A Historic Choice: West Papua, Human Rights and Pacific Diplomacy at the Pacific Island Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group

A Historic Choice: West Papua, Human Rights and Pacific Diplomacy at the Pacific Island Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group


This report analyses political developments and human rights violations in West Papua by the Indonesian state in response to the West Papuan people’s aspirations for self-determination. It covers the period between January 2014, when a delegation of Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Ministers’ visited the territory, and 15 July 2016, the day after Melanesian Spearhead Group Special Leaders meet in Honiara and decided to defer a decision on the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s application for full membership. That decision will now be made by MSG leaders in Port Vila, Vanuatu before September. The purpose of the report is to provide political decision makers in the Pacific – both at the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Island Forum as well as civil society leaders in the Pacific, Non-Government Organisations, the Churches and solidarity groups in particular – with accurate, detailed and timely information about political developments and the human rights situation inside the country, a region that few manage to visit, let alone for any extended period. The authors hope that this information will assist them in their deliberations over the ULMWP’s application for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group as well as the request before the Pacific Island Forum for an international human rights fact finding mission. In light of the worsening human rights situation, a rapidly approaching demographic catastrophe and the Indonesian government’s failure to protect West Papuans this report underscores the need for international remedies. The most obvious and powerful is to take the issue to the United Nations, including to re-list West Papua on the United Nations Committee for Decolonisation and to formally include the ULMWP in regional and sub-regional fora. As a priority the ULMWP should be granted full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. West Papuans need to have a seat at the table, to be the ones making decisions about their own future. Amongst other things, West Papuans need sub-regional and regional leaders to demand that the territory to be opened up to foreign media and international human rights observers. What emerges from the findings is a detailed picture of human rights violations, carried out largely, but not exclusively, by the Indonesian police. Abuses are both systemic and systematic,

please click on link below for full report



Pacific Island Forum Assessment




By Dan McGarry  5 hrs ago


Photo Alex Zuccarelli

At least the Kave was good.


The Pacific Islands Forum has come and gone, and people here in Vanuatu could not care less. There are few Pacific conclaves that generate less interest than this meeting.

In principle, nobody particularly disapproves of getting all Pacific leaders together once a year for a bit of a chat and maybe some minor course correction.

In practice, it seems clear that not all leaders are equal in the eyes of the Forum.

This year more than ever, the final communiqué simply side-stepped any views that didn’t suit the developed nation members.

The event might more accurately be described as the McCully/Bishop Forum.

The region-wide movement to disown PACER Plus was simply ignored in the final language. If Vanuatu needed any other excuse to walk away from this one-sided deal, their treatment in Pohnpei provided one. Scuttlebutt from the venue has it that France’s inclusion in the Forum was anything but a unanimous decision. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai exercised characteristic tact and diplomacy when asked about it, but it doesn’t take a crystal ball to imagine how Vanuatu, one of the staunchest supporters of decolonisation in the Pacific, felt about bringing France into the Forum fold.

France was excluded from the Forum specifically because of its refusal to discuss issues of decolonialisation when the organisation was formed in the 1970s.

West Papua is perhaps the only topic that could dampen Vanuatu’s joy following its under-20 football team winning their way to a World Cup berth. And once again, the Forum has gone to excruciating lengths to make least possible effort to stop the ‘slow motion genocide’ under way in PNG’s eastern neighbour.

In their wrap-up of the Forum, Tess Newton Cain and Matt Dornan write, “of the 48 regional policy public submissions that were received, 13 concerned West Papua.”

With admirable restraint, they continue: “last year’s measured statement announcing the establishment of an independent fact-finding mission looks positively assertive when compared to this year’s communiqué, which simply states that leaders ‘recognised the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua (Papua) and agreed the issue of alleged human rights violations in West Papua (Papua) should remain on their agenda’ (while also agreeing ‘on the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia’). The influence of the larger Forum members was likely at play here, including that of Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Fiji.”

But the silence was even more deafening—if such a thing were possible—where climate change is concerned.

One would think that a post-Paris meeting of the most at-risk countries in the world might feature some meaningful language concerning the single greatest existential threat the globe faces today.

One would be wrong.

If last year’s betrayal of the 1.5 degree global temperature rise limit wasn’t enough, this year we saw effectively no effort to slow the now-inevitable rise in global temperatures.

The closest we came to progress was to kick the Strategy for Resilient Development—an attempt to integrate climate change mitigation and disaster risk management—down the road.

An earlier version of the plan was rejected last year because it failed to cut the mustard last year, largely because of tepid Loss and Damage commitments.

This year, Cain and Dornan tell us the plan is back. The “voluntary nature of the framework agreed this year was no doubt helpful in securing leaders’ agreement.”

No doubt, indeed.

Some day, the bigger global fish are going to realise that they aren’t so big, and the small fry aren’t so small. We are all minnows in an increasingly crowded pond.

And when the sun begins to dry it, there’s no use in pretending the water’s only evaporating from someone else’s part of the pool.

Of course, the PIF wasn’t piffle for everyone concerned. Indonesia can take comfort that Australia, Fiji, PNG and New Zealand are still willing to carry their water, even in the face of a rising groundswell of protest over their continued occupation of West Papua.

Australia’s mining sector can hold their heads high at their ability to hold back a rising tide.

Fiji’s ruling regime danced through the meeting with characteristic aplomb, even as rumours of state-sponsored execution attempts circulate, and Opposition leaders are carted off to the clink.

If nothing else, the Vanuatu delegation got to visit the country with the second-most potent kava in the world. On an island so nice it looks like one of ours. That’s not nothing.

Sort of.

The online version of this article has been slightly edited from the print version.