Rights abuses shade Indonesia's Pacific move
Indonesia's government has been increasing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with Pacific Island countries as it seeks to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. However, as Johnny Blades reports concern is only growing about rampant rights abuses continuing in Indonesia's restricted Papua region.
Indonesia's government has been increasing efforts to strengthen diplomatic ties with Pacific Island countries.
Jakarta's move comes in the face of ongoing Pacific concern about human rights abuses in Indonesia's region of West Papua where a separatist conflict has simmered for decades.
Johnny Blades reports
Indonesia is seeking full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
This regional grouping of states - Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia's Kanak movement - has a special interest in assisting self determination for all Melanesians.
Jakarta's efforts to join the fray have gone into overdrive since the United Liberation Movement for West Papua was granted MSG observer status last year.
Last week Indonesia's Political and Security minister Luhut Pandjaitan visited Papua New Guinea and Fiji where he said support was secured for full MSG membership.
PNG's foreign minister Rimbink Pato says his country's position has always been that West Papua is an integral part of Indonesia.
RIMBINK PATO: So we're not interested in entertaining the issue of self-determination, because that's never an issue for us... The issue of human rights in West Papua is a matter in respect of which the Pacific Island leaders Forum here in Port Moresby passed a resolution.
The Forum leaders' resolution to approach Jakarta about a human righs fact-finding mission to Papua has made little impression on Jakarta.
Minister Luhut has warned Pacific states not to meddle in Indonesia's affairs.
The Liberation movement's exiled spokesman Benny Wenda is suspicious of Indonesia's claims to be part of the Melanesian family.
He points out that in recent days West Papuans were arrested in Timika for showing support for Melanesian solidarity at a prayer event .
BENNY WENDA: There was 13 people arrested just for flying the Melanesian flags like Papua New Guinea, Solomon flag and Kanaky flag were raised with the banner for full membership campaign [for the Liberation Movement], just a prayer meeting. They were arrested, beating and torture. This is while [Minister] Luhut was campaigning for the joining full membership [for Indonesia] in Melanesia. And then back home, the killing continue.
Minister Luhut said Jakarta aimed to convey accurate information about its efforts in Papua region, includng what its doing in the field of human rights.
However the information about Papua coming from Haris Azhar, the co-ordinator of Indonesia's leading human rights body, KONTRAS, is grim.
HARIS AZHAR: I checked the data in my office. It showed the number last year of more than 1,200 people suffer from harassment, killings, torture and ill-treatment. We haven't put the other issues into this number - the economic and social rights issues.
A Liberation Movement member, Markus Haluk, says that in Papua itself, grassroots support for the Liberation Movement was huge.
MARKUS HALUK: The people are really supportive because our people, from the beginning, they're fighting for justice and freedom and they're more safer with the Melanesian and pacific family than Indonesia. with Indonesia, over fifty years, five hundred thousand men, women have been killed until today.
MSG leaders are due to meet for their annual summit next month in Port Vila.
It remains to be seen whether the full membership of the group will support Indonesia's bid.
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