Exclusive investigation from West Papua Media team
October 12, 2013
(The Hague): As allegations surface of Indonesian military-linked businessmen providing envelopes of “hefty cash” to senior officials in the Solomon Island’s Prime Ministerial delegation during the recent APEC summit in Bali, a high level source inside the Melanesian Spearhead Group has raised concerns over Indonesia’s subversion of the agreed visit of Melanesian Foreign Ministers to West Papua, in an exclusive interview with West Papua Media.
An explosive but carefully worded article in the Solomon Star newspaper on October 11 has alleged that Indonesian officials provided members of Solomon Islands government with large amounts of cash contained in yellow envelopes, during an official dinner hosted in honour of the Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo and his delegation.
According to the Solomon Star report, at least five members of the delegation have admitted to receiving the payments, amongst a total of 17 delegation members alleged to have received the envelopes. The report, from interviews by journalist Alfred Sasako with a highly placed whistleblower in Honiara, alleged that at least two “names withheld” senior officials received USD$25, 000 each, three others received USD$10, 000 and a final two delegation members received USD$5, 000 each respectively.
“It seems the level of payment is based on seniority, the higher you are, the more you get,” the sources told the Solomon Star.
After the publication of the new allegations, West Papua Media spoke on Saturday to a well-respected customary figure in the Solomon Islands, who described the latest revelations as proof of long-standing suspicions “that Indonesia is involved in a corrupt subversion of Melanesian solidarity on the West Papua issue. The source described the behaviour of Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo in arranging unilateral visits to West Papua as “an affront to the Melanesian Way that is deliberately undermining the quality of what a properly constituted MSG Fact-finding mission can uncover in West Papua.”
“The Prime Minster is siding with Indonesia to cover up the crimes against the West Papuan people, by diluting the effectiveness of a multilateral fact-finding team to assess the real situation in West Papua. What other deals is he doing for the Solomon Islands with these Indonesian military businessmen? Are our islands going to be the next West Papua?” the source told WPM. The customary source, who had no involvement with the Solomon Star revelations, declined to be identified for this article citing fears of being labelled as the whistleblower.
“This is not about me anyway, this about the questions for all Melanesian people about how far Indonesia is willing to bully or bribe Melanesians, and how some Melanesians like our Prime Minister are potentially having their pockets lined with blood money for turning their backs on the suffering of our Melanesian family in West Papua,” the source told WPM with some indignation.
Prior to the MSG meeting in Noumea in June 2013 the Indonesian and Fijian governments agreed to a multi-lateral visit to West Papua by MSG Foreign Ministers. The proposal was raised at the Noumea meeting by Fiji in part to defer a decision over whether West Papua would be granted membership into the MSG or not. The MSG Ministerial team has undertaken to write a report following their visit. This report will then help guide the MSG’s decision regarding West Papua’s membership. Since June, however, serious doubts have been raised as to how transparent the organising of the MSG Foreign Ministers is, or even whether it will happen at all.
A high-level source inside the MSG who was at the meeting in Noumea but asked not to be named told WPM on condition of anonymity, that it was highly unlikely that the MSG will revoke Indonesia’s observer status, but that they could give West Papua ‘associative status’, which is a higher level of membership. However, the source then went on to say that it is now “not clear what is happening”.
The concerns are serious. First, no date has been set for the Foreign Ministers visit to West Papua. Second, neither the MSG Secretariat nor Melanesian nations are organising the visit. “The Foreign Ministers all rely on an invitation from the Indonesian government. It is not clear if such an invitation has been issued and it is not clear who will pay for it. My advice to member countries is that each Melanesian country pays for their own visit themselves” said the senior MSG bureaucrat. “That way the Foreign Ministers will not be beholden to the Indonesian government and that their status as independent advisors to the MSG is more likely to be guaranteed.”
Most concerning is that the idea of a multi-lateral visit could be abandoned. “It is possible” said the MSG official “that the foreign ministers could travel to West Papua separately and not as a group”. This is the most likely possibility given the revelations in the Solomon Star.
Although privately many Melanesian politicians support independence for West Papua the official cautioned against false hopes. “West Papuans should not have high expectations from the forthcoming MSG foreign ministers support.”
At this stage it appears highly unlikely that the Melanesian foreign ministers report will reflect the political reality inside West Papua or the aspirations of the West Papuan people. This view is reflected in the recent comments from Mr Gordon Lilo, the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, who told Indonesia’s Antara state news agency that he is “impressed with the progress” the Indonesian government has made in West Papua. Mannaseh Sogovare, the Solomon Islands opposition leader, criticised Lilo’s comments saying that he had “probably been overwhelmed by the reception of the hosts and obviously the Indonesians have gone out of their way to put on the wow factor to make sure that Lilo is wooed out of any views that he may have had in support of West Papuan membership of the MSG,” reported Radio New Zealand.
Comment about the corruption of the Fact-Finding process has also been repeatedly sought by West Papua Media from the office of Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, however the Prime Minister was unavailable to comment on the allegations. However, Carcasses issued a historic and moral challenge to the international community at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in late September, by calling for the appointment of a Special Representative to investigate historical and ongoing of human rights abuses by Indonesia.
‘How can we then ignore hundreds of thousands of West Papuans who have been beaten and murdered? The people of West Papua are looking to the UN as a beacon of hope… Let us, my colleague leaders, with the same moral conviction, yield our support to the plight of West Papuans. It is time for the United Nations to move beyond its periphery and address and rectify some historical errors,” Carcasses told the UN General Assembly.
These are the words that Melanesian leaders may well be reflecting on as they ponder the ramifications of accepting Indonesia’s subversion of the MSG Fact Finding Team process.
As well as sharing his concerns, the senior MSG official also had some practical advice for Papuan leaders. “All of us at the MSG are observing very closely developments inside West Papua. In order for us to assist the West Papuan application for membership Papuan leaders need to present a unified position that is backed up by strong support from civil society. The good news is that there is moral support from inside the MSG. Even senior leaders in the United Nations privately recognise that West Papua is an occupation.”
However, without unity of purpose from West Papuan leaders and strong grassroots support from inside Melanesian countries, the Indonesian government could out-manoeuver West Papua again.
- PMW: Activists ‘forced’ to leave consulate, call for greater press freedom (westpapuamedia.info)
- New hope for Papuan independence (skynews.com.au)
- Mixed success for Papuan Cultural parades despite by pre-emptive arrests across Papua (westpapuamedia.info)
- Sorong Police arrest Papuan customary leaders at Freedom Flotilla ceremony (westpapuamedia.info)
- Papua Bid for MSG Membership: Does PNG Play Double Standard? (pacific.scoop.co.nz)
- NZ needs to ensure West Papuan APEC protestors are safe (pacific.scoop.co.nz)
- Vanuatu PM urges UN to investigate human rights abuses in West Papua (pacific.scoop.co.nz)
- West Papua: ‘doors are open’ to foreign journalists and NGOs (theguardian.com)