Advocate calls on NZ to push ‘Bougainville solution’ for Indonesia and West Papua

Advocate calls on NZ to push ‘Bougainville solution’ for Indonesia and West Papua

Pacific Scoop, 25 September 2010
Report – By Geoffrey Bell

 

Human rights activist Maire Leadbeater says while there is currently no offer from the New Zealand government to mediate talks between representatives of Indonesia and West Papua, she is confident Wellington could draw on similar diplomacy tools which helped to resolve the 10-year Bougainville civil war.

Papuans protest over human rights and self-determination near Jayapura.

 

Photo: Dancing Turtle Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Zealand needs to follow the “Bougainville solution” and facilitate peaceful dialogue between representatives of Indonesia and West Papua instead of supporting the status quo and ongoing repression of West Papuans, says a spokesperson for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee.

Maire Leadbeater of the IHRC has criticised New Zealand’s diplomatic role in the latest edition of the New Zealand International Review by saying “there are strong reasons to oppose the aid that is given to the most repressive forces in Indonesian society – the police and the military”.

In the review, Leadbeater gives a rundown of New Zealand’s historically “private” and “public” positions with Indonesia, and calls for a new diplomatic approach by the New Zealand government.

“There is still time for New Zealand to make a new beginning and put the aspirations of the Papuan people first, before the need to please Indonesia,” says Leadbeater.

“This is the moment when the Papuan people urgently need international advocates to support their call for a genuine dialogue that can address all the problems in West Papua including the ‘forbidden’ topics of political status and West Papua’s troubled history.”

One of West Papua’s strongest advocates, Vanuatu, recently showed its support for West Papuan independence leading up to the Pacific Islands Forum, but the host country’s message did not eventuate.

Australia West Papua Association spokesperson Joe Collins says Vanuatu “would have come under pressure from Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea not to raise it at the Pacific Islands Forum”.

Clarify position
Vanuatu foreign ministry official Jean Sese did not respond to requests to clarify the country’s position regarding West Papuan independence following the PIF meeting.

Leadbeater says while there is currently no offer from the New Zealand government to mediate talks between representatives of Indonesia and West Papua, she is confident New Zealand could draw on similar diplomatic tools which helped to resolve the 10-year Bougainville civil war.

But this may be a long way off as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, says New Zealand does not support independence in West Papua.

“New Zealand recognises Indonesia’s territorial integrity – language which conveys New Zealand’s acceptance of Indonesia’s sovereignty over all existing territories, including Papua and Papua Barat, consistent with the charter of the United Nations.”

McCully says New Zealand recognises Indonesia’s territorial integrity because of the “enduring interest each country has in the unity, stability, security and prosperity of the other”.

Collins says New Zealand’s position is not surprising as most of the world recognises Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.

“They accept the so called ‘act of free choice’ no matter that it was a farce, says Collins. “Most countries don’t support ‘separatism’ as a lot of countries have their own minorities and would be worried about their minorities breaking away.”

UN Covenant
Bob Corn from the UK-based Aylesbury Group, an arm of Amnesty International, says all governments need to be reminded of Article 1 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which gives an unequivocal statement on self-determination.

Article 1 states:

  1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
  2. All peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law. In no case may a people be deprived of its own means of subsistence.
  3. The States Parties to the present Covenant, including those having responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories, shall promote the realisation of the right of self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.


“The New Zealand Government (as well as the UK, USA et al) seem to have ignored, forgotten or somehow have never taken on board a very direct covenant,” says Corn.

In response to allegations of genocide in West Papua, McCully says New Zealand supports the full implementation of the 2002 Special Autonomy Law on Papua.

“Under the bilateral development assistance programme with Indonesia, New Zealand also plays an active role in addressing the challenges of poverty and conflict in these regions,” says McCully.

Lack of concern
Edmund McWilliams of the US-based West Papua Advocacy Team says: “We need to force our governments to acknowledge that Special Autonomy cannot provide cover for their general lack of concern for what has, and is, transpiring in West Papua.”

McWilliams says the West Papua Advocacy Team has been trying to undermine supporters of Indonesian territorial integrity by uncovering fraud, policies, actions and proof of genocide from government officials.

“Our thinking is that getting all this on record will at some point make the position of unquestioning support for Indonesian territorial integrity unsustainable,” says McWilliams.

Geoffrey Bell is a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.