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The issue of West Papua is a “tool for begging” for small Pacific countries: said Prof. Hikmahanto

The issue of West Papua is a “tool for begging” for small Pacific countries: said Prof. Hikmahanto
Picture: Prof. Dr. Hikmahanto Juwana (left).
No. 1 PAPUA Merdeka News | Portal  

JAKARTA | A prominent Indonesian academic who is a professor of international law at the University of Indonesia, Prof. Dr. Hikmahanto Juwana said that the political leap related to the issue of West Papua in this Pacific Ocean Island country was more for the ‘goal of asking for help from Indonesia’.

“Sometimes the reason is the solidarity of the Pacific countries but sometimes it's for Indonesia to provide sweeteners (material assistance),” said Prof. Hikmahanto to Media Indonesia, Saturday (11/03). 

This was said by Professor Hikmahanto in response to the meeting of the Prime Minister of Fiji, Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka with Benny Wenda President of the ULMWP Interim Government (United Liberation Movement for West Papua) February 2022 in Suva.

According to him, Fiji's support for West Papua's struggle for independence will not have a significant impact so there is no need to worry.

“All that remains is to educate our public that as long as it is not a big country, there is no need to worry too much,” he said.

Dinna Prapto Raharja, founder of Synergy Policies, an independent think-tank and public policy consultancy, said Indonesia should not rely on a protest note against Fiji's stance. Jakarta needs to adopt a number of approaches to turn its back against the Free Papua Organization. 

“The protest note is a procedural mechanism, so it shouldn't be the only way to resolve this issue with the Fiji government,” he said.

He said Indonesia needed a strategic approach with the Fiji government so that this support would be revoked. For example, by strengthening economic cooperation and others. 

In the last two weeks, the entire Indonesian universe has been busy discussing Fiji's support for West Papua's membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) which was openly stated by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka (24/02), RNZ.

Little Fiji Influence

Yogyakarta University (UMY) International Relations Observer Faris Al Fadhat appreciated the steps taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a protest note against the Fiji government. Indonesia needs to strengthen it with a number of diplomatic steps.

“As we know, Fiji's Prime Minister (PM) Sitiveni Rabuka, met with Benny Wenda some time ago, who is a separatist leader. In this case, the Indonesian government's response through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by sending a protest note to the Fiji government was appropriate,” said The UMY Deputy Chancellor(11/3).

According to him, the official protest note sent to the Fiji Embassy in Jakarta on February 23, 2023 should be appreciated, as a firm policy by the Indonesian government. This is a diplomatic step that can be taken by all countries when there is intervention by other countries on domestic issues.

He said Fiji's attitude, which was seen as disrespectful to Indonesia's political authority, was disturbing. But there is also no need to be reactionary and exaggerated.

Fiji is a small country with a population of no more than a million people so its influence is also small. The note of protest that was filed was also correct.

This policy needs to be strengthened again. Notes of protest need to be strengthened again with continued diplomacy. There are at least two steps.

First, said Faris, Indonesia's diplomacy to Fiji and several countries in the Pacific region needs to be improved. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi's move to visit Fiji and the Solomon Islands in September 2022 was very appropriate.

However, this does not appear to have had a significant impact on the mutually respectful relationship between the two countries. Fiji continues to show gestures of support for Free Papua Movement and does not respect the Indonesian government in dealing with domestic political issues. 

“Therefore, diplomacy must continue to be carried out, either through Fiji's foreign ministry, parliament, to the prime minister himself,” he said. 

Second, economic cooperation must continue to be improved in the future. Even though Fiji's population is relatively small, trade and investment relations are important to build better diplomatic relations.

“The greater Fiji's dependence on the Indonesian economy will further reduce the current diplomatic hurdle,” he concluded.

Read more:

  1. West Papua and MSG Tragedies
  2. MSG Headache, West Papuan Heartache? Indonesia's Melanesian Foray
  3. West Papua’s colonial fate – UN ‘New York Agreement’

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