An unexpected visit to West Papua by a government delegation of the pacific state Solomon Islands has raised concerns over a possible change in the government’s stance towards the West Papua conflict among Papuan civil society. In response to the visit, Papuan civil society groups released a public statement (see below) in which they expressed their position and concerns regarding the visit. The Solomon Islands, under the former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogoware, was an outspoken supporter for Papuans right to self-determination. The country repeatedly addressed the human rights situation in West Papua at the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The civil society groups considered the visit as “arranged secretly and unilaterally by the government of Indonesia through its foreign ministry […] without any involvement or connection to civil society” and the ‘United Liberation Movement of West Papua’ (ULMWP). The Papuan Civil society groups apologized to the delegation because they were not able to welcome their Melanesian brothers and sisters after their arrival. The statement takes reference to 1969 ‘Act of No Choice’ and emphasizes that indigenous Papuans continue to face social injustice and human rights violations.
The ULMWP published a media statement on 30 April which heavily criticized the unilateral arranged visit and the governor’s agenda of the visit. “Instead of being taken to meet West Papuan socio-political leaders, the Solomon Islanders were taken on a tour of two ‘development’ sites, a sports-building project and the Haltecamp Bridge. Mr. Soerdarmo, Caretaker Governor of Papua province, told the delegates that the ULMWP, the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) and other independent organizations purposely misrepresent and disrupt the Indonesian Government’s development endeavors. He said his government is ready for dialogue with ULMWP in any street cafe. “
The statement also condems the arrest of eight Papuan activists, who had launched a spontaneous peaceful demonstration in front of the Governor’s office. Philipus Robaha, Marthen Manggarprow, Beny Hisage, Arnol Yarinap, Albert Yatipai, Gino Puade, Paul Kirihio and Chris Dogopiawere were arrested, temorarily detained and later released on the same day.
Statement by Papuan Civil Society on the Visit to West Papua by the Solomon Islands Delegation
We, West Papua civil society, consisting of people from Non-Government Organisations, youth, students, women, and indigenous peoples, welcome the government and civil society delegates from the Solomon Islands to our country, West Papua. We sincerely apologise that because we are not free to express ourselves in the land of our ancestors we cannot welcome you well and honorably as Melanesian relatives. To be honest we just heard about this visit. We did not expect this visit would be arranged secretly and unilaterally by the government of Indonesia through its foreign ministry. We deeply regret that the government of Indonesia did not officially notify the United Liberation Movement of West Papua, a fellow Melanesian Spearhead Group member, of the planned visit. This visit also reminds us of a similar visit led by the former Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Mr Gordon Lilo in 2014, which was organised silently by the Indonesian government and military without any involvement or connection to civil society. We therefore, question the intent and purpose of this visit.
We, civil society of West Papua, express our support to the ULMWP as the organisation who represents our political aspirations and is advocating for West Papuans’ right to self-determination, which has been denied by the Indonesian government and international community for over 50 years. We insist that the government of Indonesia and other states respect that right.
We wish to emphasize that since West Papua has been forced into shackles through the 1969 Act of NO Choice, there have been human rights violations, forced seizure of Indigenous lands for large mines, oil, gas, and oil palm plantations, transmigration programs and mega agriculture projects, all in the name of development. All these have harmed the people of West Papua, by creating conflict, depriving us of our land and ability to manage our own resources, and human rights violations. The presence of the Indonesian military and police has disrupted the lives of our people causing havoc and gross violence all for the sake of foreign investment and capitalist’ interests. The flow of population from outside West Papua is increasing and our people are becoming a minority and marginalized. Therefore, we fully ask all parties to respect the rights of the West Papuan people to self-determination. We ask this for the sake of the survival of
the Melanesian people in West Papua, your family.
We hope that during this short visit, the Solomon Island government delegation can see, hear and experience firsthand, the reality of the Melanesian people in the land of West Papua.
That is our statement, yours sincerely, the undersigned civil society community of West Papua.
Jayapura, 25 April 2018
Download the civil society statement as PDF file here
Download the ULMWP Statement as PDF file here