MSG DG Congratulates Gov’t Delegation on Recent Universal Periodic Review

The Vanuatu Daily PostThe MSG Secretariat’s Director General, Ambassador Amena Yauvoli has congratulated the Government of Vanuatu, in particular Minister for Justice and Community Services Don Ken and his distinguished delegation who recently presented Vanuatu’s national report to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process in Geneva last week.

Ambassador Yauvoli acknowledged the great efforts undertaken by the Vanuatu government since its last UPR in 2013 to address its human rights priorities and noted Vanuatu’s best practice of publishing a UPR implementation plan and being the only country in the region to do so.

“Apart from the Implementation Plan, the Vanuatu National report highlights key achievements by the government on various human rights including the submission of the initial and combined periodic report of the CRPD; the completion of the 2nd and 3rd periodic report and constructive dialogue with the CRC Committee, the completion of the 4th and 5th report on CEDAW and constructive dialogue with the CEDAW Committee; the endorsement of the Child Protection Policy 2016-2026, the Child Safeguarding Policy 2017-2020; the establishment of an External Inspection team for the monitoring of correction centres, the establishment of a Ministry of Climate Change, the passing of the Right to Information Act and the establishment of a unit in the PM’s office, the National Disability Inclusive Development Policy 2018-2025 and the National Anti-Corruption Policy Framework 2018-2022 among others are truly remarkable achievements,” Ambassador Yauvoli noted.

“The MSG Secretariat is also pleased to have provided technical support throughout the preparatory stages by the government including assisting the drafting committee of the national report and recently holding a mock UPR session to the Honourable Minister’s delegation prior to their departure for Geneva. We are also pleased that our partnership with SPC RRRT is strengthened through our joint support to the government in this area,” DG Yauvoli added.

The UPR is the UN Human Right’s Council periodic review of all member states on the actions they have taken to improve human rights situations in their countries and fulfil their human rights obligations. Vanuatu was reviewed at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on January 24, 2019.

The MSG Secretariat will work with its partners especially SPC RRRT to support the Vanuatu government’s efforts in the implementation of key recommendations from this review as well as to our other members who will be undertaking this national obligation Ambassador Yauvoli remarked.

Following its review under the UPR, the member state will have about four years to work on implementing accepted recommendations. Vanuatu’s next UPR is in 2024.

news@dailypost.vu

Indonesian military to complete Trans-Papua Highway

Officials working on a troubled road project in Papua say Indonesia’s military will complete the job this year.

In December, at least 16 Indonesians working on the Trans-Papua Highway in Nduga province were massacred by fighters from the West Papua Liberation Army.

Indonesian soldiers Photo: AFP
Indonesian soldiers Photo: AFP

The project was put on hold with the military saying it would take over work on the 4000 kilometre highway.

Combat engineers will reportedly carry out the construction, with hundreds of extra security personnel deployed to the area.

Detik News reports a military battalion has been assigned to the building of the project’s remaining 16 bridges.

Indonesian army engineers had already been working on the Trans-Papua Highway project for a number of years.

Military involvement in the project was cited by the Liberation Army as a central reason for killing the road workers, who were suspected of being soldiers.

Source: RadioNZ

Authors: Kaitu’u ‘i Pangai Funaki and Yoichiro Sato

CAN Japan count on the Pacific islands countries (PICs) to support its regional strategy.

The short answer is, it is doubtful. The PICs perceive themselves as being in a one-way relationship wherein Japan exists to assist the PICs with their limitations. Trust in the PICs is based on expression of generosity understood as not only what one receives from a relationship, but also on what one gives back to it. Consequently, in its current form the relationship between Japan and the PICs is not structured to engender trust.

Moreover, the PICs have a shared foreign policy of ‘friends to all and enemy to none’, and supporting Japan may place the PICs in the role of ‘enemy’ to other countries. These limitations notwithstanding, Japan and the PICs must work together to coordinate their approaches to important regional issues, such as how to deal with the rise of China and North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.

PIC perceptions of their relationship with Japan as being unidirectional are long-standing. Japan took the initiative to develop its relationship with the PICs as a group through the establishment of the summit-level Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) in 1997.

PALM — whose members include Japan, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu — has come to be considered the main venue for Japan to hold dialogue with leaders of the PICs. However, during these meetings Japan and the PICs both appear unsure of how best to enhance their relationship as partners despite including ‘we are islanders’ in the PALM theme for the past three meetings.

