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Amkat Mai & the need for PNG support for West Papua

Gov Amkat Mai exchanges gifts with Indonesian police officerBONNY KAIYO

DIPLOMACY, like other professions, provides its members with a privileged sense of distance enabling them to ignore rules and cheat on their political masters.

This writer holds that Papua New Guinea’s diplomats who deal with Indonesia over  the  West Papua issue could better demonstrate a facility with the Indonesian language,  as well as  familiarity with the cultures of the different ethnic groups that make up the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia, including the five Melanesian provinces.

PNG’s diplomats have yet to develop the skills to be catalysts of collective action between Port Moresby and Jakarta. And there seems to be a great deal of difficulty in our diplomats coming to grips with West Papua’s claim to a quasi–state. In short, on West Papua, PNG’s diplomats are dragging their feet

On 27 October – next Tuesday – the PNG Parliament will reconvene for the last session of the year, also the budget session.

During this session, Governor Amkat Mai (pictured), the new Regional MP for West Sepik, will take the oath of office and perhaps make his maiden speech to the people of PNG, including his voters.

He is taking office again after his initial election of 2012 was ruled null and void by the National Court and his appeal thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Last Wednesday, with his swearing–in still to take place in Parliament, Amkat Mai shot off to Jakarta with a delegation from the Sandaun Chamber of Commerce to take part in a trade expo. The trip required K200,000 from provincial funds.

This writer believes that Amkat Mai’s accountability to his electors must be tested vigorously by the Sandaun Assembly to make certain he is able to manufacture the consent of the West Sepik people. I think his accountability is a problem, and will continue to haunt those who want him to measure up to law and convention he may not care for.

Amkat Mai may be trying to re–invent himself as having the formula for border development with huge funding mooted by Indonesian government authorities. It is also an opportunity to seek out West Papuan nationalist dissidents.

Previosuly, Mr Mai has not bothered to take any interest in West Papua. He is not sensitive to the subject of human rights across the border, which is frightening given PNG’s obligation to come good on its UN Responsibility to Protect Doctrine.

In an extraordinary move, a motion on foreign policy regarding West Papua was passed in the Vanuatu Parliament in June 2014. Vanuatu took it upon itself to apply the International Responsibility to Protect doctrine as a matter of urgency as the humanitarian crisis escalated in West Papua.

In the interim, as Vanuatu positions itself to handle the West Papua issue head on, questions remain about how PNG approaches the same subject. All the evidence available on the humanitarian crisis demands a verdict.

Commentators on the West Papua issue continue to put PNG on notice to also apply the international responsibility to protect doctrine especially given the acts of genocide across the border which have been well–documented.

The question posed is this: where is PNG on the issue of West Papua?

Our prime ministers past and present see the pluses of PNG being able to play a greater role in the Pacific and inroads are made in development aid and assistance packages. So PNG is adopting such a softstrategy to drive gradual regional influence.

But PNG must do more, especially with the international responsibility to protect doctrine. It is about sinking or swimming with West Papua.

Governor Amkat Mai may have become ‘Indonesianised’ with all pistons firing – but to liberate leadership potential he will require more than luxury junkets  to Jakarta.

He has one left year to behave like a leader, and right now has nothing to show for it.

We know across the border not one Papuan is a millionaire, but hundreds of thousands fight for cultural survival.

Is the PNG state asking too little from West Sepik leaders like Amkat Mai?


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