Home » The Origin of Blond Afros in Melanesia » Fiji, PNG prime ministers named envoys to Indonesia on Papuan issues

Fiji, PNG prime ministers named envoys to Indonesia on Papuan issues

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West Papuan “Morning Star” independence flags fly behind a delegation holding Papua New Guinean flags at the Melanesian Arts & Culture Festival in Port Vila, Vanuatu on July 19, 2023.
Fiji's Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka speaks to reporters during a joint press conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister Chris Hipkins at Parliament in Wellington on June 7, 2023. [Marty Melville/AFP]

Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka speaks to reporters during a joint press conference with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins at Parliament in Wellington on June 7, 2023. [Marty Melville/AFP]

An organization of Melanesian nations has appointed the prime ministers of Fiji and Papua New Guinea as special envoys to Indonesia on the “pressing issue” of the Southeast Asian country’s decades-long conflict with indigenous Papuans.

Their mandate, according to a statement from Fiji’s government on Wednesday, is to meet with Indonesia’s president to discuss problems in its Papuan provinces – a region that has a 760-kilometer (472-mile) border with Papua New Guinea and that is often referred to as West Papua.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka “believes that this initiative is a crucial step forward,” the statement said. Governments of Melanesian nations “reached a consensus that sending a ministerial envoy, as opposed to a bureaucratic-level envoy, would be the most effective approach to addressing the West Papua issue,” it said.

Indonesia last month canceled a regional meeting on the human rights situation in its Papuan provinces because the top leaders of Melanesian nations weren’t attending it.

The appointment of envoys also follows a decision in August by the Melanesian Spearhead Group – which comprises Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s Kanak independence movement – to deny membership to an umbrella organization of Papuan independence groups.

Rabuka and senior ministers of the spearhead group countries met earlier this week in the Cook Islands, where the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum is holding its annual summit. Papua New Guinea was represented at the spearhead group meeting by its Deputy Prime Minister John Rosso.

At the August meeting, the Melanesian leaders affirmed Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Papua region and agreed to create space for dialogue with Jakarta, according to a communique. Some analysts say that approach reflects the success of Indonesia’s efforts to build influence with Pacific island nations that it dwarfs in population, economic size and military strength.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo visited Papua New Guinea in July and promised 55 million kina ($15 million) for upgrading a Port Moresby hospital, including its chronically overcrowded mortuary, and 2,000 scholarships for study at Indonesian colleges and universities.

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape said during Widodo’s visit he wanted to boost trade with Indonesia, which has been minimal for decades.

Poorly armed Papuan fighters – collectively known as the West Papua National Liberation Army – have battled Indonesia since the early 1960s, when it took control of the western half of New Guinea island from the Dutch. A separate nonviolent independence movement is regarded as treasonous by Indonesian authorities who have imprisoned key leaders.

Papuans, culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia, say they were denied the right to decide their own future. Indonesian control was formalized in 1969 with a U.N.-backed referendum in which little more than 1,000 Papuans were allowed to vote.

Documented and alleged killings and abuses by Indonesian military and police, from the 1960s until the present day – along with impunity and the exploitation of the region’s natural resources and widespread poverty – have fueled resentment of Indonesian rule.

Frank Makanuey, a second-generation member of the substantial West Papuan diaspora in Papua New Guinea, said dialogue is welcome, but Rabuka and Marape must not shrink from pressing West Papuans’ right to self determination and their rights as indigenous peoples.

“This is the conversation they must bring before the presence of the Indonesian president,” said Makanuey, who is general secretary of Papua New Guinea’s People’s National Congress Party.

The Pacific Conference of Churches said discussions between Indonesia and the envoys will need to involve the United Liberation Movement for West Papua – the umbrella organization of independence groups – to have legitimacy.

The faith group’s general secretary, James Bhagwan, said an eminent persons group including civil society representatives should be part of the envoy process for transparency.

Rabuka said the envoy role is an extension of his efforts to nurture the concept of the Pacific Ocean as a zone of peace.

The envoy roles complement a 2019 call from Pacific island nations for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct a mission in the Papuan region, Fiji’s statement said.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group “remains committed to finding a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the West Papua issue and looks forward to engaging in meaningful discussions with Indonesia to address this pressing concern,” it said.

Source; BenarNews

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