AS the Fiji government seeks international support to be on the United Nations Human Rights Council, Civil Society Organisation in the region together with Fiji will make West Papua one of several key issues in which Fiji needs to demonstrate its credibility as a fair advocate on human rights violations.
“As part of Fiji’s bid to be part of the UN Human Rights Council, we appeal to the government to champion West Papua”, says Shamima Ali, Director of Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre and former Fiji Human Rights Commissioner.
“Fiji cannot turn a blind eye to the genocide that is taking place in West Papua, and the world is watching how Fiji and other Melanesian leaders will deal with West Papua this week when the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) convenes.”
Within the MSG, Fiji has demonstrated leadership on indigenous peoples’ struggles for self-determination by championing FLNK (Kanaky) and Maohi Nui, while on the issue of West Papua, it was Fiji that advised the West Papuans to apply for full membership.
In solidarity, Civil Society Groups in Fiji affirm their stand with the people of West Papua in supporting the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) to be a member of MSG.
The ULMWP is a collation of the largest West Papuan coalitions with broad-based support from other non-affiliated groups, including the churches.
The affirmation comes as the Solomon Islands government announced its intention to support West Papua into the MSG as an observer, a decision which is welcomed by Fiji-based CSOs.
Rev. Francois Pihaatae, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches, also acknowledged the decision by the Solomon Islands government saying ”…it offers a glimmer of hope for the West Papuan people” He added, however, that this must only be the first step.
“The prerogative of the MSG leaders in deciding on the ULMWP’s application for full membership is recognised. Ultimately however, the West Papuan people, united under the ULMWP banner, should be accorded a standing within the MSG that will enable discussions with Jakarta on human rights and other issues as a dignified and equal party,” said Ali.
The support from the CSOs in Fiji for ULMWP comes at a crucial time as Melanesian leaders such as Fiji consider the balancing act between diplomatic, economic, military, women and trade relationships with Indonesia and their moral obligation to the sub-region’s longest outstanding decolonisation struggle – West Papua struggle for self-determination.
“The Fiji government’s position to support Indonesia’s associate membership into the MSG, remains a concern for CSOs as the way in which to deal with the West Papua issue,” said Ali.
Ali maintained that the ULMWP membership into MSG is the appropriate first step to allow for the gross human rights violations to be addressed with Indonesia as equal parties.
Indonesia is the occupying state which stands accused by international and national human rights organisations of perpetuating gross human rights violations against the indigenous people of West Papua.
“As the perpetrators of gross atrocities, Indonesia cannot be expected to act as a neutral party in these negotiations. It is therefore prudent that ULMWP is given membership into MSG”, said Ali.