“It’s an issue about identity, it’s an issue about the land, the motherland … If it’s an issue about West Papua, it’s about self-determination.”
~Belden Namah, PNG Opposition Leader
Border incursions a sign that West Papua also a PNG issue
Papua New Guinea’s opposition leader [Belden Namah] says the government has failed to protect its territory along the border with Indonesia whose military he says has installations inside PNG.
Indonesian efforts to hunt down members of the OPM Free West Papua Movement recently spilled over into PNG again with another shootout between Indonesian troops and the rebels.
Belden Namah says people in his electorate, Vanimo Green, are victims of frequent cross-border incursions by Indonesia’s military. He says Vanimo people living near the border are harassed by the Indonesians who block access to the Papua New Guineans’ traditional hunting and fishing territory which agreements between the two countries are supposed to guarantee.
[The] PNG opposition leader says Indonesian military incursions into his electorate and attacks on his people and their rights are symptoms of the unresolved issue of West Papua’s political status.
Mr Namah says PNG’s [Peter] O’Neill government is misguided in its claims that trade agreements with Indonesia can address the problems along the West Papua border.
“It’s a totally different issue, it’s an issue about identity, it’s an issue about the land, the motherland. So you can’t mix those issues, you’ve got to address them separately. If it’s an issue about trade, it’s a totally different issue, it’s the trade between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, but if it’s an issue about West Papua, it’s about self-determination.”
Mr Namah told Johnny Blades [that] long running discontent among West Papuans with Indonesian rule is also PNG’s problem.
“This issue must also be addressed collectively by both governments, the Indonesian government and the Papua New Guinea government.
The Papua New Guinea government has been silent on the West Papua issue for self determination.
We have seen the government of Vanuatu raising the concerns about this issue but PNG government which shares the common border and mind you, some of the people who live on the other side of the border are relatives of Papua New Guineans who live on this side of the border.
This is a very serious international issue that needs to be raised by PNG government in the next level, if it means that we raise it up with the United Nations to address this issue. Because what’s happening at the border, where the lives of Papua New Guineans who live along the border continuously to be threatened when this issue of West Papuans raising their flags, then Indonesian chasing them to the border and the villagers and their safety are at risk all of time. Like recently when the issue happened on the Wutung border, the villagers have been disburse because the Indonesians have crossed over into the PNG Territory.”
Blades: And attacking your people?
Namah: They even attack our people. They come and intimidate our people.
Blades: And your military and police are up there, can they cope with this? Are there enough troops?
Namah: Well, that’s another serious issue that PNG need to address. Our military have been reduced to a number that we cannot even defend ourselves, we cannot even patrol the borders, and if you are looking at the land mass, between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea from Wutung village from Sandaun province to Western Province, it’s a big land mass.
But what has happened in the past years in the PNG government has agreed with the Indonesian government to establish the border, the trading area on this side of the border where the major problems are.
The villagers, who own the land all the way to the river, have to go and get permission from Indonesian soldiers to go and do gardening, fishing and hunting on their own land. I think this issue must be addressed.
The border should be the natural demarcation of the river. On the other side Indonesians can put their infrastructure for trade, on this side of the river, Papua New Guineans put our infrastructure for trade which I would like to see happen.
And that applies all the way to Western Province where the Toriasi river, Indonesians have put their naval base inside a Papua New Guinea territory. And no PNG government has addressed this seriously. This is intruding into our sovereign territory!