Vanuatu to host next Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific leaders have decided on the venues for the next three leaders summits.

At last week’s summit in Tuvalu it was announced that Vanuatu would host in 2020, Fiji in 2021 and Kiribati in 2022.

Waterfront at Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu Photo: RNZ/Sally Round
Waterfront at Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Pacific leaders push for UN rights commissioner visit to Papua

Leaders of Pacific Islands Forum countries and territories want Indonesia to allow a team from the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office to visit West Papua soon.

At their annual summit in Tuvalu, Pacific leaders acknowledged the reported escalation in violence and continued alleged human rights abuses in Papua.

Pacific leaders reaffirmed recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua but have re-emphasised and reinforced the Forum’s position of raising its concerns over violent conflict in the Melanesian region.

They agreed to maintain open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue of alleged human rights abuses in Papua, zeroing in on the issue of access for rights monitors.

But some Pacific governments are concerned that an invitation in-principle made in January by Jakarta to the UN Rights Commissioner’s office to visit Papua has not been honoured.

In the communique from their Tuvalu summit, Pacific leaders strongly encouraged both sides to finalise the timing of the visit and for an evidence-based, informed report on the situation to be provided before next year’s Forum Leaders summit.

The deadline is a new addition to what was otherwise similar wording on West Papua to previous Forum summits.

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said that the resolution was a recognition by Pacific leaders that something more had to be done about what they see as a worsening human rights situation in Papua.

“We’re very happy that now the onus is on the secretariat and the member states of PIF, including the members that are on the UN Human Rights Council, that they need to make sure that the commisioner gets to go,” Mr Regenvanu said in Tuvalu.

“Indonesia should see that there is a very clear concern, and we hope that this statement will make them come to the table and work with the UN Human Rights Commissioner to make sure that visit does happen.”

Strong words

Earlier at the Tuvalu summit, while speaking to civil society organisations, Tonga’s Prime Minister said the West Papua issue had divided the Forum’s members for years.

‘Akilisi Pohiva attributed the Forum’s failure to date to resolve conflict over West Papua to the influence of Indonesia over some Pacific nations.

He said the Pacific countries should not let others control them, but should instead stand together in unity and in solidarity and support the people of West Papua.

Pacific Media Watch reports there was pindrop silence when the Tongan leader delivered his intervention in response to regional civil society’s call for a team from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office to visit West Papua.

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Photo: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Meanwhile, Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama urged fellow Pacific leaders to approach the West Papua issue with caution.

Mr Bainimarama said he as concerned with reports of human rights violations in West Papua, and reaffirmed his country’s continuing support for the people of Papua.

According to FBC News, he said the Forum should tread boldly but thoughtfully as territorial disputes have fuelled war and chaos in the past.

He said Fiji is also committed to the protection of human rights for all and respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, including Indonesia

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s defense minister has called for a crackdown on West Papuan rebel fighters amid ongoing deaths from armed conflict in the Melanesian region.

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Photo: AFP

Ryamizard Ryacudu was speaking amid ongoing violence between the West Papua National Liberation Army and Indonesian security forces in Papua’s highlands.

The Forum leaders have acknowledged the protracted nature of the conflict.

“Leaders called on all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents and to work to address the root causes of the conflict by peaceful means,” the Forum leaders’ said in their communique.

Indonesia is not a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, but rather a Forum partner, and has sent a delegation to attend the post-leaders summit dialogue partner sessions today.

Source: RNZ

Thousands riot in Papua, parliament building torched

Agence-France Presse19 August 2019< Source

Protesters in Manokwari, Papua, have set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and thrown rocks at government buildings
Protesters in Manokwari, Papua, have set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and thrown rocks at government buildings

Riots broke out and a local parliament building was torched in Indonesia’s restive Papua region on Monday, as thousands protested against the weekend detention of dozens of Papuan students.

Demonstrators took to the streets of Manokwari, the capital of West Papua province, bringing the city of some 130,000 to a standstill as its civic building was nearly reduced to ashes.

