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Jakarta Post

Arrest of activists overshadows MSG leaders'€™ Jakarta visit

  • Bagus BT Saragih and Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, January 15, 2014   /  11:29 am

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is set to receive foreign ministers from Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) member nations at the State Palace on Wednesday, in a move seen by many as part of the government'€™s attempt to woo the group, which has often voiced concerns over alleged human rights abuses in Papua.

The MSG includes foreign ministers '€” Fiji'€™s Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Papua New Guinea'€™s Rimbink Pato and Solomon Islands'€™ Clay Forau Soalaoi '€” while two other member nations, Vanuatu and the Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), a pro-independence group from French-ruled New Caledonia, only sent special envoys.

'€œThe meeting will take the format of a courtesy call, without the signing of agreements,'€ presidential spokesman for foreign affairs Teuku Faizasyah told The Jakarta Post on Monday. He brushed off reports that Yudhoyono and the MSG officials would sign an agreement on the group not interfering in Papuan issues.

The Pacific officials are in Indonesia to assess the application of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL), a pro-independence group, to become a member of the MSG, as mandated by the MSG'€™s 19th Leaders'€™ Summit, held in the New Caledonian capital of Noumea in June last year.

The WPNCL, which is based in Vanuatu, is currently an observer to the MSG, as is Indonesia.

From Monday to Tuesday, the delegation visited Papua, West Papua and Maluku provinces '€œto observe the development in the provinces and receive briefings on the implementation of the special autonomy by the local government,'€ Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto told the Post on Monday.

At least 21 activists were arrested by police when they staged demonstrations upon the arrival of the MSG ministers in Jayapura. They were urging the MSG officials '€œto take a closer look at the handling of human rights cases in Papua and West Papua by having discussions with particular Papuan groups.'€

Jayapura Municipality Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfred Papare, however, claimed that the force only detained Markus Haluk, the coordinator of the demonstration. The other activists were reportedly released immediately.

The coordinator of the National Papua Solidarity (NAPAS) rights group, Zely Ariane, said that civil society voices were important in keeping alive the hope of promoting human rights in restive Papua. '€œThe government has always been paranoid about NGO moves to get international attention. They are afraid the eyes of the world could glimpse the state of human rights in Papua.'€

Lawmaker Yorrys Raweyai, who chairs the House of Representatives'€™ Caucus on Papua, lambasted the government'€™s '€œclosed'€ arrangement during the Pacific officials'€™ visit.

'€œI heard that the delegates had asked to meet political prisoners, a request that was quickly turned down. This kind of intransparency only confirms suspicions surrounding prolonged human rights violations in the area,'€ said Yorrys, who claimed that he was only informed about the visit when the delegates had reached Jayapura.

The visit was made on the heels of a series of fatal shootings in the country'€™s eastern region of Papua. At least two people have been killed this month.

A series of shootings by unknown armed assailants in December forced the police and the Indonesian Military (TNI) to conduct crackdown operations. A person believed to be a separatist was killed in a gunfight with the TNI in Timika, Papua, last Thursday.

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