PNG civil society group wants change on Papua policy

7:45 am on 29 January 2019

Civil society groups in Papua New Guinea are urging the government to speak out about violent conflict in the neighbouring Papua region of Indonesia.

This comes amid a recent escalation of conflict between the West Papua Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces in Papua's Central Highlands.

West Papua Liberation Army at the issuance of a declaration of war against Indonesian security forces.

West Papua Liberation Army at the issuance of a declaration of war against Indonesian security forces. Photo: Supplied

The chairman of PNG's Union For Free West Papua, Kenn Mondiai said Papua New Guineans are deeply concerned about the conflict but their government remains silent.

He said 1986's Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Co-operation with Indonesia restricts PNG from speaking out.

"At the political level government's hands are tied because of that 1986 treaty. But as Papua New Guinean and Melanesian civil society organisations, we Melanesians are sick and tired of the manner in which the Indonesian government and the Indonesian military and the police force, their brutality," Kenn Mondiai said.

Mr Mondiai said civil society wanted PNG's government to change it policy on West Papua to become more proactive in pushing for solutions across the border.

Indonesian security forces have been searching villages in Puncak Jaya for members of the West Papua Liberation Army.

Indonesian security forces have been searching villages in Puncak Jaya for members of the West Papua Liberation Army. Photo: Supplied

He said he was encouraged by PNG involvement in efforts by the Pacific Council of Churches to visit Indonesia, including Papua, to gauge the latest human rights situation.

However, PNG's Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato says his government is working to support the economic development approach that Jakarta is taking in Papua region as the best response to West Papuan issues.

Mr Pato recently said the two countries had been planning and implementing joint projects in their common border areas.

Meanwhile, the PNG Union For Free West Papua is assisting representatives the Liberation Army and Free West Papua Movement (OPM) in preparation for a planned press conference on Thursday in PNG's capital Port Moresby.

Indonesian police have been assisting military in a campaign against independence fighters in West Papua's Puncak Jaya regency.

Indonesian police have been assisting military in a campaign against independence fighters in West Papua's Puncak Jaya regency. Photo: Supplied

The representatives are expected to address the humanitarian crisis in the Central Highlands, and unveil the OPM's plans for proposed negotiations with Indonesia.

Indonesia's Political, Legal and Security Minister Wiranto recently told media that the government would not enter any discussions with the Army, who Jakarta describes as a criminal group.

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