Solomons PM supports engagement with Indonesia on West Papua
Solomon Islands Prime Minister looks to work with Indonesia as Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders explore solutions to the issue of West Papua.
The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands says the issue of West Papua can only be addressed through engagement with Indonesia.
Gordon Darcy Lilo and other leaders in the Melanesian Spearhead Group are currently considering a bid for membership by the indigenous Melanesians of Indonesia's eastern region.
Johnny Blades asked Mr Lilo what he believes needs to be done to address the long simmering discontent among West Papuans with being part of Indonesia.
GORDON DARCY LILO: The legitimacy of Indonesia over West Papua cannot be questioned. That is an unquestionable issue.
JOHNNY BLADES: But the Act of Free Choice is questionable?
GDL: Well, it was... but what we need to do right now is not to jump the process, but work within the process and work within a legitimate system to determine Whether or not there is a need for self-determination given the special and unique situation that can be justified in these cases. I think that is what is more important. Now you are putting to me the question of the Act of Free Choice, that is like jumping something over an issue that should have been properly assessed along the path of human rights for instance. But if you really go back to the foundation of where the choice has to be made by both parties, they've done that. And it was done under the auspices of the United Nations. We need to respect that process.
We need to work within that legitimate authority that they've made a decision on and make a point where we can find a way for that legitimate authority to make a decision whether or not the choice of autonomy or the choice of an independent autonomy will be the path that both parties will agree to put an agenda on to work towards into the future. That's where Solomon Islands is coming from. I really wanted to find that there is a path that is more responsible for us to get ourselves to be engaged in making a case for our Melanesian brothers in West Papua to be recognised by Indonesia. And that's what I have done. I have called for the halting of the human rights abuse that is happening there. Indonesia has respected that. I've also asked them to see whether or not the issue of governance of West Papua is an issue that needs to be put on the spotlight within Indonesia so it becomes an issue for the international community to see whether or not there is a case that we can list under the United Nations decolonisation list. And we will do that, as we did for French Polynesia.
JB: So do you think West Papuans, as a Melanesian people, should be in the Melanesian Spearhead Group as a member?
GDL: Well, Indonesia is now an observer in the MSG and quite rightly. If you look at the whole Melanesian population of Indonesia, it exceeds the whole population of Melanesia or the MSG members right now. So if you see it from that kind of angle, draw your own conclusion. What I am saying is: Indonesia is now an observer, and we should use that. Everybody has always spoken about the dynamics that diplomacy can bring about to potentially issues that can give rise to regional and global insecurity. This particular case, there's an opening there. And we believe that we can work within such an opening to be able to bring the situation of our Melanesians in West Papua to be managed properly and make a choice: what is it that the Melanesians of Indonesia are wanting to do?
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