A call for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to take West Papua to the UN

August 28, 2018

The people of West Papua call upon Pacific (PIF) leaders to support self-determination at the United Nations.

West Papuan youths rally together at a beach in the Mamta region of the territory to call upon Pacific Leaders of the PIF to approve a self-determination resolution for West Papua. Photo: WPNA.

As Pacific leaders prepare to meet at the regional Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Leaders Meeting from 1st to 9th September in Nauru, there are growing calls for the longstanding issue of West Papuan self-determination to be brought to the forefront of the Forum.

From Papua New Guinea to Rapa Nui Pacific Islander solidarity with Melanesians in West Papua continues to grow as the Pacific family learns more about their West Papuan neighbors. Pacific support during the current diplomatic push for independence remains crucial as leaders of the movement continue to bring the truth about West Papua out from under Indonesia’s long dark shadows.  A large part of the advocacy work is to continuously expose the ongoing evidence of human rights abuses in the occupied territory. From tortures and killings, to house burnings and the strafing of villagers from Indonesian military helicopters, the mistreatment of West Papuans is an ever evolving saga. 

Under Indonesian occupation it is estimated that up to and likely over 500,000 West Papuan people have died in this “Neglected Genocide” of Pacific Islanders. The time for taking a public stand for West Papua has never been more critical than it is right now. The urgency of needed intervention is confirmed by the Amnesty International report (July 2018), with the title: Indonesia: “Do not bother, just let him die”: Killing with impunity in Papua.

The fifty six years of isolation and suffering of West Papuan people is unacceptable. We assert that with all of the clear evidence, and strength of the legal case for West Papuan freedom, Pacific leaders can no longer deny what is happening. Silence in the Pacific can  no longer be an option. To make no choice is still a choice by default.

West Papuan students rally outside the Cenderawasih University to call for Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to support their fundamental right to self-determination and to help them be free from Indonesian colonialism. Photo: KNPB.Action needed to call upon Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to take West Papua to the UN.

Across West Papua  the indigenous people are taking action in the hope their fellow Pacific Island nighbors will support them in their demand for self-determination during the Pacific Islands Forum.

They have also expressed their gratitude to the government of Vanuatu for their consistent support and called upon other PIF member nations to support Vanuatu’s efforts in promoting West Papuan self-determination at the United Nations.

In 2016, seven Pacific nations: Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Palau, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands all raised the issue of West Papua at the United Nations General Assembly, many of them actively supporting the fundamental right of the West Papuan people to self-determination. The key-regional group, the Pacific Coalition on West Papua (PCWP)  are leading the way in finally bringing an end to the suffering and conflict in the forgotten Pacific territory. Even with strong Pacific support, Indonesia’s economic diplomacy is effecting relations.

 The people of West Papua ask for your help to ensure that West Papua remains a priority during the PIF meeting. The forum’s agenda is to discuss regional security, environmental security, and climate change. The case of West Papua encompasses all of these critical points.

Hundreds of West Papuan people march to call upon Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to support the West Papuan people’s fundamental right to self-determination. Photo: Free West Papua Campaign.

Regional security can be enhanced through the self-determination of the 2.5 million Pacific Islander people of West Papua, and an end to the litany of torture, killings and other human rights abuses regularly perpetrated against them by the Indonesian Security Forces. It can also counteract the overt political interference, heavy handed pressure and self-detated “economic diplomacy” of the Indonesian government, made in an effort to reduce Pacific Islands solidarity with West Papua.

Satellite map of West Papua showing the highlighted spots of forest burnings. Photo: Quartz.

The Pacific Islands Forum has a proud history of standing up for the self-determination and decolonization of Pacific territories. With such a rich history of advocacy it seems there is already a lot of historical, legal and moral precident for supporting West Papuan independence. 

It is time for the leaders of PIF to choose which side of history they stand on. A conference for and about Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian people is the appropriate forum to address the ongoing human rights crisis in West Papua. and seek diplomatic and peaceful solutions to end longest running conflict in the region.

