The President of Indonesia met with a group of civic leaders from West Papua last month to discuss opening a dialogue on problems in the restive province. The group did not include representatives of the United Liberation Movement, which issued a statement that rejected the overture. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
The meeting in Jakarta was significant because President Joko Widodo participated in the first Indonesian opening to West Papuan leaders. The group agreed on a mediator to facilitate further talks but very little else. There was no discussion of human rights issues and the meeting pointedly excluded the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, which is widely accepted as the representative of the indigenous peoples of the area.
The group’s Secretary General, Octo Mote, told Radio New Zealand that the time for dialogue has passed and that group intends to pursue its campaign for independence. He dismissed the Jakarta meeting as public relations timed for the Pacific Islands Forum Summit, which is meeting in Samoa this week, and the General Assembly of the United Nations, which gathers in New York later this month.
Independence leader Benny Wenda will present a petition to the UN Secretary General and to the special committee on decolonization with the support of seven Pacific Island nations, Vanuatu, Nauru, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Palau. West Papua is also on the agenda at the Pacific Islands Forum Summit.
Two years ago, the group agreed to send a fact-finding mission to West Papua, but Indonesia refused to agree, and it’s unclear what, if anything, this year’s summit is prepared to do next.