Japan’s propensity for informing the PICs of policies impacting or involving them, rather than co-creating such policies, inhibits the development of trust. For example, Japan did not partner with the PICs during development of its new ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ (FOIPS), regarding how the PICs could contribute to this strategy. Instead, Japan informed them of their involvement for the first time only two months before PALM 8, at which Japan sought their cooperation with the policy.

During PALM 8, the Japanese government declared FOIPS as the cornerstone of its foreign relations with the PICs in regard to the development of human and non-human infrastructure. This infrastructure was intended to strengthen the capacity of the PICs to keep the oceans and seas of the Indo-Pacific region free and governed by international law.

Nonetheless, despite FOIPS directly referencing the Pacific people as guardians of the ocean through their Pacific Ocean identity, the PIC leaders were insufficiently consulted on what they had to contribute toward being guardians of the Pacific. The process generated an insufficient sense of reciprocity in the relationship between Japan and the PICs. Consequently, PIC leaders evinced doubt regarding Japan’s intentions behind FOIPS as well as the rationale behind the definition of a ‘Free and Open Pacific’.

Furthermore, the PIC leaders typically sign agreements for the overseas development aid promised to them by Japan before and during PALM. By requesting PIC cooperation with the pre-determined FOIPS at the same time that it issued ODA agreements, Japan created an environment of distrust.

PIC leaders were concerned that their responses regarding FOIPS would potentially impact the value of the ODA projects Japan was prepared to offer them. This disjuncture at the strategic level is all the more regrettable, given the much better reception of Japan’s aid per se among the PICs — a product of coordinated requests by the PICs.

Some aspects of the FOIPS are no doubt aimed at counterbalancing China’s growing influence in the Pacific. It would be a mistake on the part of Japan not to openly communicate this point.

The fact that several PICs are already heavily indebted by China to the point of endangering their autonomy, despite having long-standing partnerships with Japan, is indicative of overly focusing on the coordination of economic interests at the neglect of strategic discussions.

Japan also sought PIC support in enforcing sanctions against North Korea in Paragraph 47 of the PALM 8 declaration. Japan’s push was a direct reaction to the suspected involvement of the North Korean dummy companies registered in Samoa and Marshall Islands in ship-to-ship transferring of illicit cargo at sea and the reflagging of a suspected North Korean ship in Palau, both in order to evade United Nations sanctions.

As members of the international community, the PICs should already be supporting existing sanctions against North Korea. However, they have not yet risen to their responsibility in this regard due first to their lack of expertise and ignorance but also to the strength of their cultural imperative of being an ‘enemy to none’.

This cultural imperative unfortunately conceals the undercurrent lure of easy money from registering North Korean ships and companies. PIC leaders will require strong motivation to break with established practice; experiencing a sense of reciprocity in their relationship with Japan could serve as such a motivation. The manner in which Japan presented its agenda at PALM 8 with a short notice publicly shamed some PIC leaders and failed to foster a sense of ownership of the agenda among others.

The current form of Japan’s relationship with the PICs does not include reciprocity and thus compromises the PICs’ sense of self-respect. This self-respect can be restored doubly, first through adding reciprocity into the Japanese-PIC relationship, and second through the PICs accepting and acting on their obligations to take a stance and align themselves with other members of the international community.

However, if Japan were to shift to becoming more of an equal partner in its relationship with the PICs and utilize PALM to support the PICs in identifying and rectifying the islands’ own needs, then this approach would lead to the PICs being more open to supporting Japan in its actions in return.

The threat Japan feels from North Korea may not be considered by the PICs to be of direct concern to them. Nevertheless, giving the PICs the option to provide their support to Japan on this and similar issues of major concern would allow them the opportunity to express generosity toward Japan by publicly supporting it on the global stage. Such generosity would reciprocate the support received from Japan, keeping the relationship balanced while fostering unity within the Japanese-PIC relationship. Moreover, the opportunity to reciprocate to Japan will ensure continued dignity for the PICs as they rise to their responsibility and participate in coordinated international actions having value for the global community of nations.

This year, Japan will for the first time host a three-week-long seminar for capacity building against ship-to-ship transferring of illicit cargo, inviting maritime officers from 14 PICs to University of South Pacific in Fiji. Improved PIC capability to secure its sea will hopefully revive the dignity of the ‘guardians’ of the sea.

Kaitu’u ‘i Pangai Funaki, a researcher in Asia-Pacific studies, politics and international relations, is the founder of the Dignified Pacific Initiative. Yoichiro Sato is a professor of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU).

