16 Sep 2016

Forum's ability to dialogue with Jakarta questioned

11:53 am on 16 September 2016

A West Papuan leader has questioned whether the Pacific Islands Forum will hold constructive dialogue with Indonesia about Papua

Forum leaders at their summit in Pohnpei last week resolved that concerns about alleged human rights abuses by Indonesia in Papua should be discussed with Jakarta.

Plenary session of Pacific Islands Forum in the Federated States of Micronesia

Plenary session of Pacific Islands Forum in the Federated States of Micronesia Photo: French Polyenia's Presidency

The summit's outcome on Papua was however largely a disappointment to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua which was seeking membership in the Forum.

It also sought Forum action on pursuing Papua human rights issues and the Papuan self-determination struggle at the United Nations.

The Movement's ambassador for the Pacific Islands region, Amatus Douw, said Forum leaders could do more to push for Papua's reinscription on the UN decolonisation list.

Mr Douw also said he doubted whether the Forum and Jakarta would have meaningful dialogue to help address the serious problems facing West Papuans.

Jayapura port, Papua province, Indonesia.

Jakarta says it is advancing economic development in Papua region to help improve living conditions for West Papuans. Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

He explained that despite Papua being raised at the Forum many times, the organisation had repeatedly proved unable to forge a constructive dialogue with Jakarta.

The comments come as civil society has criticised the Forum for a lack of substantial action on Papua at the latest summit.

The Pohnpei meeting had come off the back of a surge of regional submissions identifying Papua as a priority issue for their leaders to address at the Forum.

Leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2016.

Leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in the Federated States of Micronesia in 2016. Photo: PNG PM media

Mr Douw described the fact that West Papuans were still not members of the Forum as "painful" because they always identify as being Pacific peoples.

But he indicated the Liberation Movement was delighted that the Forum accepted two French Pacific territories New Caledonia and French Polynesia as members.

"This is positive commitment by leaders and it is encouraging us that we still have a hope," he said.

However, the Forum needed to take up the Papua issue as the UN General Assembly, according to Mr Douw.

However, since the Pohnpei summit, Vanuatu's prime minister has indicated that the Forum resolved for those regional governments concerned about Papua to take it up at the UN.

Charlot Salwai said there were at least five Forum member governments supporting the call for West Papuan self-determination.

Mr Salwai said he is going to raise the issue of alleged human rights abuses in West Papua at this month's UN General Assembly in New York.

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