ULMWP accuses Indonesian govt of ‘hypocrisy’ over Israel condemnation

Miss Samoa Moemoana Schwenke
Miss Samoa Moemoana Schwenke . . . caused a stir when she raised the West Papuan flag of independence Morning Star - banned by Indonesia - at the FestPAC 2024 at the University of Hawai'i last week. Image: @BennyWenda

By Caleb Fotheringham, RNZ Pacific journalist

West Papuan pro-independence supporters are calling Indonesia’s condemnation of Israel hypocritical considering its occupation of Papua for 61 years.

The Indonesian government, through the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President, has condemned the Israeli government’s handling of the conflict in Gaza.

In a statement, a United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) spokesperson said: “Indonesia’s stance on the international stage contrasts with its actions in Papua”.

“Indonesia mediates conflicts in several Asian countries but lacks a roadmap for resolving the conflict in Papua.”

The group is calling for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to immediately form a fact-finding mission to investigate alleged human rights violations. They have also asked for a review of Indonesia’s UN membership.

In November last year, the Pacific Islands Forum appointed the Fiji and Papua New Guinea prime ministers as special envoys to Indonesia to “address the West Papua issue“.

The ULMWP are asking for Indonesia to let the two leaders visit Papua.

Hard to compare with Gaza
Human Rights Watch researcher in Indonesia Andreas Harsono said the situation in West Papua was hard to compare to Gaza.

“Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank, of course, is recognised by more than 130 countries, members of the United Nations. Meanwhile, West Papua is being discussed mostly among seven or maybe 10 other countries, so this is difficult to compare.”

He said Indonesia — the most populous Muslim majority country — had religion in common with Palestine.

But Harsono said West Papua did need more international attention and there was little understanding of the conflict inside Indonesia because of propaganda.

ULMWP executive secretary Markus Haluk reiterated calls for a UN fact-finding mission.

“We want the UN to send their fact-finding mission to West Papua to witness and to prove that there is a slow-motion genocide, ethnocide and ecocide happening in West Papua,” Haluk said, speaking to RNZ Pacific through a translator.

It is an ongoing plea for the United Nations to visit. In 2019, the Indonesian government agreed in principle to a visit by the Human Rights Commissioner but that promise has not been fulfilled.

Haluk said the “big brothers” in the region — referring to New Zealand and Australia — could bring up the UN fact-finding mission when the nation’s leaders meet with their Indonesian counterparts.

“There has been several visits by the leaders but it seems like the issue of West Papua is not as important as the other issues such as trade,” he said.

‘Refusing to take responsibility’
Former New Zealand Greens MP Catherine Delahunty said she felt frustrated that West Papua had not got the attention it should, especially considering it was in “our own backyard”.

Nearly all foreign media has been banned from entering West Papua.

“Anyone that criticises the regime has great difficulty getting into that country to report and local journalists are subjected to sustained threats and so we’re in a very unhealthy situation in terms of public understanding of just how drastic the situation is,” she said.

Delahunty said Indonesia had been intimidating smaller nations, while larger ones like New Zealand and Australia were “refusing to act”.

“They are refusing to take responsibility for their own part in allowing this to continue.”

She said New Zealand and Australia could create consequences for Indonesia if it continued to not allow the fact-finding mission, by doing things like stopping military exchanges.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said New Zealand “follows human rights developments closely, and takes all allegations of human rights violations seriously”.

“New Zealand continues to register concerns about the human rights situation in Papua via appropriate fora. New Zealand encourages Indonesia to promote and protect the rights of all its citizens, and to be transparent in policy relating to Papua.

“New Zealand recognises Indonesia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including in Papua.”

In a statement to RNZ Pacific, the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington said the government of Indonesia was committed to accelerate the development of all provinces, “including our brothers and sisters in Papua”, to lead and enjoy a prosperous way of life.

“Papua is highly respected as an honourable region and will continue to be maintained as such,” it said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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