Three Papua New Guinea politicians have joined an international campaign to support West Papuans persecuted by Indonesian authorities.
The PNG MPs reignited the controversial issue on Friday one week before the Indonesian government starts repatriating up to 700 West Papuans who live in PNG’s capital Port Moresby or towns along the shared border. Port Moresby’s Governor Powes Parkop said PNG had “turned a blind eye and deaf ear” to the issue.
MPs Jamie Maxton-Graham and Boka Kondra also criticised PNG’s inaction over the plight of their fellow Melanesians, who are an ethnic minority in Indonesia’s Papua province.
Maxton-Graham said he had been prompted to help launch and sign the PNG Charter of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua after seeing photos of atrocities on West Papuans allegedly committed by the Indonesian police and military.
“The international community and our charter says Indonesia must stop this,” Maxton-Graham said. He joined Parkop, Kondra and 50 MPs from other countries in signing the charter.
Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Greens MP Greg Barber are also signatories, alongside MPs from the UK, Sweden, Czech Republic, Vanuatu and New Zealand.
The charter calls for the UN to restore the “right of the indigenous people of West Papua to self-determination”.
Indonesia took formal control of the former Dutch colony in a widely criticised 1969 UN-sponsored vote among about 1000 handpicked villager elders from the Papuan region.
Since then Indonesia’s hardline security measures, including arrests of activists who try to fly Papua’s outlawed Morning Star flag, have helped quell the West Papua separatist movement.
But the long-running insurgency by poorly armed pro-independence guerillas continues.
It is estimated 10,000 to 20,000 West Papuans now live in PNG after they fled their homes on the Indonesian side because of few opportunities and human rights abuse.
Hundreds settled in a refugee camp near the border in PNG’s Southern Highlands region while a majority live and work in the country’s major centres like Port Moresby.
By Ilya Gridneff, The Age Papua New Guinea Correspondent