West Papua: Three Pacific Leaders Denounce Indonesia’s Human Rights Abuses
Leaders of Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu have called out Indonesia at the United Nations for human rights abuses in West Papua. The leaders have advocated the recognition of the indigenous people, the investigation of human rights abuses in Indonesian provinces, and the engagement of the UN to find solutions for the struggles of the people of West Papua. Indonesia has rejected the accusations of human rights abuses in the region and their intervention in violation of self-determination of West Papua. Indonesia has further claimed that their initiative represents a hostile act that undermines the country’s territorial integrity for supporting separatist movements, thus violating UN principles. While the country has referred to a UN resolution from 1969, the resolution 2504 that has culminated on the incorporation of the former Dutch New Guinea into Indonesia, the West Papuan independence movement claims that Papuans should have a legitimate self-determination process, as the plebiscite lacks formal approval by the UN and was not based on universal adult suffrage.
Article below originally published by Radio NZ
Vanuatu's prime minister Charlot Salwai, a long time supporter of West Papuan self-determination, told the General Assembly in New York that decolonisation must remain on the UN agenda.
He said the Human Rights Council must investigate human rights abuses in the Indonesian provinces.
The Marshall Islands president, Hilda Heine, told the assembly's 73rd session that the Pacific Islands Forum supported "constructive engagement" with Indonesia on the issue.
Tuvalu's prime minister Enele Sopoaga continued his call for recognition of the indigenous people.
"The United Nations must also engage with the people of West Papua to find lasting solutions to their struggles."
Indonesia rejected what it called attacks on its sovereignty with vice president Muhammad Jusuf Kalla demanding respect for its territorial integrity.
"Indonesia strongly deplores the attempts of one country to support or even worst become part of the separatist movements," Mr Kalla told the Assembly.
"This act of hostility has no place in the UN system. An act which is clearly in violation of UN principles. Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity. Like any other sovereign country, Indonesia will firmly defend its territorial integrity.
Without naming Vanuatu, Mr Kalla said that for far too long Indonesia had "chosen to build friendly relations with this particular country, including in showing our solidarity and sympathy during difficult time".
"But when such hostile acts continue, Indonesia will not remain silent," he said.
Indonesia denies Vanuatu's claims of flagrant abuses against Papuans by the country's military forces.
In its right of reply, Indonesia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dian Triansyah Djani targetted Vanuatu's links with the West Papuan independence movement.
"This country argues that based on these factors injected into their minds by criminal individuals that the two provinces (Papua and West Papua) have to be debated at the United Nations," Mr Djani said.
"We fail to understand the motive behind Vanuatu's intention in supporting a group of people who have striked terror and mayhem in so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities."
He said Vanuatu's accusation of abuses in Papua was unacceptable.
"No country in this world is free from human rights or development challenges. But accusing others of human rights violations when one has so many problems of its own is like the pot calling the kettle black."
In rejecting Vanuatu's push for West Papuan self-determination, Indonesia has referred to a United Nations resolution from 1969.
Resolution 2504 took note of the so-called Act of Free Choice, a controversial referendum which was the culmination of the former Dutch New Guinea's incorporation into Indonesia.
The West Papuan independence movement says that because the plebiscite was not formally approved by the UN, and was not based on universal adult suffrage, Papuans should be granted a legitimate self-determination process.
Vanuatu was not alone in urging the UN to address Papuans' historic grievances.
The Marshall Islands president, Hilda Heine, also told the general assembly's 73rd session that Pacific Islands countries supported "constructive engagement" with Indonesia on the issue.
Photo courtesy of Matt Brown