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Feedback: Ramos-Horta West Papua Facts Questioned

Feedback: Ramos Horta West Papua Facts Questioned

Dear Scoop,

I listened with interest to your recent interview with Jose Ramos Horta on West Papua.

Apart from making his usual deeply unhelpful comments on the subject, I think that I heard him refer at one point to UN Resolution 1541 from 1960 to support his argument that Timor's situation was fundamentally different to West Papua's. He argues that Timor was listed as a non-self governing territory in this resolution while West Papua was not, inferring that West Papua was not a recognised non self-governing territory.

However as far as I can see he has misunderstood and misread the relevant resolutions. I would need to get hold of a full official copy of the resolution, but the version I have of 1541 does not list any such territories by name. On the other hand 1542 does list the Portuguese territories (including Timor) - but only because Portugal was not fulfilling its obligations at the time and the resolution was calling on it to comply. No other non self governing territories were listed.

The main point is that West New Guinea - quite separately from Indonesia - was listed by the UN as a non-self governing territory until the Dutch left - see the link to the UN website below:

http://www.un.org/Depts/dpi/decolonization/trust2.htm

As a non self governing territory it was therefore covered by the terms of resolution 1541 which stipulated clearly the only circumstances under which such a territory could integrate with an independent state.

ie it should be “on the basis of complete equality between peoples of the non-self governing territory and the independent state with which it is being integrated with." Furthermore:

“the integrating territory should have attained an advanced stage of self-government with free political institutions so that the peoples would have the capacity to make a responsible choice through informed and democratic processes....The integration should be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territory’s peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status, their wishes having been expressed through informed and democratic processes, impartially conducted and based upon universal adult suffrage.”

As you know the way that the 1969 "Act of Free Choice" was carried out in West Papua bore no resemblance to anything that could be described as fulfilling the conditions outlined in this UN resolution.

It is true that there are important differences between West Papua's situation and that of East Timor during its time under Indonesian occupation - but, despite Horta's comments, their historical status as non-self governing territories is not one of them.

keep up the good work

regards

John Saltford
London, UK

ENDS


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