A warning by Indonesia’s Defence Minister for Pacific countries not to speak out about West Papua has been described as an odd and backward form of diplomacy.
The Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu urged Australia to rebuke Pacific states, in particular Solomon Islands, for raising West Papua in global forums and inviting Papuans to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
He subsequently told Australian media that it’s better if Canberra delivers the warning to Pacific governments, because if it was left to him he would ‘twist their ears’.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s Pacific regional ambassador Akabou Amatus Douw said the minister’s statements in the past week show a militaristic attitude, out of touch with Pacific Islanders.
At September’s UN General Assembly session, leaders of seven Pacific states spoke out about rights abuses in Papua and on support for Papuan self-determination.
Ryamizard warned that Indonesia would not stay silent when its sovereignty is compromised – he described Indonesia as a sleeping tiger that can attack if disturbed.
Mr Douw said the minister’s sleeping tiger analogy was, in a sense, apt.
“This expression is symbolic,” he explained, “meaning that Indonesia’s sleeping face [will] never wake up to see what [is] their wrongdoing with massive atrocities and genocide to the Papuan minority.”
The ULMWP, which has observer status in the MSG, is pushing for full membership in the group, something opposed by Indonesia which is an associate MSG member.
Mr Douw has urged the leaders of Australia and Indonesia to have a robust discussion on West Papua.
The Indonesian President Joko Widodo is due to have his first state visit to Australia this month for bilateral talks with Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Douw is pushing for the two governments to abolish the Lombok Treaty between the two countries which formalised both governments’ agreement to oppose Papuan separatism.
“This already became a hell policy,” said Mr Douw, “because the fact that Australian government trained Indonesian army who evolved in killing and torturing Papuan freedom fighter then we indicated that killing of younger generation is new form of genocide.”