West Papua has been sidestepped by both the the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum. But, reports James Halpin of Asia Pacific Journalism, Vanuatu is undeterred as leading champion for the West Papuan cause and is pressing for United Nations support.
After the failure of the Pacific Islands Forum to move on the issue of West Papuan self-determination earlier this month, Vanuatu is now taking the issue to the United Nations next week
Vanuatu raised the plight of political prisoners charged with treason at a UN working group of arbitrary detention and involuntary disappearances, reports RNZ.
Ninety three West Papuans have been arrested this month for their involvement in peaceful protests.
Simply peacefully raising the Morning Star flag representing an independent West Papua risks 15 years’ imprisonment.
Vanuatu has traditionally been the major supporter for West Papuan self-determination but has recently stepped up his diplomacy with the appointment of Lora Lini, daughter of the late founding prime minister Father Walter Lini, as special envoy for West Papua.
Port Vila wants West Papua to be added to the UN decolonisation list. Netherlands New Guinea had previously been on the UN decolonisation list but was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 in controversial circumstances.
“I think as a Polynesian, or Melanesian or Pacific concept, the first person I’d be consulting on an issue like that is the nearest neighbour to the issue that might be a problem, namely PNG.”
Support from NZ MPs
However, Leadbeater did identify a large number of NZ government MPs who would support West Papuan self-determination, including all of the Greens and high profile Labour MP Louisa Wall.
Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley of the University of Auckland says that since West Papua’s integration into Indonesia in 1969, the cards have been stacked against them.
“You have to go back to 1963. The UN urged Indonesia to hold an act of free association. Indonesia allegedly manipulated the vote.”
Indonesia claimed that Papuans were not advanced enough to deal with democracy and instituted a meeting of tribal elders.
“They handpicked tribal leaders. This vote was contested by local folk who accused Indonesia of manipulation, bribes, and intimidation.”
After the flawed vote, Indonesia instituted a policy of transmigration into West Papua where Javanese were moved from Java to colonise less populated provinces around Indonesia, including West Papua. This policy was ended by current president Joko Widodo in 2015.
However, discrimination against the indigenous Melanesians had become endemic. For example, the courts were stacked with Javanese judges and Javanese got favourable preference.
Little appetite for criticism
Because of examples such as this, an independence movement sprang up in 1963 called the Free Papua Movement.
In the realm of international relations there was no appetite to criticise Indonesia in the 1960s.
Indonesia was sidelined during the cold war and US mining multinationals hadn’t started drilling in the province yet, says Professor Hoadley.
But, things haven’t changed in the past 50 years.
Dr Hoadley says liberal Western countries such as the Australia, New Zealand, United States, and the United Kingdom are status quo powers.
“If you redraw one boundary, then all boundaries are up for change. Better to leave things as they are.”
A consensus among Western nations is that Indonesia has “things under control” and their transgressions against human rights in West Papua are not bad enough to consider attention, claims Dr Hoadley.
After the end of the Suharto regime in 1999, Indonesia was seen as a success story; a Muslim country that has adopted political parties, elections, and freedom of the press.
“The US thinking is that they’re on a good track and we shouldn’t criticise them too much,” he says.
Ominously, nothing has come of the Rohingya genocide and there is no foreseeable future for West Papuan self-determination unless outside international influence or domestic upheaval forces Indonesia to start the process of decolonising.
James Halpin is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.
2) Polish man arrested in Papua denies conspiracy allegations
4:16 pm today
A Polish man arrested in Papua province by Indonesian police has denied that he conspired to overthrow the government.
Jakub Skrzypski was arrested in Wamena last month on suspicion of arranging an arms deal with the West Papua Liberation Army.
A West Papuan man, Simon Magal, was arrested in Timika in connection to the Polish national.
Skrzypski's lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar, told BenarNews that he has rejected all the accusations, and the conspiracy charges.
Latifah said her client had "never campaigned for the Papuan separatists nor did he support Papuan independence".
She said he had never been involved in any military training and was not an arms dealer.
This comes as police extended the Polish man's detention for 40 days for further investigation.
Police say Skrzypski could be charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government.
If found guilty, he could face life or 20 years in prison.
Latifah described the accusations as "reckless" and after meeting Skrzypski in recent days described her client as "depressed."
"We are still delving into the case," national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said, adding that the Pole would eventually be tried in Papua.
Dedi said Skrzypski was not a journalist and had only posted stories about Papua on Facebook and other social media networks.
"He's just an ordinary tourist, but he communicated with the Violent Criminal Group and offered to supply weapons and ammunition, but that has not happened and chances of that happening are slim," Dedi said, using the law enforcement term for the rebel group.
"He also told stories about Papua to his compatriots back in Poland in the hope that they would go viral," he said.
Skrzypski had received consular assistance from the Polish embassy in Jakarta. The embassy did not respond to an email sent by BenarNews.
Last week, a police spokesman told reporters that police seized hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a mobile phone and documents, which included information about the types of weapons and ammunition needed by the Liberation