1 Apr 2016

West Papuans object to Indonesian envoy idea

6:18 pm on 1 April 2016

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has objected to a move by Indonesia to commission an envoy to the Pacific on behalf of its Melanesian population.

Indonesia's Co-ordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said he would propose assigning a Foreign Ministry official to engage with Pacific neighbours and advance Indonesia's commitment to resolving complicated issues surrounding Papua.

Minister Pandjaitan made the call this week on his Pacific regional tour which included visits to Fiji, New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea.

His tour was described by Indonesian officials as a bid to suppress regional support for the Liberation Movement which was recently granted observer status at the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Advancing Papuan interests

Explaining the need for an envoy, Pandjaitan said it was crucial that Jakarta start to "aggressively" inform the international community on its many undertakings in Papua.

However, the Liberation Movement's ambassador for Oceania and the Pacific Islands region, Amatus Douw, pointed out that he already serves the role as envoy for Papuan interests in the Pacific.

The Australia-based diplomat warned that Indonesia's envoy plan was about expanding its colonialist agenda and nothing to do with representing the interests of Papuans.

The secretary-general of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Octo Mote (centre) and the Movement's Pacific regional ambassador Akaboo Amatus Douw to his right, talk to New Zealand MPs, Wellington 2015.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua's Pacific ambassador Amatus Douw (third from left) and secretary-general Octo Mote (second from right) talk to New Zealand MPs. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The Liberation Movement was established in 2014 by a unification process involving all the major West Papuan political representative groups.

Its admission into the MSG fold was an acknowledgement by the MSG full members (PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia's indigenous Kanak movement) of West Papuan rights to regional representation.

Mr Douw said Indonesia should not interfere with the representations of Papuan interests in Melanesia and the wider Pacific region.

"We never interfere over Asian affairs in your region," said Mr Douw. "Indonesia is not real Pacific or Melanesian states."

Indonesia opens wallet

Indonesia, which claims to have eleven million Melanesians across five provinces, was also granted associate status at the MSG last year.

Since then, Jakarta has shifted into diplomatic overdrive in the Pacific to subdue support for the Liberation movement, particularly where governments of independent Melanesian states are concerned.

According to Mr Pandjaitan, the Joko Widodo-led government is supporting Papua on a number of fronts, starting with increased regional funds, a renewed focus on health and education initiatives, the promise to resolve past human rights abuses and plans for more infrastructure and logistics projects.

While in Suva this week, Minister Pandjaitan handed a cheque for five million US dollars to Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama ostensibly for assistance in rehabilitation efforts following the devastation caused in the island nation in February by Cyclone Winston.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama receives a 5 million US dollar cheque from Indonesia's Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama receives a 5 million US dollar cheque from Indonesia's Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan. Photo: Fiji Sun

However the Fiji-based Pacific Conference of Churches warned that donors and foreign governments must not attach conditions to relief efforts, amidst concern that Indonesia is using financial inducements to ensure silence among other governments regarding Papua.

PCC General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, said Minister Padjaitan had been "extremely vocal against groups seeking self-determination in Papua" and had publicly called for West Papuan activists to be removed from the country.

This comes after signs as early as 2014 that Fiji authorities were doing the bidding of Indonesia on the West Papua question.

"By accepting conditional aid," Reverend Pihaatae said, "regional governments do their people a great disservice."

This sentiment was echoed by Amatus Douw who said that the support for West Papuan rights and self-determination efforts was very strong in Fiji.

"I strongly oppose Indonesia's use of natural disaster momentum to promote (its) political stand on West Papua's Independence movement in the Pacific region," he said.

"If Indonesia really provide humanitarian aid, you must do with your good and pure heart without any dirty political motivation."