Samoa will take the position of Pacific Island Forum members and support “constructive engagement” with Indonesia on issues relating to West Papua.
Earlier this week, the Bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia called for Samoa to increase vocalisations of concerns against the reported actions of Indonesian military against West Papuans.
In a public statement, they expressed “deep disappointment” at what they described as the continued suppression of the first people of West Papua.
The Bishops said they are praying that the Indonesian authorities halt human rights abuses, and proposed a four-fold course of action for the governments within the Anglican Church’s jurisdiction—New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga Samoa, American Samoa and the Cook Islands—to take.
Despite the call, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said he agrees with the consensus of the Forum, which can press the Indonesian government on moral issues.
In September, the Forum supported “constructive engagement” over human rights, and members of the Forum were asked to support a resolution to go before the United Nations General Assembly.
“On the moral issue, we hold the common stance of the Pacific Island countries.
“The Indonesians should deal with the issue appropriately of human rights abuses,” he said.
The Prime Minister continued that the government and the army of Indonesia may be acting independently of each other, and that should be taken into consideration.
The Anglican Bishops also called for governments to pay attention to the denial by the Indonesian government of the “first people’s right of self-determination and the abuse of their natural resources by foreign corporations.”
On the issue of West Papuan desire for self-determination, Prime Minister Tuilaepa said he does not feel he has the power to interfere.
“The more important issue for the people of West Papua themselves, that they have been pressing, is the issue of self-determination and that is where we have no power,” he said
“This is part of Indonesia.
“It is like telling New Zealand that the North Island should be given to another race of Maori, and that’s interference.”
However, he did say the United Nations are the only authority that can help West Papua gain independence, just as Samoa did in 1962.
“That is the road we travelled in order to become independent,” Tuilaepa said.
“We sought the approval of the United Nations. There was no other way, it was the U.N that granted us our independence.”