Indonesia makes tactical move

West Papua human rights abuses continue

JAKARTA’S diplomacy in the region is a sight to behold. With the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia’s independence movement and Vanuatu committed to allowing West Papua into the Melanesian Spearhead Group as a full member, Indonesia has been forced to take drastic steps. But conscious of mounting regional grassroots support for Papua’s half century struggle for determination, the occupying force has hidden its iron fisted approach in a velvet glove.

Its soldiers – guilty of daily killings in the dissident province – have been sent to Queen Victoria School, long the breeding ground for Fiji’s leaders and having traditional links to the chiefly establishment and influential iTaukei (indigenous people). That is a calculated move by the proIndonesian Bainimarama government to portray Jakarta’s killers in a positive light and defuse the growing support for West Papua.

Announcing the aid, Indonesia’s Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister, General Luhut Pandjaitan said there were no political strings attached to the $5million package of assistance for disaster relief after Tropical Cyclone Winston. “I’m just carrying a letter from President (Jokowi Widodo) about better relations in the Pacific,” General Pandjaitan told reporters at the airport when asked whether he would address membership of the MSG while in Suva. But less than 48 hours later Fijian Foreign Affairs Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, announced that Fiji would support Indonesia’s bid for membership of the MSG.

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