2) Papua New
Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill vows to speak out against Melanesian
'oppression' in West Papua
1) Australian human rights lawyer welcomes Papua New Guinea support of West Papuans
A prominent Australian human rights lawyer has welcomed a statement of support for West Papuans by Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill, saying it has "been a long time coming".
Mr O'Neill said he would speak out on behalf of Melanesians in Indonesian West Papua, saying it was "time for PNG to speak about the oppression of our people there".
Jennifer Robinson, a long-time advocate for the independence movement in the Indonesian province, said Mr O'Neill's change of heart on the human rights abuses in the province was a huge development.
"This is a very big turnaround - to go from trying to shut down the raising of the West Papuan flag (in 2013) to speak openly about supporting West Papuan's oppression and the oppression of Melanesians in West Papua," she said.
"This is a really big development and I think it's a testament to the ongoing campaign and a testament to the strength of the movement and the support on the ground within the population of Papua New Guinea."
She said relations with Indonesia had previously meant the government in PNG remained silent on human rights issues in West Papua, despite vocal support from other Melanesian leaders including in Vanuatu.
"As we saw in Vanuatu, there's been vocal criticism by local voters in response to government's failure to raise West Papua within the Melanesian region and I think Papua New Guinea and the prime minister is perhaps starting to feel that democratic pressure as we see the greater penetration of social media and more people talking about this issue," Ms Robinson said.
"It's a very welcome development and one that's been a long time coming."
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), headed by exiled independence activist Benny Wenda, applied for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group earlier this week.
The group consists of the Melanesian countries of Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and a group representing the indigenous Kanak people in New Caledonia.
Ms Robinson said there had been reports Indonesia had set up a task force to investigate membership application.
"I think they'll be very concerned and they ought to be: this shows that Indonesia cannot keep a lid on the West Papuan movement for independence and their claim for self-determination," Ms Robinson said.
"(Indonesian president Joko Widodo) has come into power and promised a change for West Papua but what we're seeing is status quo.
"Melanesian leadership is starting to see that there isn't going to be a change and are standing up. It's time Indonesia actually puts this on the table and starts talking about how to find a dignified response to this problem," she said.
The head of Indonesia's National Commission of Human Rights, Hafid Abbas, said Indonesia did not want to create a diplomatic problem with its neighbour, but said he hoped Indonesia's leaders would ask PNG for clarification on Mr O'Neill's comments.
"PNG is our neighbour, we should... cooperate in all aspects of our development. I hope that president Joko Widodo and vice president (Jusuf) Kalla and foreign minister Retno (Marsudi) will visit Papua New Guinea to make clarification because as a neighbour we have to feel a much stronger confidence to intervene in our internal issue," he said.
He said Indonesia was only a new democracy, having ousted an authoritarian regime just 16 years ago, and said it had a "great commitment to promote human rights".
2) Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill vows to speak out against Melanesian 'oppression' in West Papua
Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill has promised to do more to speak out on behalf of Melanesians in Indonesian West Papua.
"Sometimes we forget our own families, our own brothers, especially those in West Papua," Mr O'Neill said.
"I think, as a country, time has come for us to speak about the oppression of our people there."
Apart from Vanuatu, governments in the Pacific have been slow to speak out on human rights abuses in West Papua, especially after Fiji was instrumental in getting Indonesia admitted as an observer at the Melanesian Spearhead Group of nations.
With the increasing penetration of social media, Pacific voters became more vocal about the failure of their governments to act.
Mr O'Neill has taken note.
"Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on the social media, and yet we take no notice," he said.
"We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded. Again, Papua New Guinea is a regional leader.
"We must take the lead in having mature discussions with our friends in a more solid and engaging manner."
Mr O'Neill made the extraordinary comments during a major speech at the PNG Leader's Summit in Port Moresby, where he outlined his government's core policies for 2015, including free education, improving healthcare and strengthening law and order.
In the past, Port Moresby stuck firmly to its position that West Papua was an integral part of Indonesia.
It has been reluctant to talk about human rights abuses or to speak out on behalf of Melanesian separatists.
Papua bid to join Melanesian Spearhead Group
On Friday, the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULWP) will submit an application for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
Grassroots campaigners are urging their governments to support their Melanesian brothers.
The movement's spokesman, Benny Wenda, said the application marked a significant moment in their fight for independence from Indonesia.
"[For] 50 years, West Papua never had a united voice to achieve our goal for independence," Mr Wenda said.
"But this has changed, we can unite in one group called ULWP."
Mr Wenda said in the 50 years under Indonesian rule, the Papuan people were looked upon by Indonesians as "second-class citizens and treated as sub-humans".
Indonesia will oppose the move, but with the Kanak Liberation Movement from New Caledonia already a full member, there is a precedent.
The MSG leaders are expected to meet to make a decision in the middle of the year.