Source: https://vanuatuindependent.com/

Indonesia is cementing control over West Papua

By NITHIN COCA, Freelance Journalist , SolomonStarNews

EARLIER this month, the Indonesian military raided and destroyed the offices of the West Papuan National Committee, a separatist group in the country’s easternmost region, which has long agitated for independence. 

The raid came amid allegations that the military had used chemical weapons in airstrikes on separatists in West Papua in late December. 

The Indonesian government has responded harshly after at least 17 construction workers were killed by West Papuan militants in early December, the deadliest such attack in West Papua in years.

This surge in unrest in the region is the outcome of a harder line that the Indonesian government has taken on West Papua in recent years. 

During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, criticized that approach. 

Referring directly to West Papua, he said the Indonesian government needed to “put an end to all forms of violence and find common ground with the populations to establish a process that will allow them to freely express their choice.” 

The reaction from Indonesia, which is usually quiet at the U.N., was fierce. 

President Joko Widodo hasn’t even bothered to attend the General Assembly in his five years in office, but his government immediately lambasted Salwai. 

Jakarta’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dian Triansyah Djani, declared that “Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity.” 

Referring to separatist and independence groups in West Papua, he said Indonesia also “fail[ed] to understand the motive behind Vanuatu’s intention in supporting a group of people who have [struck] terror and mayhem [on] so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities.”

West Papua was not part of Indonesia when the country gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. 

The region, which has a distinct ethnic and linguistic identity from mostly Polynesian Indonesia, was formally annexed in 1969 after what Indonesians call the “Act of Free Choice,” when a group of hand-selected Papuans voted unanimously in favour of Indonesian control in a vote marred by allegations of blackmail and coercion.

Since then, West Papua has been the site of regular violence, either from one of the many separatist groups on the island, or, more often, the Indonesian military. 

The island is rich in minerals, the revenue from which make up a significant portion of Indonesia’s budget. 

Freeport-McMoRan’s huge Grasberg mine alone provided more than $750 million in revenue in 2017.

Many West Papuans, either living in Indonesia or abroad, have been advocating for self-determination for years. 

But what was primarily a local conflict has now become more regional, as both sides have attempted to internationalize the issue. 

West Papuans are ethnically Melanesian, like the citizens of Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations, such as the Solomon Islands and Fiji. 

West Papuan activists have been working to build connections with these countries, with the goal of having them speak up for Papuan independence, like Salwai did at the General Assembly. 

“West Papua is a regional issue, because we are part of Melanesia, connected culturally and linguistically,” Benny Wenda, an exiled leader of the Free West Papua organization currently based in the United Kingdom, told WPR. 

“The majority in the Pacific islands, they don’t see West Papua as distant. It’s close to them.” 

The main entity for cooperation in the region is the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, founded in 1971, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group within it, which counts the four Melanesian nations as members. 

West Papuan advocates have used the forum to push for global recognition, including formal membership for West Papua as an occupied country.

Indonesia, however, has been pushing back by sowing discord among the forum’s members. 

It provided military support to Fiji after the island’s 2006 coup, which had led to the imposition of Western sanctions, and offered significant aid to Papua New Guinea.

With both countries’ support, in 2011, Indonesia was granted observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. 

Since then, attempts by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an umbrella organization of independence groups, to get a similar status have proved futile. 

Now, both Fiji and Papua New Guinea say they support Indonesia’s full membership in the group, which would push the West Papua issue to the sidelines.

Since Indonesia got its observer status, “the MSG has become an empty house,” says James Elmslie, a political scientist with the West Papua Project at the University of Sydney.

“The MSG is now split on the issue.”

Indonesia’s pressure tactics resemble the actions of a much bigger power in Asia dealing with territories it considers its own: China. 

Having long sought to isolate supporters of Tibet, China regularly pushes countries to refuse access to the Dalai Lama, as both Russia and South Africa have done in recent years.

Beijing also uses a carrot-and-stick strategy to shrink the number of countries that recognize Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. 

In the past year, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have dropped their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favour of China.

 Like other countries that have done this, they can expect to be rewarded with aid, investments and more. Conversely, countries that refuse to switch, like Palau, have been squeezed by China and seen their tourism industries suffer.

Unlike China, though, Indonesia is a democracy, one that is often hailed as a model for both Asia and the Islamic world. 

There was a small window of opportunity, right after the fall of the three-decades long Suharto dictatorship in 1998, when newly democratic Indonesia was engaging with pro-independence activists in West Papua. 

At the time, East Timor was permitted to hold an independence referendum, and there were calls for something similar in West Papua. 

