Pacific Media Watch

11 May 2015

WEST PAPUA: Plea for Melanesian solidarity to resist Indonesian pressure

Hero image
President Joko Widodo shakes hands with freed Papuan political prisoner Kimanus Wenda (second from left), while four others, Jefrai Murib (from left), Apotnalogolik Lokobal, Numbungga Telenggen and Linus Hiluka look on during a ceremony in Abepura prison in Jayapura. Image: Romeo Gacad/AFP

JAYAPURA (United Liberation Movement of West Papua/Pacific Media Watch): Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s visit to Papua New Guinea this weekend represents Jakarta’s latest heavy-handed attempt to pressure members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) into not supporting West Papua’s application for membership.

The diplomatic importance of the meeting cannot be overstated with a critical MSG meeting upcoming on May 21.

At that meeting foreign ministers from member states are due to discuss West Papua’s membership request submitted by the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) on February 5, 2015. However, the 20th MSG Leaders’ Meeting in July is the only body charged with being able to make a final decision on any membership application.

The ULMWP anticipates that Indonesian President Widodo is travelling to Port Moresby to try and drive a wedge between Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and fellow members of the MSG.

Indonesia, which is an observer member of the MSG, is opposed to West Papuan membership of the sub-regional organisation. 

In February, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji in another attempt to suppress support for West Papua.

In advance of President Widodo’s visit to Papua New Guinea, ULMWP spokesman Benny Wenda said:

“From one Melanesian to another, I thank Prime Minister O’Neill for his recent expression of support for the West Papuan people and to speak out on our behalf.  Papua New Guinea has always been our big brother in Melanesia and across the Pacific.”

Prisoners freed
President Widodo’s trip comes hot on the heels of his visit to West Papua last week, which involved deployment of more than 6000 security personnel.

In Jayapura on Saturday, President Widodo told reporters that the government would lift decades-old reporting restrictions for foreign journalists in West Papua and a group of political prisoners would be released.

The ULMWP has made a statement urging Prime Minister O’Neill to stress to President Widodo that the human rights situation in West Papua remains grave.

Hundreds were arrested during peaceful demonstrations on May 1 in West Papua illustrating that the systematic clampdown on freedom of expression remains.

The ULMWP particularly stresses the need for justice for the murder of four unarmed schoolboys and two men in Nabire in December 2014, who were gunned down reportedly by soldiers from 753 Battalion Arga Vira Tama (AVT) Nabire.

Despite compelling evidence, an investigation by the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights has failed to identify the perpetrators.

Commenting on the atrocity, Wenda said:

“President Widodo of Indonesia has still not fulfilled his promise made during his December visit to West Papua to bring to justice the Nabire killers. His lack of action undermines his latest visit to West Papua. While the killers go free and he surrounds himself with a heavy military presence during his visit, we Papuans are still mourning the Nabire victims.”

The ULMWP will remind all MSG member countries that West Papua has fulfilled its obligations to provide a united voice for West Papua by forming the umbrella coordinating body of the ULMWP in December 2014. The ULMWP supports and reaffirms the MSG Leaders' Communique of 2013 which,

“endorsed that the MSG fully supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided for under the preamble of the MSG constitution.”  

Five West Papuans free, media curbs eased

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Pacific Media Watch

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