Wenda hopes to get plight of West Papuan people to PIF ‘beyond rhetoric’

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United Liberation Movement for West Papua president Benny Wenda (centre) with the Morning Star flag of independence and Fiji civil society members
United Liberation Movement for West Papua president Benny Wenda (centre) with the Morning Star flag of independence and members of Fiji's civil society and non-governmental organisations in Suva this week. Image: ULMWP/The Fiji Times

By Felix Chaudhary in Suva

Recognising Indonesia’s sovereignty is one thing.

However, failing to allow West Papuans a seat at regional discussion tables like the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and Melanesian Spearhead Group to address human rights atrocities, torture and killing at the hands of Indonesian security forces is not the Pacific way.

United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) president Benny Wenda gave this view when he spoke to The Fiji Times yesterday.

He also said he wanted to take their 60-year issue to the forefront of the PIF because they were “tired of the rhetoric about recognising the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua” and PIF’s expression of “deep concern about past and recent violence and loss of life” at previous Forum meetings.

He said that with PIF leaders arriving in Fiji for their special retreat over the next two days, he hoped to get the plight of the West Papuan people into mainstream Forum discussions.

“Indonesia cannot continue to use the sovereign state excuse to torture, abuse and kill the West Papuan people,” Wenda said.

“It is a moral obligation for the PIF and Melanesian leaders especially to relook at their foreign policy.

“The PIF and Pacific leaders are quick to look at and speak about Ukraine and other issues but we are right here at their doorstep, we are your brothers and sisters.

“Our focus was lobbying Melanesian leaders so we could engage in talanoa with Indonesia about what has happened and is happening to our people.

“If we are left outside as observers, how can we address this issue?”

At a media conference in Suva on Tuesday, Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and Fijian PM Sitiveni Rabuka said any human rights issues in West Papua must not be overshadowed by the fact that the country remained under the sovereignty of Indonesia.

They said the West Papua issue had resurfaced many times on the margins of PIF meetings and engagements but it must be viewed in the context of Indonesia’s sovereignty.

Felix Chaudhary is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

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