But when reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid—facing corruption allegations, economic woes and political unrest—was forced to step down in 2001, that window slammed shut. 

The Indonesian military reasserted control, killing Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, and things went back to the status quo of repression.

 Indonesia continued to exploit the region for resources and suppress the voices of Papuans. 

Democracy may have transformed Indonesia, but it brought little change to West Papua.

Now the situation is only getting worse. 

The core problem is that unlike a decade ago, the Indonesian government is refusing to engage peacefully, instead allowing, either implicitly or explicitly, the Indonesian military to take the lead. 

Getting an independent view of what’s taking place in West Papua remains as difficult as ever. 

For decades, the Indonesian government has essentially closed off the region to journalists, international observers and NGOs. 

The few who do enter face risk of arrest, like Jakub Fabian Skrzypzki, a Polish citizen who is now on trial for alleged ties to Papuan separatists and faces potential life imprisonment in Indonesia if convicted.

It looks like another move out of China’s playbook. 

Why would democratic Indonesia go that route? Because so far, it’s working!

• Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social, economic, and political issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is cementing control over West Papua

The Solomon Star News, By NITHIN COCA, Freelance Journalist 

EARLIER this month, the Indonesian military raided and destroyed the offices of the West Papuan National Committee, a separatist group in the country’s easternmost region, which has long agitated for independence. 

The raid came amid allegations that the military had used chemical weapons in airstrikes on separatists in West Papua in late December. 

The Indonesian government has responded harshly after at least 17 construction workers were killed by West Papuan militants in early December, the deadliest such attack in West Papua in years.

This surge in unrest in the region is the outcome of a harder line that the Indonesian government has taken on West Papua in recent years. 

During the United Nations General Assembly last September, the prime minister of the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, criticized that approach. 

Referring directly to West Papua, he said the Indonesian government needed to “put an end to all forms of violence and find common ground with the populations to establish a process that will allow them to freely express their choice.” 

The reaction from Indonesia, which is usually quiet at the U.N., was fierce. 

President Joko Widodo hasn’t even bothered to attend the General Assembly in his five years in office, but his government immediately lambasted Salwai. 

Jakarta’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Dian Triansyah Djani, declared that “Indonesia will not let any country undermine its territorial integrity.” 

Referring to separatist and independence groups in West Papua, he said Indonesia also “fail[ed] to understand the motive behind Vanuatu’s intention in supporting a group of people who have [struck] terror and mayhem [on] so many occasions, creating fatalities and sadness to innocent families of their own communities.”

West Papua was not part of Indonesia when the country gained independence from the Netherlands in 1949. 

The region, which has a distinct ethnic and linguistic identity from mostly Polynesian Indonesia, was formally annexed in 1969 after what Indonesians call the “Act of Free Choice,” when a group of hand-selected Papuans voted unanimously in favour of Indonesian control in a vote marred by allegations of blackmail and coercion.

Since then, West Papua has been the site of regular violence, either from one of the many separatist groups on the island, or, more often, the Indonesian military. 

The island is rich in minerals, the revenue from which make up a significant portion of Indonesia’s budget. 

Freeport-McMoRan’s huge Grasberg mine alone provided more than $750 million in revenue in 2017.

Many West Papuans, either living in Indonesia or abroad, have been advocating for self-determination for years. 

But what was primarily a local conflict has now become more regional, as both sides have attempted to internationalize the issue. 

West Papuans are ethnically Melanesian, like the citizens of Vanuatu and other Pacific Island nations, such as the Solomon Islands and Fiji. 

West Papuan activists have been working to build connections with these countries, with the goal of having them speak up for Papuan independence, like Salwai did at the General Assembly. 

“West Papua is a regional issue, because we are part of Melanesia, connected culturally and linguistically,” Benny Wenda, an exiled leader of the Free West Papua organization currently based in the United Kingdom, told WPR. 

“The majority in the Pacific islands, they don’t see West Papua as distant. It’s close to them.” 

The main entity for cooperation in the region is the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, founded in 1971, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group within it, which counts the four Melanesian nations as members. 

West Papuan advocates have used the forum to push for global recognition, including formal membership for West Papua as an occupied country.

Indonesia, however, has been pushing back by sowing discord among the forum’s members. 

It provided military support to Fiji after the island’s 2006 coup, which had led to the imposition of Western sanctions, and offered significant aid to Papua New Guinea.

With both countries’ support, in 2011, Indonesia was granted observer status in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. 

Since then, attempts by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an umbrella organization of independence groups, to get a similar status have proved futile. 

