Suva – Fiji Islands: Civil Society Groups in Fiji today expressed concerns over the recent announcement of support by Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama for Indonesia’s bid to become an associate member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
The public statement by Frank Bainimarama that the alleged human rights violations would be best dealt with by Indonesia if it was allowed into the MSG bloc indicates how much Fiji has allowed its foreign policy to be dictated by the Indonesian government.
Director of the Fiji’s Women’s Crisis Center (FWCC) Shamima Ali, says the announcement places serious leadership questions over Fiji’s credential as a regional leader and comes at odds with previous decisions by the Bainimarama led government which fully supports the inalienable rights of people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided for under the preamble of the MSG constitution.
Shamima Ali, who is also Fiji’s former Human Rights Commissioner and NGO coalition Chair said, what’s more concerning is the wording of the statement by the Prime Minister which seeks to down play the last 50 years of a violent occupation by the Indonesian state that has seen over 500,000 people killed for a simple dream to be free.
“The government of Indonesia remains unable to address serious human rights violations in terms of civil, political, cultural, economic and environmental rights,” she said, adding that these violations have been well documented by both domestic and international human rights monitoring bodies including UN High Commission for Human Rights.
Ali said the recognition of the gross human rights violations in West Papua has been one of the key reasons why the MSG bloc considered the issue of West Papuan membership, and at the 2014 MSG Special Leaders meeting, Melanesian leaders including Fiji government, supported the West Papuan’s right to determine who represents them at the MSG block.
It was clearly stated that the conditions were that the West Papuan groups must be a united umbrella group before submitting a fresh application to the MSG.
The West Papuan people through process of consultation have decided who to represent them, and it is the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) who has submitted an application to the MSG to be a full member. Reports last week indicate that over 70 people have been arrested in West Papua for supporting ULMWP.
Fiji CSO groups call on the Fiji government to exercise real leadership on this issue by respecting the decisions and wishes of the people of West Papua about who represents them. What is clear is that it is not Indonesia who should represent them at the MSG.
Background on formation of ULMWP
Since the 2014 leaders meeting, the West Papuan people, supported by the Government of Vanuatu have undertaken the difficult process of consultation (amid fear of repression by the Indonesian state) amongst the different groups both within West Papua and outside of West Papua to form an inclusive and united umbrella group to represent the people of West Papua.
The ULMWP is the choice of the people of West Papua, who are still today paying a high price for who their representative to MSG should be.