Church leaders condemn PNG government death penalty decision

O'Neill's change of heart on West Papua “a very big turnaround”

'Free Papua!'Radio Australia

A prominent Australian human rights lawyer has welcomed a statement of support for West Papuans by Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill, saying it's "one that's been a long time coming".

Mr O'Neill said on Friday he would speak out on behalf of Melanesians in Indonesian West Papua, saying it was "time for PNG to speak about the oppression of our people there".

Jennifer Robinson, a long-time advocate for the independence movement in the Indonesian province, said Mr O'Neill's change of heart on the human rights abuses in the province was a huge development.

"This is a very big turnaround - to go from trying to shut down the raising of the West Papuan flag (in 2013) to speak openly about supporting West Papuan's oppression and the oppression of Melanesians in West Papua," she said.

"This is a really big development and I think it's a testament to the ongoing campaign and a testament to the strength of the movement and the support on the ground within the population of Papua New Guinea."

She said relations with Indonesia had previously meant the government in PNG remained silent on human rights issues in West Papua, despite vocal support from other Melanesian leaders including in Vanuatu.

"As we saw in Vanuatu, there's been vocal criticism by local voters in response to government's failure to raise West Papua within the Melanesian region and I think Papua New Guinea and the prime minister is perhaps starting to feel that democratic pressure as we see the greater penetration of social media and more people talking about this issue," Ms Robinson said.

"It's a very welcome development and one that's been a long time coming."

Last week the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), headed by exiled independence activist Benny Wenda, applied for membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The group consists of the Melanesian countries of Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and a group representing the indigenous Kanak people in New Caledonia.

Ms Robinson said there had been reports Indonesia had set up a task force to investigate membership application.

"I think they'll be very concerned and they ought to be: this shows that Indonesia cannot keep a lid on the West Papuan movement for independence and their claim for self-determination," Ms Robinson said.

"[(Indonesian president Joko Widodo] has come into power and promised a change for West Papua but what we're seeing is status quo.

"Melanesian leadership is starting to see that there isn't going to be a change and are standing up. It's time Indonesia actually puts this on the table and starts talking about how to find a dignified response to this problem," she said.

The head of Indonesia's National Commission of Human Rights, Hafid Abbas, said Indonesia did not want to create a diplomatic problem with its neighbour, but said he hoped Indonesia's leaders would ask PNG for clarification on Mr O'Neill's comments.

"PNG is our neighbour, we should... cooperate in all aspects of our development. I hope that president Joko Widodo and vice president (Jusuf) Kalla and foreign minister Retno (Marsudi) will visit Papua New Guinea to make clarification because as a neighbour we have to feel a much stronger confidence to intervene in our internal issue," he said.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Peter Pirape Anage

Thank you Prime Minister O'Neill for supporting the cause for our brothers and sisters on the other side of the border.

This PM is bold and courageous. Melanesians are not afraid of Indonesian tanks and bombs, we Melanesians are only afraid of been complicit when our own kind are slowly phased out through State sponsored genocide in West Papua.

PNG as the natural proxy to West Papua must lead the call for the illegal occupation of West Papua to be ceased,

PNG must request the UN to recognise their illegal act of allowing Indonesian occupation of West Papua and PNG must lead the call for West Papua to be an Independent State in Melanesia.

The dice is been rolled and the world is watching, there is no more room for lame excuses.

Corney Korokan Alone

I have never seen or read of any one squeaky clean Prime Minister or politician in any democracy around the world. Someone has to give me some URLs to read if there are some out there.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill certainly has his share of controversies. I will grant you that, but he is not falling anytime soon as has been hyped around.

The Paraka-gate story didn't start during his Prime Ministership. It was a follow up case. We have to wait and see how it pans out.

The O'Neill-Dion Government has accomplished significant tasks for the country and is on course for more impact projects - infrastructure-wise, education, health and socio-economically.

In his own words:-

I have travelled widely in our country in the last two years, and have observed first-hand the changes that are happening everywhere. People can see, for the first time, light at the end of tunnel. A light, that is giving hope to our people of a better and meaningful life.That is refreshing – and I commend our governors and my colleague members of parliament for their hard work that they are doing in their respective electorates.

I agree with him on this. After the lost decade (2002 -2012) it needed such leadership as his to make significant changes - even if that meant successive deficit budgets and mounting antagonisms.

Thanks to the LLG Government provided generator that enabled me to read at night when I went to my wife's place for holidays in December 2014 at Morobe Patrol Post. It was not the case before.

I was also able to drive on good concrete roads in Lae. I have pictures of these if you get on Twitter or facebook so I can show them to you. I know what to call them.

For your information, I admire courageous boldness in leaders. I admire less workshops, debates and getting straight into the job, and actually doing stuff. That is a constant feature that characterizes O'Neill Prime Ministerial flare.

We're no longer crippled by what ifs and fears of the unknown. This moment requires leadership. And his statement about West Papua as you'll read in my reflections of this decision, is not superficial or sudden as you might have come to realise. It's based on geo-political and global events.

Let me also remind the readers here that, his decision was not a sudden one. He has strategically set up a working committee on West Papua to advise him on issues affecting West Papua when he became the Prime Minister. Former Governor of Sandaun Province, John Tekwei - himself a passionate West Papua Freedom Campaigner during his university days at UPNG (and still is) is part of that committee.

Not everyone trusts politicians, be they in PNG, Australia or anywhere else for that matter. Politics is fluid and dynamic.

I certainly do think, my Prime Minister has the balls to make tough decisions and some not so good ones too. But, it is in my redeemed DNA not to lock myself in perpetual negativity but embrace the good in others (even politicians) and enjoy each day as it comes.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I hope you are right Corney.

For everyone's sake, not least the poor people of West Papua. They don't deserve what has happened to them.

The other interesting conundrum is Peter O'Neill. What happens to the West Papua cause if he falls following the corruption allegations.

I always thought that Sam Koim made a tactical error by going after the biggest fish in the sea. He should have knocked off a few more sardines before tackling O'Neill.

Why is O'Neill changing tack so late in the day? Do you trust him?

Corney Korokan Alone

Jennifer Robinson is not only one of West Papua's closest friends but our adik - small sister, (liklik sista).

The long walk of freedom is nearing its end. We're hearing the conch shells and drums beating. We're positive about this. Our contagious courage is growing. Our Prime Minister's statement echos that sentiment. It is time.

Phil, you can read more about what Jennifer Robinson is doing for Melanesian West Papua here

Further, I feel deeply compelled to sternly rebuke you for your comment as a doubting Thomas doctrine.

I am rejecting your comment outright now and am labelling that as another of those Margaret Thatcher and Jim Crow nonsense.

PNG and West Papua will continue to view such "Kissingerian nonsense" that, we are a "primitive lot that are not able to govern ourselves".

We're capable just as any body anywhere of any color in this century.

There are good things happening in Papua New Guinea today. We are positive about West Papua's future too.

West Papua is certainly headed for freedom and independence.....and this is certainly happening in this decade.

Phil Fitzpatrick

The Sydney Morning Herald has a major article on West Papua in its weekend magazine. SBS is also running a very interesting program about flying in West Papua.

Both cases abundantly illustrate the problems in the two provinces, not the least of which is the corruption among the Papuans themselves. This has all the hallmarks of the worst excesses in PNG.

Just like in PNG the Papuan people seem to be their own worst enemies.

I just can't see how an independent West Papua would be viable.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)