Indonesian diplomatic overtures to the Pacific Islands region over West Papua have taken on a new dimension.
Indonesia's Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has urged Australia to pass on a message to Pacific Island governments to not interfere in Indonesian domestic affairs.
This comes after seven Pacific countries raised concern about human rights abuses in West Papua at the United Nations General Assembly.
Johnny Blades reports.
Indonesia's Defence Minister said he has pressed Canberra to rebuke Pacific states, in particular Solomon Islands, for raising Papua in global forums. He's also warned them not to invite Papuans to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group. The Solomons' Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has been active in pushing for greater regional representation for Papuans. However his government's envoy on West Papua, Rex Horoi, says the Solomons won't respond to what is effectively a media statement.
Due to the fact that we have not received any formal communication (on the matter) either from Jakarta or from Canberra, why should we respond at this stage? Therefore we will not respond until we receive such communication through diplomatic channels.
But he says Pacific countries raise Papua in global fora because West Papuans lives matter.
We speak collectively on abuse and human rights violations in West Papua because we have received reliable sources of information and therefore that is the collective concern of the civil society, public and governments of the region.
Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed having discussed West Papua last week with the Indonesian Defence Minister, but wouldn't be pressed on whether Canberra will pass the warning on. Dr Stewart Firth from the Australian National University's State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program says Jakarta has misinterpreted Australia's relationship with Pacific countries. He says these are sovereign states who value their sovereignty - and that just because Australia may give them aid, it doesn't mean it can determine their foreign policy.
What's worrying the Indonesians is the way in which this whole question of membership in the MSG has assumed a kind of symbolic political value to West Papuan independence activists. And earlier this year we saw major demonstrations in a number of towns in West Papua, for which people were arrested and so on, because they were demonstrating in favour of West Papuan membership in the MSG.
Dr Firth says for leaders of numerous Pacific island states, West Papua is the one foreign policy issue which has a domestic constituency, as evidenced by the rise of civil society movements in support of Papuan rights across the region.
It's unusual for there to be any organisations formed in the Pacific on a foreign policy issue. You have to go right back to the nuclear issue, when the French were testing, to find something similar. So these leaders, including even (Peter) O'Neill in PNG, have to balance that public opionion against foreign policy considerations.
Meanwhile, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua has described the Indonesian minister’s statements as an odd and backwards form of diplomacy.
3) Jokowi’s Oz visit to focus on economic, maritime cooperation
Jakarta | Fri, November 4 2016 | 08:27 am
The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s visit to Australia from Nov. 6 to 8 is expected to focus on economic and maritime cooperation despite the Foreign Ministry ruling out earlier proposals for joint patrols with Australia in the South China Sea.
“The visit is aimed at strengthening the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement [IACEPA] and the visit will focus on economic and maritime cooperation,” Edi Yusup, the Foreign Ministry’s East Asia and Pacific director, said on Thursday.
He added that Jokowi’s visit was being made at Australia’s invitation and was a reciprocal visit as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had visited Indonesia last November.
The visit will also follow up on the recent meetings between the respective foreign and defense ministers of Indonesia and Australia in Bali, which emphasized maritime cooperation.
Regarding earlier reports that Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu had proposed joint patrols in the South China Sea with Australia, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said: “We can only have bilateral cooperation within our own territories.”
Australia is not a claimant in the South China Sea where several ASEAN countries and Japan have overlapping claims with China.
Indonesia is also officially not a claimant, but a skirmish this year with Chinese vessels occurred off the Natuna Islands, which China recognizes as Indonesian territory.
Apart from stressing improved cooperation in counterterrorism and deradicalization, the joint press release from the bilateral meeting in Bali between Australia and Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers raised the need to seek ways to improve stability in the South China and Sulu seas.
During the visit, Jokowi will meet Prime Minister Turnbull, Australian Governor General Peter Cosgrove and Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Jokowi will also address the Australian parliament and meet representatives of the Australian business community.
The visit will also discuss food security cooperation, particularly regarding the beef and cattle industry, in which Indonesia is pushing for greater collaboration in cattle breeding to ensure sustainability.
Edi said both sides would try to speed up talks on the IACEPA, which is expected to boost bilateral trade.
“In the meeting, we’ll emphasize the IACEPA [negotiations], which should be completed by the end of 2017,” he said.
According to data from the Trade Ministry, Indonesia’s trade with Australia reached US$8.5 billion in 2015, in which Indonesia had a $1.1 billion deficit.
This year, Indonesia’s trade with Australia had reached $5.5 billion as of August.
The President’s entourage will include Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, Coordinating Economic Minister Darmin Nasution, Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita, Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) head Thomas Lembong, and Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) head Triawan Munaf. (sha)