By Gorethy Kenneth in Port Moresby
Indonesia is pressuring Papua New Guinea over an illegal group East Sepik claiming to form an army unit to help West Papuan pro-independence rebels fighting against Indonesian forces across the border.
Calling such armed groups as “terrorists”, Indonesia’s Ambassador to PNG, Andriana Supandy, said his country respected the sovereignty of its neighbour, PNG, and called on the PNG authorities to act over the threat.
A video of a group dressed in military fatigues and brandishing automatic rifles has gone viral on social media, prompting the Indonesian response.
The men in the video, speaking in PNG “tok pisin”, claim to be from East Sepik. They say they stand with the West Papuan rebels and are ready to cross the border to support the West Papuan cause for independence.
Supandy said the Indonesian Embassy had been informed that PNG government officials were in Wewak to investigate the viral video on the social media post.
“The Indonesian government honour[s] the PNG government as a sovereign nation and leave the response to the alleged militants to the relevant authorities in PNG,” Supandy said.
“Both governments have the same understanding about the challenge and opportunity in managing the formal relations through the spirit of friendship and mutual respect.”
Gratitude over safety
Supandy said that despite the video causing uneasiness, the Indonesian Embassy would like to convey its gratitude to the government and the people of PNG for “ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Indonesians” working and living in PNG.
The embassy said the Indonesian government and people were reciprocating the gesture for PNG citizens living in Indonesia.
Supandy said the video of a vigilante group would not affect the strong relations between Indonesia and PNG.
“These armed groups in Papua and West Papua have resorted to acts, methods and practices of terrorism aiming at destruction of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy while also threatening the territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Indonesia,” he claimed.
Right to ‘reliable information’
Supandy said Papua New Guineans had the right to “reliable information” relating to this issue.
He said Indonesia was committed to taking measures aimed at “addressing the root causes” of the situation in Papua and West Papua provinces.
He said in this context, Indonesia advocated humane, prosperous and inclusive development approach, including:
- Respecting the basic rights of the people in Papua and West Papua provinces;
- Establishment of good governance in Papua; and
- Opportunities for Papuans to shape and direct local development strategies and regional policies.
SBS News reporting on the West Papua conflict.