Source: Jakarta Post
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he would explain his policies on Papua during his visit to Fiji, where he will attend a meeting of Pacific Island leaders, some of whom have been critical of Jakarta’s handling of Papua.
SBY to address Papua issues in Fiji
Yudhoyono left Jakarta on Tuesday morning for a three-day state visit to Fiji at the invitation of the country, in order to boost bilateral ties.
During the visit to the Pacific Islands, the first made by an Indonesian president since the country’s independence, Yudhoyono will meet with Fiji President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau and will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
Yudhoyono said the real significance of the visit related to the second summit of the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) in Nadi, where he is expected to give a “major policy speech” on Thursday at the invitation of the forum.
Other than to improve the “sincere” friendship and cooperation with South Pacific countries, Yudhoyono added the forum was
“a good opportunity for Indonesia to be able to explain the policy regarding Papua” in order to “reduce misinformation or disinformation”.
Yudhoyono said during a press conference on Tuesday morning at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport:
“Therefore, we hope the matters on Papua, which are often internationalized by certain elements, can be overcome by, among other things, establishing strong and good ties with the countries of the South Pacific.”
Melanesian Spearhead Group
He later cited two organizations that he deemed as often being used by the Free Papua Movement (OPM) to get international support: the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Pacific Islands Forum.
In mid-January, however, MSG member nations, which have often voiced concern over alleged human rights abuses in Papua, asserted during their visit to Jakarta that they fully respected Indonesia’s sovereignty. At that time, MSG member nations and Indonesia said in a joint statement that
they “supported respective sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”
The statement was made as the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL), a separatist group, applied for MSG membership.
The group is known to support the area’s independence from Indonesia and sees membership in the MSG as a step toward international recognition.
Human rights watchdogs have often criticized Indonesia for state violence against Papuans.
The Vanuatu Factor
However, the MSG member nations’ meeting with Yudhoyono in Jakarta was carried out without the presence of a representative from Vanuatu.
Several foreign media outlets reported at the time that Vanuatu’s absence was due to the country’s belief that the delegation would not have the opportunity to meet civil society groups in West Papua during the visit.
Vanuatu, which harbors several high-ranking OPM officials, also internationalized the Papuan human rights issue by discussing it at the UN General Assembly last September.
MSG Visit to West Papua
On Tuesday, Yudhoyono said that
MSG representatives had indeed “witnessed the situation in Papua, as well the Indonesian policies on justice, economic development and security” in the area.
He was referring to an occasion between Jan. 11 and 16 where Indonesia invited the MSG officials to Papua and Jakarta to receive briefings on development in Papua, in a move that was seen by some as a way of obtaining international support for the country’s sovereignty following the WPNCL bid.
In June last year, an MSG summit meeting deferred the WPNCL bid by at least six months, saying it was important to engage with Indonesia.
The MSG agreed to establish a consultation with Indonesia and welcomed the invitation to visit the country, although the group also concluded that it fully supported the right of the people of West Papua to self-determination, and cited concerns about human rights violations.
Yudhoyono also emphasized that relations between Indonesia and four key actors in the region — Timor Leste, PNG, Australia and New Zealand — have been strong over the past 10 years, as the countries formally respect Indonesia’s sovereignty.
In terms of the bilateral meeting with Fiji, presidential spokesman for international affairs Teuku Faizasyah said that discussions would cover efforts to further strengthen ties, particularly in terms of cooperation on maritime affairs, culture, democracy and good governance.
The two countries are also set to sign several memorandums of understanding, including on diplomatic training, as well as youth and sports cooperation.
Teuku said previously
“This visit completes the sustainability efforts of Indonesia to build partnerships with the island states in the Pacific region, which began during the administration of former president Abdurrahman Wahid through the Southwest Pacific Dialogue.”