PS Koanapo says issue of West Papua now gone beyond the region


  • By Jonas Cullwick
PS Koanapo says issue of West Papua now gone beyond the region
PS Koanapo says issue of West Papua now gone beyond the region

The issue of West Papua self-determination and violations of human rights has now progressed beyond the South Pacific islands region, says the Parliamentary Secretary (PS) for the Prime Minister’s Office, Johnny Koanapo. He said the issue that had Vanuatu as its lone advocator for many years and then Solomon Islands during the last two years now has the support of six other countries of the region from Micronesia and Polynesia.

PS Koanapo met the media with the intention of the government is to brief the people on how much work government has undertaken on the issue of West Papua.

“I wish to say that the government has done a lot of work on the issue of West Papua since the Charlot Salwai government came in in 2016 and the issue remains high on government’s international political agenda.

“There are a lot of arguments that government has not done enough on the issue of West Papua, but when we look at the events that government through the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers have endorsed Vanuatu’s participation, there were many.”

In March this year, the Council of Ministers under the leadership of Prime Minister Salwai, appointed Honorable Ronald Warsal (Minister of Justice and Community Services) to attend the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva and Koanapo went with him when Vanuatu delivered a statement on behalf of the Pacific Islands Coalition for West Papua.

“May be, many people who have been dealing with the issue of West Papua, especially our former leaders like Barak Sope, Donald Kalpokas, the late Edward Natapei, Joe Natuman former Prime Minister now Deputy Prime Minister, have been walking with the people of West Papua for a very long time.

“And when we look at the political backup the people of Vanuatu give to the colonized people of West Papua, there’s only one country in the world that has been standing behind people who living under colonization by Indonesia. That country is Vanuatu. Vanuatu is the only country in the Pacific that is standing behind the people of West Papua.

“And then at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ summit held in 2015 in Honiara, at that time Solomon Islands government through Prime Minister Manasseh Sogovareh came on board. And then as PM Sogovareh said to me when I represented government at that time when I was Director General of Foreign and also represented the country at the minister’s level that the position or stand the government of Solomon Islands is taking is inspired by the position and stand the Vanuatu government has taken since day one on the since to West Papua to this day.

“So, instead of just one I the Pacific, there was two. That’s the Vanuatu government and the Solomon Islands government. Then the Solomon Islands government spearheaded with the support of Vanuatu on the margins of the meeting of June July last year when PM Charlot Salwai attended the establishment of what we call the Pacific Islands of West Papua (PIWP) and then other countries of Micronesia and Polynesia have come on board. Altogether eight countries – Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Palau, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tonga. So, Vanuatu, as the lone fighter, now has seven countries behind it for backup on the issue of West Papua.

“As a result in March this year, government through the Council of Ministers appropriated for Vanuatu’s participation at the Humans Rights Council meeting this year in Geneva. So, Minister Warsal and I went to the meeting where Honorable Warsal delivered a very strong statement. It was a political statement on behalf of BIGWIP members in the Pacific.

“I also wish to mention that when we have this coalition, Vanuatu’s strategy is for us to try shift advocacy for the issue of West Papua beyond the region. When we were introducing the issue at MSG, Vanuatu was the only country behind it.

“I am briefing us today as a former director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who has been behind much of the speeches and writings, to say that I’ve never seen before a government that has taken the issue of WP so strongly as the government of Charlot Salwai and Joe Natuman is making today.

“There are reasons for this. In the past governments tended to take different kinds of approaches. Some prefer for us to take a stronger diplomatic approach at the international level to lobby. Some prefer we have more dialogue with the colonizing power, Indonesia since 1962 to today that they continue to colonize the people of West Papua.

“So, the government of Charlot Salwai also appointed a special envoy. This special envoy was our Ambassador at the European Union, Ambassador Roy Micky Joy, to help lobby at the European Union jurisdiction and he also helped to lobby at the African Union. And he also helped to lobby at the Caribbean. We have divided this task and it is the first time.

“During my 16 years in office at the Foreign Affairs, I see that this government is very serious about the issue of West Papua.”

“Maybe the Opposition has some views that government may not be advancing, but I have not seen any opposition in the past with the credentials to advance this issue, except this government today has moved this issue on more than ever. I say this with a lot of confidence that the issue of West Papua today has already moved beyond the region,” the PS for the PM’s Office said.

“This government when it came in, it took this issue from being a bilateral issue just of Vanuatu, but a regional issue, which we have moved beyond the level of MSG in which we have differences of opinion on how we deal with the issue of West Papua because the diplomatic of Indonesia is strong. This made Vanuatu the only country in MSG to push the issue ahead. But the issue has now moved beyond the jurisdiction of MSG,” he said.

