The summit meeting of leaders from around the Pacific continues in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea this week. Yesterday, we reported on climate change – the issue at the top of the agenda. Today more background on another big controversy as we hear about West Papua from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.
A push for self-determination has sputtered on and off again since Indonesia seized the western half of New Guinea from the remnants of the Dutch Colonial Empire 50 years ago. But this year, the issue has begun to develop momentum. In 2014 a divided group of organizations came together under an umbrella organization called the United Liberation Movement which made a strong push for recognition by the Melanesian Spearhead Group. In the end, Indonesia won that diplomatic battle but the West Papuans did find a stage to denounce a litany of alleged human rights abuses and issue an emotional appeal for Melanesian solidarity.
Port Moresby and the Pacific Islands Forum is the next battleground. West Papua is on the agenda there for the first time – and Indonesia holds less influence in this larger group which includes Australia and New Zealand. While the ULM will press for membership, the focus is on the more modest goal of a Pacific Islands Forum fact finding mission to West Papua.
On his arrival in Port Moresby, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said the issues in West Papua need to be dealt with by Indonesia – and Foreign Minister Murray McCully said he saw no need for a fact finding mission. En route to Port Moresby, West Papuan activist Octo Mote told Radio New Zealand that thanks to social media, West Papua’s cry for freedom is being heard across the region and will be harder and harder for Pacific leaders to ignore.