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Saturday, January 23, 2010

PNG must now take up the West Papua issue with UN

THE PNG government must now take up the issue of West Papua with the UN.  PNG must not sweep this long outstanding issue concerning the Melanesian Papuans under the mat. 

The Australian and the Indonesian governments also need to be brought into this three way negotiation on what can we do now for the people of West Papua.

The so-called 'Act of Free Choice' was a total farce by Indonesia to annex West Papua and subjugate its indigenous Melanesian people.

This act was a violation of West Papua's legal right to self-determination, a violation of the 'sacred trust' under Article 73 of the UN Charter and a breach of Indonesia's treaty obligations under the UN Charter and the New York Agreement. This action cannot justify Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.

The struggle for West Papua 'self determination' will continue whether Indonesia likes it or not. Many more of our Melanesian people will die in future. The Papuans are fighting for their future survival. Countries like Australia and PNG are afraid of Indonesian aggression.

Tragically, West Papuans have been made a sacrificial lamb by the criminal acts of the Indonesian authorities, aided and abetted by a weak-willed United Nations. It is very sad and unfortunate that, with her great influence and clout in the international arena, all Australia can muster is to watch by helplessly from the sidelines.

Australia in future will continue to wonder just what she could do to help the West Papuans (ditto for PNG) without upsetting Indonesia. It clearly failed to do anything in East Timor, so why should it be any different now.

Does Australia care? Not really, but anything to do with West Papua and its people should be in her national interest. This sticky issue will not go away for Australia, Indonesia and PNG, and a middle ground must be found.

The plebiscite took place sometime between 14 July and 2 August 1969; the Indonesian government holding its so-called 'Act of Free Choice' in West Papua.  Indonesian authorities took 1,022 Papuan tribal representatives to eight locations - one for each region of West Papua: Merauke, Jayawijaya, Paniai, Fak-Fak, Sorong, Manokwari, Cenderawasih and Jayapura.

Many Papuans walked from very remote areas for three days to their designated locations leaving behind their wives and children in the 'care of the Indonesian government'. These 1,022 Papuans were given two choices: either remain with Indonesia or sever ties with Indonesia, and become an independent state like PNG.
What resulted from this rigged political event is now history. But the question still remains: what does the UN and the Australia and PNG governments hope to do about the West Papua issue?

Indonesia is not going to let go of West Papua easily as it wants to own this very resource rich part of the New Guinea island as part of the republic. Additionally, any future negotiations will prove very difficult with the transmigration program going on for many years now to redistribute its growing population eastward towards PNG.

This is another foreign policy challenge for Australia and PNG. China is a distraction now. But PNG must be always on guard, and keep watch over its western border at the going down of the sun, lest it be surprised one fine day.

Will Australia come to her aid in future? Who knows?  This should be a big worry for Prime Minister Michael Somare who's about to leave the political scene one of these days soon. Prime Minister let us also put this issue on our discussion agenda with Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton when she visits PNG later on this year.

Reginald Renagi

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