.

International human rights groups repeatedly condemn the unlawful restrictions on the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in West Papua. It is outrageous that those who simply want to take part in peaceful protest or express their political aspirations are unable to do so without risking arrest, beatings and worse at the hands of the security forces. Mass detentions following demonstrations have been frequent in 2016 and 2017.

It must also be noted that the proportion of indigenous Papuan people as a percentage of the total population continues to decline as a result of migration from other parts of Indonesia. This inward migration poses a threat to the well-being of the people who live in areas targeted for exploitation of minerals and forests, or for the expansion of palm oil and other lucrative agri-business projects.

West Papua is effectively off limits to international journalists, with the possible exception of tourism writers. Access is also denied to most humanitarian and human rights workers.

At the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders Summit in Honiara, July 2015, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was granted Observer status in the MSG. Since this time political, church and community leaders in the Pacific have been speaking out for West Papua as never before. However, this up-swell of concern has yet to translate into any action on the part of the Pacific Island Forum.

Role of the Pacific Island Forum
Although historically, geographically and culturally there is no doubt that West Papua belongs to the Pacific Community, the Pacific Island Forum has so far made only tentative and token statements about the situation there. This has led some Pacific nations to take the issue up on their own initiative at the United Nations General Assembly and at the UN Human Rights Council.

Earlier this year in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, the Vanuatu Minister of Justice Ronald Warsal spoke for his own country and for six other Pacific nations (Nauru, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Palau). As a response to the extensive authoritative documentation of state violence against Papuans he called for the UN Human Rights Council to request the High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a consolidated report on the actual situation in West Papua.

The time has come for PIF to take substantive action. Specifically, we urge the leaders of the 48th PIF summit to:

· Establish a regional Fact Finding Team to conduct a Human Rights Assessment in West Papua

· Support, the seven Pacific Nation call led by Vanuatu at the Human Rights Council for the UN to investigate and report on the alleged human rights abuses in West Papua.

· Call for the re-inscription of West Papua with the UN Committee on Decolonisation, (the Committee of 24).

· Support observer or associate membership at the Pacific Island Forum for the ULMWP.

We thank you in advance for acknowledging the rights and aspirations of the people of West Papua as a priority issue.

Yours sincerely,
Maire Leadbeater (for West Papua Action Auckland)

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