A senior Indonesian official's tour through Melanesian countries has stirred up controversy after officials in Jakarta described it as an effort to suppress regional support for the independence movement in West Papua. More on the minister's reception from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.
Indonesia's Luhut Binsar Padjaitan could not have asked for a better welcome in Port Moresby, where Papua New Guinea's foreign minister Rimbink Pato described his country's relations with Indonesia as excellent. Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half of New Guinea, regards the western half as an integral part of Indonesia and, the Foreign Minister told Radio New Zealand, "We're not interested in entertaining the issue of self-determination." he added “Human rights is a concern, but that has nothing to do with any call for self-determination”.
Last year, the Melanesian Spearhead Group granted the United Liberation Movement for West Papua observer status, but popular support for Melanesian activists does not always outweigh the political and economic might of Indonesia.
For example, on his stop in Fiji, Minister Padjaitan shook hands with Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama in front of a cardboard blow-up of a check for five million dollars, part of an aid package in the wake of last month's Cyclone Winston. But the money may have come with strings attached. The reverend Francois Piha'ata-e of the Pacific Conference of Churches noted that during his visit, the Indonesian minister had called for the expulsion of West Papuan activists. The Reverend also pointed out that two of Prime Minister Bainimarama's most persistent critics...New Zealand and Australia....rushed assistance to Fiji with no pre-conditions.