We hope people all across the Pacific will help amplify the voices of West Papuans by raising as much awareness as possible and directly engaging your representatives on the issue of West Papua.

Photo: Free West Papua Campaign.

Here are some ways you can Take Action for West Papua today:

  • Do you know where your leaders stand? Ask them what is their position on West Papua’s self-determination.
  • Ask your MPs, government ministers, church leaders and other figures to raise awreness about West Papua.
  • Hold your government accountable for their position, or lack of one by having a conversation. Share your knowledge on the issue
  • Take photos and videos of your support and share it online
  • Use the hashtags #PIF4WP #WP4PIF and #LetWestPapuaVote.
  • Engage people around the issues by tagging people when you share campaign news
  • Send us the pics via Facebook,Twitter and Email and we’ll make sure to publish your support

This week Chairman of The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, stated:

“West Papuan people are Pacific Islanders and therefore the human rights situation in West Papua is a crucial, key regional issue for the Pacific Islands Forum. As such, we have only one message for our Pacific leaders: West Papua’s fundamental right to self-determination must be brought back to the United Nations agenda.

Speaking on the future of West Papua and the Pacific Islands Forum, he stated,

“Brothers and sisters from all generations, this is our chance to help to save future generations of Pacific Islanders in West Papua. Let us proudly stand up as Pacific Islander peoples, as Large Ocean States, for a brighter future.”

Free West Papua rally in Samoa organised by the Samoa First Union outside the last Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Apia.

The Free West Papua Campaign echoes the people of West Papua in calling upon Pacific Islands Forum Leaders to discuss West Papua and raise West Papuan self-determination at the United Nations. We reiterate and fully support the ULMWP’s efforts and calls for a peaceful conflict resolution in West Papua which allows the West Papuan people their fundamental right to self-determination, as guaranteed to them by the United Nations under International Law.

Background information

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) represents the people of West Papua and has been granted Observer Member status within the sub-regional Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG). ULMWP is leading the West Papuan people to mobilize support for West Papuan self-determination at the United Nations. As their representative body, it is also leading the diplomatic path towards self-determination as the only viable and legitimate means of peaceful conflict resolution for West Papua.

In 2016, 7 Pacific countries; Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Palau, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands all raised the issue of West Papua at the United Nations General Assembly and many of them showed active support for the West Papuan people’s fundamental right to self-determination. Together, these nations make up the the regional Pacific Coalition for West Papua (PCWP) and their communal support was the first of its kind and marked a major landmark on the road to international diplomatic solidarity for West Papua.  

There are also other signs of a turning tide for West Papuan self-determination at a regional diplomatic level. In July 2018, Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neil stated in Fiji that regional Pacific nations needed to be encouraged to take the issue of West Papua “up to the United Nations.” He went onto say, “We are encouraging that this be put to the decolonisation committee of the United Nations.”

This marks a significant shift in regional support for West Papua and reflects a growing momentum, especially across the Pacific regional but also in the wider international community for addressing the issue of West Papuan self-determination and decolonisation. Indeed, the denial of West Papuans’ legal right to self-determination in the 1960s is what has been described as “the root cause” of all problems in West Papua.

Last week, Vanuatu also reiterated its longstanding support for bringing West Papua and the issue of West Papuan self-determination and decolonisation to the United Nations. It has also appointed Laura Lini, daughter of Vanuatu’s famous founding father, the late Walter Lini, as a Special Envoy on West Papua. Special Envoy Lini is confident of support for West Papua at the United Nations and stated;

“My father always stood firm in his vision to ensure that other Melanesian and Pacific Island countries achieve their freedom, so I believe this appointment is timely. I’m one of the founding members of the Free West Papua Association here in Vanuatu, so I believe I have the background to take this task on board, my government and the people of West Papua.”