PNG warns West Papua activists

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor says the issue of West Papua will be one of the contentious issue to be dealt with by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders when they meet in Port Moresby this week.

And already, the host country Papua New Guinea has refused entry for West Papuan activist, Benny Wenda, an indication of the controversy that surrounds the issue ahead of the 46th annual summit of Pacific Leaders in Port Moresby.

In Fiji, the Secretary General of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Octovanius Mote was ‘quietly’ asked to leave the meeting of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF).

Addressing journalists at a media workshop in Port Moresby on Friday, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister, Rimbink Pato said Papua New Guinea’s position is clear, “We have strong relations with Indonesia and we will not do anything that will jeopardise or call into question the sovereignty, integrity and jurisdiction competence of Indonesia over the five Melanesian provinces in Indonesia.”

Minister Pato hinted that anyone that is not a member of an independent member state will not be permitted to enter the country.

“Of course there are rules and regulations of the Forum on what leaders can and can’t do but from our perspective, anyone who is not an independent member of the Forum should not be allowed to enter the country,” said Minister Pato.

PACNEWS understands that PNG Immigration are on the lookout for other West Papua activists entering the country for the Forum Leaders meeting.

A senior regional issues expert told PACNEWS in Port Moresby that it’s sad that West Papuan activists are being targeted when one of the five priority issues to go before the Leaders this week is on West Papua.

“I am afraid that Indonesia seems to be putting a lot of pressure on Papua New Guinea as host country,” said the expert.

Octa Mote, the secretary general of the United West Papua Movement was refused entry to the Pacific Islands Development Forum meeting in Suva last week. He is understood to be part of a regional government delegation to Port Moresby this week.

Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor is of the view that ‘difficult issues will need frank and potentially difficult discussions by our Leaders.’

“I don’t know how Leaders will handle the West Papua issue. Some Leaders are passionate about this issue while others are passionate but concerned with the implications for their countries and for the region,” Dame Meg told journalists attending the media workshop organised by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) in Port Moresby last week.

However, one thing that was clear from submissions made to the Specialist Sub Committee on Regionalism is that human rights violations happening in West Papua is a regional issue that needs to be dealt with by Forum Leaders at the regional level.

“You all watched what happened at the recent Melanesia Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting. It will be further compounded with 16 Leaders discussing the issue with their own lenses.

“The Secretariat has been asked in the past if it is comfortable with West Papuan issues being discussed. I’d like to urge you all to research the history of the Pacific Islands Forum. In the early days, there was a lot of economic issues but as the politics of our region changed, issues like nuclear testing, independence for our countries and self-determination became a critical tenet of the Pacific Islands Forum.

“I guess I am one of those people who sticks to the tenets or the house posts that the institution was built on,” Dame Meg highlighted, without mincing her words.

PACNEWS understands Leaders will be asked to note the concerns of human rights violation in Papuan provinces in Indonesia, recognising Indonesia’s sovereignty.

They will be asked to continue to engage Indonesia through economic partnerships, social, cultural, sports programmes and people to people exchanges.

Forum Officials Committee documents of 19 August 2015 obtained by PACNEWS says, ‘any proposed mission to Indonesia would need to be on the basis of discussions with and invitation by Indonesia.’

In addition, calls for sanctions and referral to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee were considered as inappropriate actions.

Condemning and addressing human rights abuses in West Papua is one of the five priority issues on the agenda of Forum Leaders this week.

15 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and Fiji’s Foreign Affairs Minister will attend the weeklong annual summit of Pacific Leaders.