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'Historical moment' for West Papua at Forum


28 October 2000

Pacific News Bulletin / PCRC media release

'Historical moment' for West Papua at Forum

Tarawa, Kiribati

The Pacific Islands’ stand on West Papua is an "historical moment for the people of West Papua," according to West Papuan spokesperson Franz Albert Joku.

Joku, who is attending the 31st Pacific Islands Forum in Kiribati, welcomed the Forum leaders’ statement on West Papua, issued after the leaders’ retreat on the island of Biketawa.

"We are very pleased that West Papua was given the opportunity in deliberations here in Tarawa, as shown by the fact that the matter was discussed extensively and a position taken," stated Joku.

"This is a historical moment for the people of West Papua. After four decades, we are back in our natural habitat, the South Pacific. Our existence and future is beginning to get the attention they deserve amongst the countries and people of the region to which we rightly belong."

Joku, a member of the Papuan Presidium Council, is attending the Forum meeting as an official member of the Nauru delegation, together with other West Papuan activists. Nauru and Vanuatu have shown strong support for the Melanesian nation in Forum discussions.

The main focus of the private leaders’ retreat on Biketawa islet in north Tarawa was the development of the "Biketawa Declaration." The Declaration sets out mechanisms for Forum action in case of crises such as Fiji or the Solomon Islands. But for the first time, the leaders of the 16 Forum member countries also issued a statement on West Papua:

"Irian Jaya (West Papua):

"Forum leaders expressed deep concerns about recent violence and loss of life in the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya (West Papua). They called on the Indonesian Government, the sovereign authority, and secessionist groups to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue and consultation. They also urged all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents of Irian Jaya (West Papua).

"Leaders would welcome closer dialogue with the Government of Indonesia on issues of common concern."

In post-retreat interviews, Australian Prime Minister John Howard stressed that "the sovereign authority of Indonesia over West Papua has been reasserted" in the statement. He stated that "West Papua was historically part of Indonesia," but that the Forum "would like the bloodshed to end."

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke said that the issue of observer status for West Papua at the Forum had not been discussed in the leaders’ retreat.

President Teburoro Tito of Kiribati, reporting the leaders’ decisions, stated that Indonesia has applied to be a dialogue partner with the Pacific Islands Forum (China, France, the United States and other non-island nations hold post-Forum dialogues with the Forum after each annual meeting).

The Forum meeting continues on Monday, with further discussion on climate change, free trade, fisheries and other issues. A full Forum communiqué will be issued at the close of Monday’s Forum session.

___________________

Pacific News Bulletin is the monthly magazine of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre and the Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement.

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