Pohnpei, Jubi – Pacific civil society organisation representatives have put in a strong bid for Pacific leaders to support the involvement of the United Nations in the case of the people of West Papua.
This was one of the key points CSO reps submitted during their scheduled breakfast meeting in Pohnpei today with members of the Pacific Islands Forum troika, comprising the past, current and future chair of the 16-member island group.
Outgoing chair and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neil was absent from today’s breakfast as he is not due to arrive into the FSM until later today. His Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato stood in for him.
“What was encouraging in the dialogue was the consideration and the recognition that the United Nations process is available,” head of the Pacific Islands NGO Association, Emele Duituturaga told journalists at the end of the breakfast meeting.
“We detected an acceptance that this possibly could be one of the pathways. I think the difference is that up until now, we always thought this is a Melanesian issue. In our recommendations, we tried to assist our leaders recognise some of the bilateral arrangements, bilateral assistance that somehow might be hindering the options we need to look at.”
Speaking to journalists at the end of the breakfast meeting, Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi confirmed that the CSO reps raised the issue of West Papua, but declined to be drawn into what the Forum leaders would decide.
“There are two issues involved here, that is human rights and self determination. Human rights is okay, we can address it in a normal situation but when it comes to the issue of self determination, then there are processes that we must follow.
“In saying this, I did mention that what arises in West Papua is very similar to the situation of what my own country went through when we agitated to become independent. Of course later the
United Nations came in and guide us along the path to final independence in 1962. So the processes are there, and those are the formal ones to take.”
Pushed by Pacnews as to what his recommendations would be to his fellow leaders when they meet on Saturday at the debate chamber of the FSM Congress for their annual retreat, Tuilaepa replied: “Well its already incorporated, and we will discuss this at the retreat. At this time your question has been posed but I cannot disclose to you what we will talk about. This is why we arrange the meeting of the Forum to have retreats so that we can discuss.”
Pacnews: As next year’s chair of Forum, will you push for some concrete decision on West Papua? Many submissions have been received from the people of the Pacific for action on West Papua, just like last year’s Forum, but last year’ Forum did nothing on West Papua.
PM Tuilaepa: Yes, (laughs) you are trying to speculate. Never speculate on sensitive issues.
Pacnews: So would you like to put the speculations to rest sir?
PM Tuilaepa: All I can say is, have faith in God!
Ms Duituturaga told Pacnews later that her group of 16 CSO reps gave “all they wanted to submit” at today’s meeting, and it is now up to the leaders to decide. Her group also raised the issues of youth unemployment, gender based violence, disability, decolonisation and self-determination.
The breakfast meeting at Cliff Rainbow Hotel on the waterfront of Pohnpei went overtime, finishing more than one hour behind schedule. Prime Minister Tuilaepa has offered to upgrade the dialogue with CSO when his country hosts the Forum next year.
“Dialogue with the 16 governments of our Pacific leaders Forum can only be all inclusive when they address these issues and all the 16 leaders listen. If there are only 5 of us, we are the only ones that will benefit from their direct views and contributions.
“It does not mean that we will fully convey all the issues. We are in an imperfect world where many things can happen and we may not be able to convey 100% the issues they have raised. It is better that they voice their aspirations in the presence of all the 16 leaders. In that way, there is no secondary information. It comes straight from the horse’s mouth.”
The Forum Leaders summit proper gets underway tomorrow at the Gymnasium of the College of Micronesia in Palikir, Pohnpei. Today, the Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific grouping, are meeting to discuss common issues, including the collapsed trade negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.
The Forum meeting will conclude on Sunday with the traditional Post Forum Dialogue where Forum leaders or their representatives meet and consult with donor governments and development partners. (*)