PRIME Minister Manasseh Sogavare will not be intimidated by Indonesia or other countries in the Pacific Islands Forum in its push for West Papua.
And Mr Sogavare is willing to take it to the next level, to demand global action through its membership of the United Nations in New York.
Speaking to journalists in Port Moresby, where he’s attending the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders summit, Mr Sogavare said he is in Port Moresby this week with three proposals – to push for observer status, agree to a high level fact finding mission and have West Papua listed in the United Nations Committee Decolonisation Committee, known as the Committee of 24.
To demonstrate the gravity of his government’s commitment, PM Sogavare included his Special Envoy on West Papua, Matthew Wale and the leader of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Octavanius Mote, in his delegation to Port Moresby this week.
“It’s not a new issue, it’s one that has been with us even before some of us become an independent nation,” Mr Sogavare said.
“We have admitted them to Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) as observer and we hoped that we could accord them the same to be observer at the Pacific Islands Forum.”
Indonesia’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Abdurrahman Mohamed Fachir did not mince his words when he said that ‘the issue of Papua was irrelevant’ to the Forum Leaders discussion here in Port Moresby.
“I think this is not the right forum to discuss West Papua for a number of reasons. We are here discussing important economic development, co-operation, how to address climate change, maritime, fisheries and ICT connectivity for the Pacific.
“I’d like to remind the Pacific Forum Leaders that Indonesia is a democracy and we have the most detailed provision on human rights in our Constitution. We even have a national commission that investigates human rights abuses.”
Minister Fachir said his country strongly believes in the international principle of non-interference in the national affairs of other countries.
“It is now up to the Forum Leaders to discuss Papua and we believe in their wisdom,” said Minister Fachir.
PM Sogavare disagrees with the suggestion by Indonesia that West Papua is ‘irrelevant’ to the agenda of the Pacific Islands Forum.
“Bringing West Papua to the agenda of the Pacific Islands Forum is within the framework of the Leaders meeting. We are not going outside that mandate,” Mr Sogavare said.
He fully acknowledges Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua but questions that sovereignty if the people’s human rights are abused and violated.
“By virtue of our membership of the UN we recognise the sovereignty of Indonesia over West Papua. But the same United Nations recognises the rights of people for self-determination and violation against human rights.
The strong stance taken by the Sogavare government has also tested its relationship with Jakarta.
“They’ve expressed disappointment and we’ve explained to them that our action is well within the framework of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
“We are in active consultation with Indonesia. That’s a very interesting diplomatic term.
“They don’t have to agree to our position but we just consult them and explain to them that this is the right thing for us to do, and we will move ahead,” Mr Sogavare said.
He said Solomon Island appreciates Papua New Guinea’s position because it shares a common border with Indonesia.
“It’s a sovereign decision that PNG will have to make that best represents the interests of its people.
“That we will respect. However, these are issues that go beyond sovereignty like human rights.
“If a member of the UN is committing human rights violations against its own people, it is no longer the issue that is domestic to that country but one that must be addressed by the United Nations, said the Solomon Islands leader.
Fiji’s foreign affairs minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola reiterated his country’s respect Jakarta’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over West Papua.
“We see West Papua as part of Indonesia and as far as human rights are concerned, Fiji will raise its voice here at the Forum and all also at the United Nations.
“When we opened our mission in Jakarta in 2012, during bilateral meeting with former President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, our Prime Minister raised human rights issues in West Papua.
“I have personally raised it with my former counterpart, Marty Natelegawa and the current foreign affairs minister, Retno Marsudi.
“If there any human rights violations reported, Fiji will raise it with Indonesia and raise its voice at the United Nations.
“We take it up with Indonesia ourselves, when we hear it we raise it directly with Jakarta because of the good bilateral relations we enjoy with Indonesia,” said Ratu Inoke.
Civil society organisations active in the push for West Papua’s inclusion on the Forum agenda, maintain that it is the moral obligation of Pacific Leaders to find just resolution to the human rights abuses that have claimed more than 500,000 lives.