“It has moved to the level of the Forum and has become a regional issue. And if you see how the issue was listed in the South Pacific Islands Forum meeting last week to deal with out of 14 issues, one of them is West Papua.”

“I wish to take this opportunity to commend the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, a very proactive SG who understands the situation of the people of West Papua who are colonized and continued to face human rights abuses on the own land. I note too that when we were at the Pacific Islands Forum last year, PM CS made a lot of bi-laterals with many countries and he talked about the issue of West Papua, for it to come before the Forum Leaders retreat. And at the retreat, PM Salwai took the lead on the issue of West Papua. Because the PM of Solomon Islands was not present so PM Salwai had to do the lobby and he continued to put the issue on the table and he continued to advocate for the issue to come before the United Nations.

“On the level of the work that the government has done, PM Salwai also appointed me as his Special Emissary for me to undertake shuttle diplomacy in the region, starting last month when the Pacific Islands Foreign Ministers meeting was held in Suva, I went there special emissary of the PM to present a case at bi-laterals of member countries to talk about the importance of how PM Salwai and PM Sogovareh see the issue of West Papua.

“I also wish to mention to the people of Vanuatu to understand that when the government of today says that we are shifting the issue of West Papua beyond MSG and beyond the region, it simply means also the level of work government is making outside of the region. In around June this year, at the ACP Ministerial meeting in Brussels, the government assigned me to attend this ministerial meeting with Minister Ralph Regenvanu, and because Minister Regenvanu was engaged with other assignments, I undertook this assignment on behalf of Vanuatu where I tabled the issue of West Papua for the first time in history as an agenda at the ACP Ministerial in Brussels, Belgium.

“I also wish to place on record for the people of Vanuatu to know that government also assigned Ambassador Roy Mickey Joy to do this work in his capacity at the Committee of Ambassadors at the process of ACP to table the issue of West Papua at the Committee of Ambassadors level. The Committee of Ambassadors is comprised of Ambassadors and senior officials of countries based in Brussels to continue to discuss the agenda and formulate resolutions to come to the Ministerial level and at the Ministerial they took up this agenda before it reached the leaders’ level.

“It was the first time too I lobbied with the Secretary General of ACP to continue to maintain this agenda item at the ACP.

“I believe strongly that the government will continue to participate at upcoming ministerial meetings and this issue continues to feature prominently in the agenda of ACP.

“At the same too, with the help provided by the Vanuatu government mission in Brussels, we see a website totally dedicated to ACP and European members to access information on what is happening in West Papua. We all know that today West Papua is a flashpoint, an area of conflict between Melanesia and the Asians, but not country is willing to take this up. We all know too that West Papuans today face a reality of genocide including cultural genocide where thousands of Indonesians everyday flock into West Papua with their immigration policy, which means that the Melanesians will find themselves already a minority in their own land. This is the reason why the people at the time of the New Hebrides were afraid of at that time pushed to have our independence because our land was alienated so much that we were afraid of losing it and our identify. This is an opportunity that the West Papuans have today.

“West Papuans continue to be exposed to human rights abuse and it is sad to see that not every country want to take up this issue.”

“I wish to assure the people of Vanuatu that PM Salwai is making everything necessary and we work under him, the PM assigns us with the mandate to make sure that the voice of the voiceless is heard around the world. And today for the first time, in the last two months the lobby pushed by Vanuatu has reached the Caribbean and today I also wish to say that seven countries in the Caribbean out of 15 are behind the issue of West Papua today. And we continue to lobby with the African Union and I believe that in the coming months the government of Vanuatu will continue to push in the African Union so the countries of Africa are more aware of the issue of West Papua.

“Interestingly, when I conducted a bilateral in June with the government of Belgium, they said they were never aware of West Papua. The issue of West Papua is an issue hidden under a carpet because the press was never allowed to go freely to see the people and to hear from them what happened and their views on the destiny they see for themselves. It is a sad reality that is there.

“The issue now has progress to the international stage and I say this with a lot of confidence that the issue has never taken so much international attention as it is today simple because the government is serious about, there is no second opinion on it as to whether the government will take up the issue or not.

“The government has taken on this role because it is a global country and we are global citizens with obligations to defend such things as human rights, which are parts of the rights of a human being.

In addition to all these, the Prime Ministers of Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are organizing a side event at the UN General Assembly in New York next week to continue to lobby for West Papua, so that when leaders make their political statements at the GA these will reflect these efforts.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: Cell # 678 5460922


MSG, ACP and the (almost) forgotten case of West Papuan independence

By PMC Editor

By Veronika Kusumaryati and Cypri Dale

Two events of highest significance in the context of global history of decolonisation are taking place in the Pacific:

  • The first has been the gathering of 79 nations for the 8th Summit of ACP (the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) heads of state and government in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 30 May-June 1.
  • Secondly, the twice postponed summit meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) in Honiara, Solomon Islands, to decide on the application of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) for full membership at the MSG.

