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West Papua should have observer status

Press Release - WEST PAPUA

22 October 2005

AWPA calls on the Pacific Islands Forum leaders to grant observer status to West Papua.

The Australia West Papua Association (Sydney) believes it is now time for West Papua to be granted observer status at the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum in PNG.

AWPA congratulates the Forum leaders for admitting French Polynesia as a Forum observer at last year’s meeting in Apia, Samoa

West Papua has always been considered part of the Pacific Community. Netherlands New Guinea, as West Papua was then known, was a member of the South Pacific Commission (SPC). A West Papuan representative attended the first SPC Conference and West Papuans continued to participate in the SPC meetings until the Dutch ceded their authority to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) in 1962

Joe Collins of AWPA said that “if the non-sovereign territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia can be granted observer status at the Forum, I cannot understand why it is not also applicable to West Papua?”

It was disappointing that for the first time in a number of years , the human rights situation in West Papua was not mentioned in last years Forum communiqué,.

Since last year’s PIF, human rights abuses have continued to occur in West Papua. One major example is the military operation undertaken by the Indonesian military in the Puncak Jaya district in West Papua's central highlands. During this military operation a large number of villages were destroyed, including livestock and food gardens. More than 6000 people have fled to the bush in fear of their lives.

As recently as 26th May 2005, two West Papuan men, Philep Karma and Yusak Pakage received jail terms of 15 and 10 years respectively, for so-called "treason against the state". However, the reality is that the men simply organised a meeting where the Morning Star flag was raised as a peaceful symbolic act of protest at the injustices faced by the West Papuan people, the human rights abuses and the exploitation of the rich natural resources of the province.

The grand idea of a Pacific vision and plan looks rather flat if the Forum dissociates itself from over 1.5 million Melanesian people in West Papua. The Forum has the potential to be a EU’ of the Pacific region and as well as being involved in the development of the region, the Forum should also concern itself with the human rights situation of the people of the region. The West Papuan People need the support of the international community now more than ever.

AWPA calls on The Forum leaders to help the West Papuan people by seeking support from the Indonesian Government for a Forum fact finding mission to West Papua to investigate the human rights situation in the territory, and by granting observer status to West Papua. Joe Collins said that “by granting observer status to West Papua, the Forum would be constituted as an appropriate arena to facilitate talks between the West Papuan leaders and Indonesian representatives to work towards peacefully solving the many issues of concern in the territory”.

ENDS

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