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West Papua and the Pacific Islands Forum

9 April 2003

Dear Phil Goff,

We are looking ahead to the Pacific Islands Forum scheduled to be held in Auckland this coming August of this year. We would be grateful if you could confirm that the issue of West Papua will be a priority for consideration by the Forum representatives this year.

We wish to urge as we have in previous years, that New Zealand support the granting of observer status to representatives of the West Papuan people. We believe that West Papua does meet the observer status criterion endorsed by Forum members : "A Pacific Island territory on a clear path to achieving self-government or independence may be eligible for observer status subject to the approval of Forum leaders."

The Indonesian Special Autonomy Law 2001 has been contentious within West Papua and the wording of the law has been rejected by the Papua Council Presidium as not meeting their basic aspirations. However, the wording of the law does encompass Papuan control over a significant share of local resources and revenue. Moreover, the law does provide for a Papuan People's Assembly, and for consultation.

Currently there is a tense debate between West Papuan representatives and the Indonesian government over the government's stated intention to divide West Papua into three provinces. This decision contradicts the Special Autonomy Law since such a decision should only be made by the Papuan People's Assembly in consultation with the Papuan people.

So the Special Autonomy Law and the manner in which it is now being tested clearly indicates that the West Papuan people believe that they are on a 'clear path to achieving self-government or independence.'

From our perspective the strongest arguments for the inclusion of West Papuan delegates as observers at the Forum relate to the historic injustices perpetrated on the people in the lead up to and at the time of the 1969 "Act of Free Choice". Recent reflections of some of the people in responsible positions at the time of that event - such as UN undersecretaries Brian Urquart and Chakravarthy Narasimhan confirm that the West Papuan people were denied a genuine act of self-determination. Mr Narasimhan said that "a million people had their human rights trampled".

2. We believe that in the light of this historical injustice, the fact that West Papuan representatives attended the forerunner of the PIF ( the South Pacific Commission) from the 1950s until 1962 is highly significant. If West Papuan people had attained their independence as was anticipated by the former Dutch colonial authorities and symbolised by ceremonies in 1961, then West Papua would have become a founding member of the Forum alongside New Zealand.

As you know the situation in West Papua remains tense and the reports of militia group intimidation and the dispatch of a further 1,000 troops suggests renewed repression.

We appreciate that the New Zealand government has regularly expressed support for peaceful dialogue between Indonesian and West Papuan represenatives. We believe that the prospects for such dialogue could be greatly enhanced, if the West Papuan people are given opportunity to attend the Pacific Islands Forum as observers, and also able to take part in formal and informal discussions with the Forum delegates.

Yours sincerely,
Maire Leadbeater
(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

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