Jakarta urged to relax Papua policy

Papuans claims they are victims of genocide. Source: YouTube

Jakarta has been called to relax its restrictions on access to West Papua, following a wave of UN concern about human-rights abuses in the easternmost Indonesian provinces.

Pacific island leaders raised concern at the UN General Assembly about alleged human rights abuses in West Papua and Papua provinces, which are rich with mineral assets.

Some of the Pacific leaders asked Jakarta to grant proper recognition of Papua’s rights to self-determination.

But Indonesia replied that the Pacific islanders lacked understanding of resource-rich Papua. It might be replied that the world lacks a proper understanding of the vast, sprawling provinces because the international media is denied access to them.

Indonesia alleged that some Pacific islands backed groups accused of conducting terrorist attacks in Indonesian Papua.

The Solomon Islands special envoy on West Papua, Rex Horoi, has reiterated the nation’s right, along with Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Tonga and Tuvalu, to bring claims of rights abuses to the UN. Indonesia made allegations that the five Pacific countries had used false and fabricated information in their claims.

Horoi refused to “turn a blind eye to the deaths of 500,000 West Papuans over the course of the last 50 years”.

“Solomon Islands has received reports from respectable sources, including fellow UN member states and moral leaders from civil societies, illustrating a lack of protection of human rights of Melanesian people of West Papua.

“Our concern has to do with the increasing loss of lives at the hand of Indonesian authorities. We may argue that mistakes are made and that lives are lost as a consequence, but how can we as members of this august body, defender of human rights and the body of reference in ethical and moral values turn a blind eye to the deaths of more than 500,000 West Papuans over the course of the last 50 years?” said Horoi.

The UK-based United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s spokesman Benny Wenda said Jakarta’s response was typical of Indonesian defensiveness whenever foreign backing for Papuan human rights was mentioned.

“They’re always screaming. Even in London, if we hold an event in London, a parliamentarian meeting, in any part of the world, they’re always screaming,” Wenda said.

“And for us, it’s not new. So I think [it is] the time for the Indonesian government to open the access to West Papua.”

Jakarta made some moves starting last year to grant more access to Papua for the international media.

However, the authorities restrict access for leading international humanitarian groups like the Red Cross and Amnesty International.

Indonesia has told the Pacific Islands Forum that it would not accept its request to have a fact-finding mission visit Papua to study claims of abuse from Papuan civilians.