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West Papuans cautious about SIG visit but remains hopeful
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25 April 2018
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West Papuans arrested by Indonesian police during the Solomon Islands Government's delegation visit.

Civil society groups in West Papua including local non-governmental organisations, youth groups, students, women associations, church leaders and indigenous leaders are cautious about a surprise visit to West Papua by a Solomon Islands government delegation.

The Solomon Islands government under the leadership of former PM Manasa Sogovare was a staunch supporter for the West Papuan struggle.  However this recently organized visit under secrecy without any notification to West Papuan groups on ground has raised concerns about a possible shift in the Solomon Islands government’s stand in relation to the West Papuan struggle. 

It is understood that the Solomon Islands government delegation which included representatives from the Solomon Islands civil society are in West Papua at the invitation of the Indonesia Government. The timing of the invitation to West Papua follows shortly after the Solomon Islands government held consultations for a policy on West Papua where local Solomon Islanders have been vocal about their support to the struggle.   

In welcoming the Solomon Islands government delegation to West Papua, student leader, Christ Dogopia apologized, saying, “we are not free to express ourselves in the land of our ancestors, thus we cannot welcome you well and honorably as Melanesian relatives.”

“There was not proper communication and we only just learnt of the visit when the delegation arrived in Jayapura…it is typical of the government of Indonesia to organize such as visit under a cloud of secrecy and unilaterally by through the foreign ministry, but we didn’t expect this from a close member of the Melanesian family.

The local free West Papua coalition has questioned the motives of the Indonesia Government, asking why the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), a member of Melanesian Spearhead Group, was not formally informed of the visit.

“We question the intent and purpose of this visit as it reminds us of a similar visit led by the former Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Mr Gordon Lilo in 2014, which was organized secretly by the Indonesian government and military without any involvement or connection to civil society,” questioned Dogopia.

In a statement by the civil society coalition of West Papua, they have expressed support to the ULMWP as the organization who represents their political aspirations and is advocating for West Papuans’ right to self-determination, which has been denied by the Indonesian Government and international community for over 50 years. We insist that the government of Indonesia and other states respect that right.

“We wish to emphasize that since West Papua has been forced into shackles through the 1969 Act of NO Choice, there have been human rights violations, forced seizure of Indigenous lands for large mines and oil palm plantations, transmigration programs and food projects all in the name of development but which have harmed the people of West Papua, by creating conflict, depriving us of our land and ability to manage our own resources, and human rights violations.”

The statement further states that the presence of the Indonesian military and police has disrupted the lives of indigenous West Papuans, causing havoc and gross violence all for the sake of foreign investment and capitalist’ interests.

Dogopia said there are a lot of social and unjust issues faced by the indigenous West Papuan population which the visiting delegation may not be made aware of, “one of which is the flow of population from outside West Papua is increasing and our people are becoming a minority and marginalized.”

The coalition appeals to the visiting Solomon Island Government delegation to independently hear and experience firsthand realities of the Melanesian people in the land of West Papua.

Meanwhile, an attempt to seek answers from the West Papuan Governor in a peaceful demonstration outside the government complex on Tuesday resulted in nine West Papuans arrested.

All nine arrestees were detained and questioned before their release.


By Joey Tau



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