Some protesters set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and threw rocks at government buildings, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, who estimated several thousand demonstrators were present.

Indonesia’s security minister Wiranto, who goes by one name, appealed for calm and said there would be an investigation of the incident that triggered the unrest in Manokwari as well as protests in several other Papuan cities on Monday.

“This has clearly disrupted our unity as a nation,” he said.

The riots marked the latest flashpoint in a region hit by a decades-old insurgency against Indonesian rule and allegations that its security forces committed widespread rights abuses against its ethnic Melanesian population.

Papua shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea (PNG), just north of Australia.

A former Dutch colony, it declared itself independent in the early Sixties, but neighbouring Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region following a UN-sponsored independence referendum that was widely viewed as a sham.

In Manokwari, three police officers were injured by rock-throwing protesters, authorities said. It was not immediately clear if any demonstrators were injured. Local schools were shut for the day.

Anger boiled over at reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students in the Southeast Asian nation’s second-biggest city Surabaya on Saturday — Indonesia’s independence day.

Local media and Papuan activists said police in riot gear stormed into a dormitory to force out students who allegedly destroyed an Indonesian flag.

Police said the students were briefly questioned and set free.

Television footage on Saturday also showed a different group of protesters demonstrating against the students and shouting racial slurs about Papuans.

The unrest comes after two Indonesian security personnel were killed over the past month in clashes with separatist rebels.

Last year, the National Liberation Army of West Papua, part of a grouping of rebels fighting for Papuan independence, killed at least 19 construction workers at a remote jungle camp in Papua.

The employees of a state-owned contractor had been building bridges and roads as part of efforts to boost infrastructure in the impoverished region.

Protesters in Manokwari, Papua, have set fire to shops and vehicles, knocked down street signs, and thrown rocks at government buildings

Riots in Papua were triggered by reports that authorities tear-gassed and detained some 43 Papuan university students

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister on Australia’s Statements at PIF Retreat

“I thought the Australian labour scheme was determined on mutual respect, that Australia was also benefiting,” said Mr Sopoaga. “We are not crawling below that. If that’s the view of the government, then I would have no hesitation in pulling back the Tuvaluan people as from tomorrow.”

“I don’t think the Tuvaluan people are paupers to come crawling under that type of very abusive and offensive language,” he said. “If New Zealand is thinking the same way, we’ll have no other option but to do that [there too].”


West Papuan students barricaded, detained and tear-gassed by police on Indonesian ‘freedom’ day


Indonesian police have defended their decision to storm into a dormitory of West Papuan students alongside the nation’s military, over vigilante allegations that someone had committed slander on the national symbol.

Key points:

  • Police arrested 43 students but released them without charge over allegations of “committing slander on the national flag”
  • Earlier this week pro-West Papuan protesters were attacked and hundreds arrested
  • The acquisition of West Papua by Indonesia has long been a cause of controversy

Police and armed military personnel stormed through the gates of the dormitory in the Indonesian city of Surabaya, firing around 20 tear gas canisters into the building, causing injuries, last Saturday.

Forty three students were arrested and taken to a police station in the city, but released around nine hours after without charge, over claims that the Indonesian flag was found in the gutter by the building.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sought to ease tensions, with his Chief Security Minister pledging a “complete and fair” investigation into the incidents.

Mr Widodo called for calm in Papua and urged people not to damage public facilities.

“It’s OK to be emotional, but it’s better to be forgiving,” he said.

“Patience is also better.”

Today, protesters torched a local parliament building and set fire to tyres and branches in the West Papua provincial capital, Manokwari.

A separate, peaceful protest of about 500 people was also underway in the town of Jayapura, the capital of Papua province.

The protests appears to be in retaliation to the detention and treatment of West Papuan students in Surabaya between Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

Nationalist vigilantes gathered outside the student’s dormitory building from Friday night — a day before Indonesia’s independence day —singing the Indonesian national anthem, cutting power to the building, and attacking good Samaritans delivering food and drinks to the trapped students.

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