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Protesters call for West Papua to be included on UN ‘decolonisation’

May 24, 2023

Protesters call for West Papua to be included on UN ‘decolonisation’
list By APR editor – May 24, 2023

Asia Pacific Report

An Australian advocacy group has called for West Papua to be reinscribed on the United Nations list of “non self-governing territories”, citing the “sham” vote in 1969 and the worsening human rights violations in the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian region.

The UN Special Committee on Decolonisation began its 2023 Pacific Regional Seminar in Bali, Indonesia, today and will continue until May 26.

Tomorrow the annual International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories is due to begin tomorrow and will end on May 31.

“Although West Papua is not on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, it should be,” said Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA).

“It’s 60 years since UNTEA transferred West Papua to Indonesian administration, which then unceremoniously removed it from the list.

“As for the so-called Act of Free Choice held in 1969, it was a sham and is referred to by West Papuans as the ‘act of no choice’.”

‘Seriously deteriorating’
Collins said in a statement today that the situation in West Papua was “seriously deteriorating” with ongoing human rights abuses in the territory.

“There are regular armed clashes between the Free Papua Movement [OPM] and the Indonesian security forces,” he said.

“West Papuans continue to be arrested at peaceful demonstrations and Papuans risk being charged with treason for taking part in the rallies.

“The military operations in the highlands have created up to 60,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), many facing starvation because they fear returning to their food gardens because of the Indonesian security forces.

“Recent armed clashes have also created new IDPs.

Collins cited New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens, who has been held hostage by the West Papuan National Liberation Army (TPNPB) for more than three months.

According to Mehrtens as quoted by ABC News on April 26, the Indonesian military had been “dropping bombs” in the area where he was being held, making it “dangerous for me and everybody here”.

‘French’ Polynesia an example
“We cannot expect the [UN Decolonisation Committee] to review the situation of West Papua at this stage as it would only bring to attention the complete failure by the UN to protect the people of West Papua.

However, territories had been reinscribed in the past as in the case of “French” Polynesia in 2013, Collins said.

But Collins said it was hoped that the UN committee could take some action.

“As they meet in Bali, it is hoped that the C24 members — who would be well aware of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua committed by the Indonesian security forces — will urge Jakarta to allow the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua on a fact-finding mission to report on the deteriorating human rights situation in the territory.”

“It’s the least they could do.”


2) The US-PNG defense pact

Editorial board (The Jakarta Post)
Jakarta ● Thu, May 25, 2023

The newly signed defense and maritime cooperation agreement between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the United States will not only exacerbate the ongoing great power rivalry in the Asia Pacific region but also give us a cause for concern because we share a border with PNG.

Depending on the details of the deal, sooner or later the bilateral agreement will affect our national security, for better or worse. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Beijing had no objection to such a form of cooperation, but quickly added, "What we need to be vigilant about is engaging in geopolitical games in the name of cooperation, and we also believe that no cooperation should target any third parties." Beijing has shown a growing interest in Pacific Islands.

Last year, then-Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands as part of his trip to eight Pacific Islands states that badly need financial funding to mitigate the risks of climate change. Australia, the most prominent neighbor of the Pacific nations, is losing its grip on the region since China offers more lucrative deals.

As a part of the strategy to contain China, Australia, the United Kingdom and the US established a military pact, AUKUS, which allows Canberra to possess nuclear-powered submarines to protect its sovereignty. The US also formed another strategic alliance, the Quad, with Australia, Japan and India with rising China in mind.

After attending the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last week, Biden was initially slated to visit PNG. He canceled the trip due to domestic politics and sent his state secretary, Antony Blinken, instead. The US-PNG agreement was signed by Blinken and PNG’s Defense Minister Win Bakri Daki on the sidelines of the summit of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby on Monday.

No details are available regarding the deal, but a leaked draft document suggests it gives US personnel and contractors legal immunity; allows aircraft, vehicles and vessels operated by or on behalf of the US to move freely within its territory and territorial waters and exempts US staff from all migration requirements. The Associated Press quoted the US State Department as saying the new agreement provides a framework to help improve security cooperation, enhance the capacity of PNG’s defense force and increase regional stability.

PNG, the most populous Pacific Island nation, saw fierce battles during World War II. Indonesia may choose to closely monitor the developments of the US-PNG deal and assess how it may impact its national security interests, although the full extent of the repercussions of the agreement will depend on various factors, including the specifics of the deal and the reactions of other regional powers, including China, whose influence in the region is growing.

