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Fiji Time: 4:27 PM on Wednesday 24 September

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Plea for West Papua

Tevita Vuibau
Friday, June 20, 2014

CHURCHES in Fiji and the region are throwing their voices behind self determination for West Papua.

Their support comes as the PIDF hosts Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at its second summit in Nadi this week.

Indonesia has maintained rule in West Papua since 1969 and has in the past been accused of widespread human rights abuses.

There have also been claims that Indonesia holds political prisoners from West Papua with some jailed simply for attending flag raising ceremonies of the West Papuan flag — the Morning Star.

And with Mr Yudhoyono in the country, churches are making their opinions known in the hope of encouraging dialogue on West Papua.

Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae acknowledged Mr Yudhoyono's visit was a sign of PIDF's growing profile.

Yet he advised caution.

"The glamour of State visits must never undermine the community's responsibility to search for the truth," Mr Pihaatae said.

"And regional governments must not let Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presence at the PIDF cloud their judgment on the issue of self-determination in West Papua."

He said the visit could be attributed to Indonesia furthering its Pacific interests but questioned whether it was also influenced by growing regional support for West Papua and a push to usurp Australia and New Zealand from their traditional seats of Pacific power.

"Where our self-determination interests are concerned, whether it be in the areas of governance, development and security, or our firm support for West Papuan freedom, we cannot allow the State visit to cloud our prudence and better judgment."

The Methodist Church in Fiji said its immediate concerns was human rights abuses in West Papua and called for action from leaders.

Church spokesman James Bhagwan said they understood Fiji was strengthening ties with Indonesia but also pointed out its close relationship with fellow MSG member PNG.

Anglican Archbishop of Polynesia Winston Halapua said the time for complacency on West Papua was over.

"We cannot in this part of the world say that is out there — no they are part of us — the leadership has to come from inside and their part is to be clear what they ask of us."

In his speech to the PIDF yesterday Mr Yudhoyono said Indonesia believed that "peaceful settlement of disputes; abiding respect for norms and principles that govern inter-state relations; and respect for universal democratic values, an alternative vision of a world at peace and in prosperity — a pacific world — is attainable."

He also told Indonesian paper The Jakarta Post that he would address the issue of West Papua at the PIDF summit.

"Therefore, we hope the matters on Papua, which are often internationalised by certain elements, can be overcome by, among other things, establishing strong and good ties with the countries of the South Pacific," he said.

He also said he would use the forum to reduce misinformation and disinformation on the West Papua issue.