Now, both Fiji and Papua New Guinea say they support Indonesia’s full membership in the group, which would push the West Papua issue to the sidelines.

Since Indonesia got its observer status, “the MSG has become an empty house,” says James Elmslie, a political scientist with the West Papua Project at the University of Sydney.

“The MSG is now split on the issue.”

Indonesia’s pressure tactics resemble the actions of a much bigger power in Asia dealing with territories it considers its own: China. 

Having long sought to isolate supporters of Tibet, China regularly pushes countries to refuse access to the Dalai Lama, as both Russia and South Africa have done in recent years.

Beijing also uses a carrot-and-stick strategy to shrink the number of countries that recognize Taiwan, which it sees as a breakaway province. 

In the past year, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic have dropped their diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in favour of China.

 Like other countries that have done this, they can expect to be rewarded with aid, investments and more. Conversely, countries that refuse to switch, like Palau, have been squeezed by China and seen their tourism industries suffer.

Unlike China, though, Indonesia is a democracy, one that is often hailed as a model for both Asia and the Islamic world. 

There was a small window of opportunity, right after the fall of the three-decades long Suharto dictatorship in 1998, when newly democratic Indonesia was engaging with pro-independence activists in West Papua. 

At the time, East Timor was permitted to hold an independence referendum, and there were calls for something similar in West Papua. 

But when reformist President Abdurrahman Wahid—facing corruption allegations, economic woes and political unrest—was forced to step down in 2001, that window slammed shut. 

The Indonesian military reasserted control, killing Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay, and things went back to the status quo of repression.

 Indonesia continued to exploit the region for resources and suppress the voices of Papuans. 

Democracy may have transformed Indonesia, but it brought little change to West Papua.

Now the situation is only getting worse. 

The core problem is that unlike a decade ago, the Indonesian government is refusing to engage peacefully, instead allowing, either implicitly or explicitly, the Indonesian military to take the lead. 

Getting an independent view of what’s taking place in West Papua remains as difficult as ever. 

For decades, the Indonesian government has essentially closed off the region to journalists, international observers and NGOs. 

The few who do enter face risk of arrest, like Jakub Fabian Skrzypzki, a Polish citizen who is now on trial for alleged ties to Papuan separatists and faces potential life imprisonment in Indonesia if convicted.

It looks like another move out of China’s playbook. 

Why would democratic Indonesia go that route? Because so far, it’s working!

• Nithin Coca is a freelance journalist who focuses on social, economic, and political issues in developing countries, and has specific expertise in Southeast Asia.

Call for Pacific regional groups to investigate Papua chemical attacks

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua is calling for Pacific regional groups to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in Indonesia’s Papua region.

The movement’s chair, Benny Wenda, said the Pacific Islands Forum and the Melanesian Spearhead Group should urgently send fact-finding missions to Nduga regency.

This comes after unverified reports of the suspected use of white phosphorus weapons by Indonesia’s military against civilians in Nduga.

Indonesia last month called the claims “totally baseless”.

But Mr Wenda said its security operations in Nduga had created a “humanitarian crisis”.

In a statement, he said Indonesia should also grant the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights access to West Papua to complete its own fact-finding mission.

Mr Wenda said humanitarian aid organisations should also be allowed in to Nduga to “relieve the suffering of West Papuans”.

A massive joint police and military operation has been underway in the remote Highlands regency, as well as neighbouring regencies, since December, in a hunt for members of the West Papua Liberation Army.

The armed group is responsible for the killings of at least 16 Indonesian construction workers and one soldier in November.

The joint operation has sparked sporadic shootouts between the Liberation Army and Indonesia’s military, with at least one soldier and one rebel fighter shot dead this year.

Source: RadioNZ


Indonesian military and police have seized the West Papua National Committee headquarters in the Southern city of Timika.

Dozens of officers descended on the building on Monday, tearing down walls and ordering an end to operations.

The Jakarta Post reported the local district police chief saying 80 military and police personnel monitored New Year celebrations at the headquarters on Monday.

Agung Marlianto said officers ordered Free West Papua activists to remove all insignia and not to shout freedom slogans.

Police Chief in Timika, Agung Marlianto
Police Chief in Timika, Agung Marlianto Photo: wikicommons

Officers painted over and knocked down walls displaying the red and white colours of the independence movement.

Mr Marlianto said Papuans won’t be allowed to use any Free West Papua symbols, including the Morning Star.

West Papua National Committee spokesperson Ones Suhuniap told the Jakarta Post the takeover was immoral and improper.

The committee’s headquarters will now be used as a joint military-police post.