Pacific leaders call out Indonesia at UN over West Papua

Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga speaks during the General Debate of the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations. Photo: AFP or licensors

NEW YORK,02 OCTOBER 2018 (RNZ PACIFIC) – Three Pacific leaders have called out Indonesia at the UN for their human rights abuses in West Papua.

Vanuatu’s prime minister Charlot Salwai, a long time supporter of West Papuan self-determination, told the General Assembly in New York that decolonisation must remain on the UN agenda.

He said the Human Rights Council must investigate human rights abuses in the Indonesian provinces.

The Marshall Islands president, Hilda Heine, told the assembly’s 73rd session that the Pacific Islands Forum supported “constructive engagement” with Indonesia on the issue.

While Tuvalu’s prime minister Enele Sopoaga continued his call for recognition of the indigenous people.

“The United Nations must also engage with the people of West Papua to find lasting solutions to their struggles.”

Indonesia rejected what it called attacks on its sovereignty with vice president Muhammad Jusuf Kalla demanding respect for its territorial integrity.

“Indonesia strongly deplores the attempts of one country to support or even worst become part of the separatist movements,” Kalla told the Assembly.

“This act of hostility has no place in the UN system. An act which is clearly in violation of UN principles. Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity. Like any other sovereign country, Indonesia will firmly defend its territorial integrity.

Without naming Vanuatu, Kalla said that for far too long Indonesia had “chosen to build friendly relations with this particular country, including in showing our solidarity and sympathy during difficult time”.

“But when such hostile acts continue, Indonesia will not remain silent,” he said.

Indonesia denies Vanuatu’s claims of flagrant abuses against Papuans by the country’s military forces.

In its right of reply, Indonesia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dian Triansyah Djani targetted Vanuatu’s links with the West Papuan independence movement.

“This country argues that based on these factors injected into their minds by criminal individuals that the two provinces (Papua and West Papua) have to be debated at the United Nations,” Djani said.

“We fail to understand the motive behind Vanuatu’s intention in supporting a group of people who have striked terror and mayhem in so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities.”

He said Vanuatu’s accusation of abuses in Papua was unacceptable.

“No country in this world is free from human rights or development challenges. But accusing others of human rights violations when one has so many problems of its own is like the pot calling the kettle black.”

In rejecting Vanuatu’s push for West Papuan self-determination, Indonesia has referred to a United Nations resolution from 1969.

Resolution 2504 took note of the so-called Act of Free Choice, a controversial referendum which was the culmination of the former Dutch New Guinea’s incorporation into Indonesia.

The West Papuan independence movement says that because the plebiscite was not formally approved by the UN, and was not based on universal adult suffrage, Papuans should be granted a legitimate self-determination process.

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