BY GEORGINA KEKEA
THE incoming director of the Centre for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii told ABC that declining support for West Papuan independence in Melanesia is a clear sign of Indonesia’s growing influence.
Dr Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka told Evan Wasuka of ABC that it is a sign of Indonesia’s growing political influence in the region.
“I think it’s a reflection of the influence of Indonesia particularly in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and I have always had the opinion that the inclusion of Indonesia in the MSG was a mistake. It was spearheaded by Fiji and Fiji has a very close relationship with Indonesia,” Tara said.
In 2017 Solomon Islands stood up front among Pacific Island countries at the United Nations General Assembly in supporting West Papua’s bid for self-determination.
Former Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare told the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that Solomon Islands position on the plight of West Papuan people, are premised on principles that Solomon Islands continues to uphold.
“Solomon Islands condemns the human rights violations in West Papua. Our Sustainable Development Goals that promote the notion of no-one left behind is synonymous to empty promises unless we, in the United Nations, take active steps to address the plight of the peoples of West Papua,” Sogavare said.
He also reiterated Solomon Islands vital support for West Papua’s fundamental right to self-determination and called upon all countries and international organisations to support West Papuan self-determination.
This year however groups in support of West Papua say Solomon Islands’ tone towards West Papua ‘was more subdued’.
At the 73rd UNGA, Prime Minister Rick Hou instead speaks of Taiwan being left behind.
“Madame President, while we speak of leaving no one behind, we still close our doors to Taiwan and continue to contradict our principles by leaving Taiwan’s 23 million people behind,” Hou said and continued to make a lengthy talk on Taiwan’s eligibility to be recognised by the UN.
For the West Papua issue, Hou said Solomon Islands recognised Indonesia as a sovereign country and respects Indonesia. However he vaguely mentioned the human rights issues in West Papua. To this, Tara says Solomon Islands could have done more for West Papua at the UNGA when it reaffirms its support for Indonesia’s sovereignty.
“At the same time ask the United Nations to look into the West Papua issue both the human right issue as well as the demand for self-determination for West Papua,” Tara said.
The recent statement by the country’s Prime Minister at the 73rd UNGA has met some backslash from the public at large. Some say Solomon Islands government had been inconsistent in its position on issues and is easily swayed.
A report on the West Papua issue, carried out by the current government is yet to be released.