Australia’s government has urged restraint by all relevant parties in West Papua amid ongoing unrest in the Indonesian ruled region.
The death toll from violence in the Papuan cities of Jayapura and Wamena on Monday has risen to 26.
Violence erupted in both cities as Indonesian security forces cracked down on student protests.
This follows weeks of unrest triggered by large protests in the region last month.
Outside the UN headquarters in New York, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne told SBS that her government was seeking updates about the situation.
“Well we are obviously very concerned about the reports of violence in Papua and West Papua. And they are matters which our post in Jakarta is obviously following up with authorities there. We urge absolute restraint from both sides in actions that are happening on the ground there.”
Monday’s unrest in Jayapura led to the arrest of over 700 Papuan students.
Many of them had recently returned home early from study in Javanese cities, where racist attacks on Papuan students last month prompted widespread protests in the Papuan provinces, and also raised fears for the students’ safety.
An additional 6000 Indonesian police and military personnel were deployed to the heavily restricted region by early September as unrest sparked by the protests left at least ten people dead.
Since last year, Indonesian security forces in Papua have also been preoccupied in the Highlands region by a protracted armed conflict with a pro-independence guerilla unit named the West Papua Liberation Army.
The ongoing unrest, as well as issues of human rights abuses and self-determination in Papua, is expected to be raised by some Pacific Islands leaders at this week’s UN General Assembly.
Three civilians, including a 3-year old boy, have died in a shootout with rebels in West Papua, Indonesia’s military says.
The military insisted the people were shot by rebel fighters, while but a Papuan pro-independence military group said Indonesian soldiers were responsible.
A spokesperson for Indonesia’s military said fighting broke out on Tuesday when rebels attacked security forces in Puncak regency’s Ilaga district.
Eko Daryanto said the rebels then retreated into the forest while shooting randomly, killing three civilians and injuring four.
Mr Daryanto had earlier said all seven were injured with gunshot wounds.
The West Papua Liberation Army claimed seven civilians were killed by security forces after they launched an assault on the village.
It’s the latest exchange in a protracted conflict between a military faction of the Papuan independence movement and Indonesian forces in Papua’s remote Highlands region which intensified last year.
Indonesia’s Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told reporters on Thursday military and police could not be pulled out of Papua in case the region seceded from the republic, the state-news agency Antara reported.
They highlighted critical priorities to securing the future of the Pacific region.
New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific People’s represented the country ahead of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s arrival.
Aupito William Sio says beyond the plea for action, Pacific leaders urge industrial nations to then stay on course to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in order to limit temperature rise.
“One-point-five degrees as agreed to in the Paris Agreement and I was quite proud of the way the Pacific Island Forum leaders co-ordinated and raised all the valid issues that were raised at the Tuvalu PIF conference.”
The 21 September meeting at UN Headquarters in New York gave Forum leaders the opportunity to formally table issues, including those discussed at the 50th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting in Tuvalu last month, before the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
Leaders also raised issues previously discussed with Antonio Guterres during his visit to Fiji, New Zealand, Tuvalu and Vanuatu in May.
“The Blue Pacific is the frontline of the fight against climate change which represents the single greatest threat to the future of our region,” said Nauru’s new president, Lionel Aingimea, who chaired the meeting on behalf of the Forum Chair, Tuvalu.
Forum Leaders briefed the UN Secretary-General on the Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now as agreed in Tuvalu. The Declaration sets out ten actions for urgent and effective climate action by all countries at the Climate Action Summit and at COP 25 in Chile in December.
Leaders also discussed the development of a new 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent to drive and lead the collective future of the Pacific region including the importance of securing and protecting ocean and marine resources for the future.
“Including our commitment to conclude all outstanding maritime boundaries claims in order to safeguard our maritime zones in the face of sea level rise and climate change.
“Our resolve to accelerate collective action to address the legacies of nuclear testing including on fisheries was also discussed,” said President Aingimea.
Pacific Leaders also raised the situation in West Papua at the meeting.
“Leaders reiterated their calls from the Forum Communique agreed in Tuvalu – for all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents and to address the root causes of the conflict by peaceful means. The urgency around the Leaders’ request for the parties to finalise the timing for a mission of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua (Papua) was also conveyed,” said Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor.
Pacific to seek easier access to climate finance
Easing access to climate finance will be a focus for the Pacific at the Climate Action Summit.
The Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s principal climate change advisor said Pacific countries were making these firm commitments despite their own very low carbon emissions.
However, these countries were highly vulnerable to the climate crisis, and Espen Ronneberg said access to climate finance for adaptation was a priority for them.
“The resources are available, it’s just that it’s complicated to access them and doing so requires quite a bit of human capacity and expertise that sometimes is lacking or is simply too over-worked with other responsibilities.”
The Climate Action Summit takes place on 23 September at the United Nations in New York.