Due to the possibility of the deal bringing about a shift in regional power dynamics, especially because it can increase the presence of the US and its allies like Australia and Japan, Indonesia should engage in diplomacy with both the US and PNG to ensure its concerns are heard and addressed. Papua, which abuts PNG, is rich in natural resources but has for over a few decades been beset by a separatist movement.

The rebel group has been holding a New Zealand pilot hostage in its stronghold of Nduga highland regency since February. Papua is also home to the US valuable asset in PT Freeport Indonesia, one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, which in 2018 was acquired by Indonesia.

Under nationalist-leaning President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Indonesia increased its shares in Freeport to 51.23 percent in a divestment deal worth US$3.85 billion. The PNG-US security pact amounts to a national security interest for Indonesia. Jakarta must communicate with both Washington and Port Moresby to prevent unwanted implications of any increase in the US military presence in our neighboring country.


3) Witnesses testify chaos at USTJ triggered by police tear gas
News Desk – USTJ Student’s Treason Case Trial
24 May 2023

Jayapura, Jubi – On Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the Jayapura District Courtcontinued the trial of three students accused of treason for taking part in a free speech which displayed the Morning Star flag, held at the Jayapura University of Science and Technology (USTJ) campus on November 10 last year. The defendants, Yoseph Ernesto Matuan, Devio Tekege, and Ambrosius Fransiskus Elopere, testified as witnesses and stated that the free speech turned chaotic after police fired tear gas into the campus area.

According to Elopere, the free speech took place from around 11 to 11:30 a.m. local time. He mentioned that eight students participated in the event, holding pamphlets and two Morning Star flags. The event was not planned but rather initiated spontaneously when they encountered each other on campus that day.

Elopere said that while the speakers were delivering their speeches, a group of police officers suddenly entered the USTJ Campus using two patrol cars. The police entered the campus while firing warning shots and immediately confiscated the pamphlets and flags.

“While we were speaking, the police got out of their cars and fired warning shots. The police dispersed the event, confiscated our pamphlets and Morning Star flags, and instructed us to get into their car. Our fellow students witnessed us being taken away and shouted to stop it there. Some of them approached and closed the campus fence,” Elopere recounted.

Elopere further mentioned that negotiations were taking place with the Heram Police chief at that time, wherein the students requested that the issue be resolved on campus rather than at the police station.

He said the Heram Police chief had allowed the students to read out a statement. “We had a polite conversation until they agreed to let us read the statement,” he said.

However, Elopere stated that the statement was ultimately not read out due to the occurrence of stone-throwing and the firing of tear gas from outside the campus gate. The sudden use of tear gas caused the students to immediately flee for their safety.

“The situation quickly turned chaotic. We immediately scattered. There were six people injured from being struck. I personally got hit by tear gas,” he explained.

Following the incident, Elopere and fourteen other students were apprehended and transported to the Jayapura City Police Headquarters.

Yoseph Ernesto Matuan also affirmed that the unrest ensued due to the intrusion of the police onto the campus. Matuan further revealed that the participants of the free speech were on the verge of presenting a statement in front of the Heram Police Chief when police started firing tear gas. Matuan added that some students who were recording the incident were also subjected to police brutality.

Matuan expressed his confusion regarding the motive behind using tear gas to disperse the gathering. He clarified that their intention was solely to engage in a free speech activity, rejecting the Jakarta-Papua dialogue facilitated by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), commemorating the passing of Theys Hiyo Eluay, a prominent figure in the Papuan Council Presidium, and urging the United Nations Security Council to visit Papua and witness the prevailing security conditions.

The refusal to engage in the dialogue initiated by Komnas HAM was because the Commission did not involve all parties affected by the armed conflict in Papua.

Matuan also said that the free speech had been notified to the Student Executive Board. He admitted to preparing pamphlets and the Morning Star flag but according to him, the Morning Star flag represents Papuan culture and is safeguarded and guaranteed under Law No. 21/2001 on Papua Special Autonomy.

Devio Tekege also recounted that the free speech held at the USTJ Campus on November 10, 2022, turned chaotic due to the police’s use of tear gas within the campus. As a result, he and his friends quickly sought refuge.

Tekege mentioned that he participated in the protest voluntarily. He explained that the students took turns holding pamphlets and Morning Star flags during the event.

Apart from rejecting the dialogue initiated by Komnas HAM, Tekege said that the students also proposed a referendum as a potential solution to Papua problems. This suggestion arose due to the unresolved cases of human rights violations in Papua, which, according to Tekege, have persisted without proper resolutions in the region. (*)

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