These two events raise an important question for both West Papuans and for the international community. Will West Papua have their moment of solidarity from MSG and ACP member states, their brothers and sisters who were once in the same predicament of colonialism, or will West Papua continue to be forgotten?

Interrupted decolonisation
In the third millennial, a last call from the great global decolonisation period of 1960s seems to fade away.

Right after the World War 2, Africa, Asia, Caribbean and the Pacific, which for a long period had been under European colonialism, claimed their rights for a truly modern entity: nation states.

State and non-state actors played their equal roles in the national claims making and state making enterprises.

While big countries fought the Cold War, these newly emerged states attempted to assert their new role in shaping the world politics, through the Non-Aligned Movement and the 1955 Bandung Conference among others.

In the Pacific in particular, the wave of decolonisation swept the region in the 1970s with the plan was set up in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Countries, such as Fiji, the Cook Islands, Nauru, and Tonga received their independence early in the 1970s while in Melanesia decolonisation began with Papua New Guinea in 1975 (followed by the Solomon Islands in 1978 and Vanuatu in 1980).

Not only in terms of the times, many countries in the Pacific also went through different decolonisation processes compared to their African or Asian counterparts.

Violent struggle
For Asian, African and some Caribbean countries they had to go through a rather violent anti-colonial struggle.

This would make so much difference in the regional perception of decolonisation particularly in the case of West Papua, the last colonial outpost of the Dutch government who continues to fight an anti-colonial struggle against Indonesia.

It is easy to chart the failed promise of anti-colonial nationalism as a narrative where many post-colonial nation-states were already predetermined to become failed or fragile states riddled by corruption, or where rule of law may not extend far from the capital city.

But what is evident in this period was the spirit of building a new and better life outside the European model of governance. The establishment of the ACP is a prime example.

As an organisation whose membership consists of newly independent states of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific, the ACP Group seeks to focus on sustainable development of its member states and participate in the establishing “a new, fairer, and more equitable world order”.

Fairer world
The irony of this dream, however, lies in places that did not become independent during 1960s decolonisation wave, let alone manage to participate in the initiative of sustainable development and in establishing a new, fairer, and more equitable world order.

In this case, West Papua is exemplary. Being promised to have their own state in 1961, West Papua failed to gain their independence as a result of a questionable process of political transfer to Indonesia.

Historical accounts demonstrate that the 1969 referendum, known as the “Act of Free Choice”, occurred under the strict control of the Indonesian military and a weak supervision from the United Nations.

The standard principle of “one man one vote” was violated by the fact that only 1025 of a total 700,000 population, handpicked by Indonesian authorities, voted in the referendum.

Papuans did not have a chance to exercise their right for self-determination. Until today, West Papua remains seeking an international recognition of their nation. And their call rings rightly loud.

Unfinished struggles
West Papua does not give up on their decolonisation agenda after more than 50 years of living with Indonesia.

Indonesia claims that development has brought progress for the life of the Papuans but Papuan experiences tell the opposite. Hazardous development, combined with human rights abuses, land grabbing, intensive resources extractions, and massive migrations that make Papuans becoming a minority in their own land have led to Papuans’ self awareness as “We are in danger ” or “We will lose everything”.

In fact there is a strong feeling that “there is no future with(in) Indonesia”.

Recently, West Papuan anti-colonial movements have transformed themselves into a more consolidated mobilisation involving non-violent and urban-based resistance groups. Their international political lobbying and actions have been more effective thanks to the formation of ULMWP as an umbrella organiSation.

They are seeking internationally facilitated dialogues and negotiations, incorporating not only development and human rights issues, but also the neglected rights for self-determination.

Interestingly, a number of nations in the Pacific, including members of the MSG began to hear Papuans’ cries for help. Despite the pressure from Indonesia and its international allies, those countries exercise their national sovereignty in international politics and show their solidarity for West Papua.

The Papuan struggle, past and present, is a struggle of an almost forgotten nation; accordingly the future of West Papua partly depends on the solidarity of post-colonial African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries.

West Papua’s call for solidarity rings rightly loud. Many countries have heard their cries.

The question is whether they choose to listen or not.  Their choice is not only political, but also an ethical one but certainly it will reflect these countries’ commitment to their own decolonisation agenda.

Veronika Kusumaryati and Cypri Dale are social anthropologists and historians based in Epouto, Indonesia, and Berlin, Germany.

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