Pacific Islanders stood in solidarity with Indigenous West Papuans at the U.N. General Assembly Monday, voicing their concerns about Indonesia’s human rights abuses which have left nearly a million people dead.
Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Nauru, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu all expressed their concern over Indonesia’s decades-long oppression of West Papuans during the 71st session of the General Assembly in New York.
"Human rights violations in West Papua and the pursuit for self-determination of West Papua are two sides of the same coin,” said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Sogavare stressed that attempts of self-determination often resulted in direct human rights violations by Indonesia, which has controlled the former Dutch colony, since 1969 as part of a controversial referendum backed by the U.N. Sogavare said that there were grounds to challenge the legality of the referendum which annexed West Papua into Indonesia.
Manasseh Sogavare defends West Papuans. | Photo: Reuters
Marshall Islands president, Hilda Heine requested that “the U.N. Human Rights Council initiate a credible and independent investigation of alleged human rights violations in West Papua,” a view which was supported by the five other pacific island nations.
In the face of a media blackout by Indonesia, West Papuan independence leaders have increasingly resorted to social media to get their message out to the world.
“I am really confident that people in the Pacific—particularly across the Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia—the governments and the ordinary people are in support, including New Zealand and Australia. Ordinary people are always with us,” said Benny Wenda, an exiled West Papuan leader to teleSUR earlier in September.
Indonesia criticized the speeches from the Pacific nations, saying they were politically motivated, and hypocritical, given their own human rights records.
"Their politically motivated statements were designed to support separatist groups in the said provinces, who have consistently engaged in inciting public disorder and in conducting armed terrorist attacks," said Nara Masista Rakhmatia from Indonesia’s permanent mission to the U.N.
"It is a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. It is highly regrettable and dangerous for states to misuse the United Nations.”