Countries have changed positions on territorial and separatist disputes for as long as the nation-state history itself. The United Nations General Assembly is just one of many international forums where diplomacy and DR. Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka, an academic from Vanuatu, has recently made a public criticism towards the government of Solomon Islands for changing their stance on West Papua. DR. Kabutaulaka directly pointed finger on Indonesian government, saying that Solomon Islands’ change of stance was a result of “Indonesia’s growing political influence in the region”. DR. Kabutaulaka spoke for 6 minutes at the Australian radio network abc.net.au. DR. Kabutaulaka also regretted the decision to include Indonesia in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a major international forum consisting of nations with Melanesian ethnic population.
Indonesia’s Presence in West Papua and MSG
With no less than 13 millions of Melanesian ethnic population, it seemed like it was just logical to include Indonesia in the Melanesian Spearhead Group as one of the member, and also a prominent archipelago with significantly potential human and natural resources. Unfortunately, academics such as DR. Kabutaulaka seemed to have dissenting opinion on the influence of Indonesia within the forum, and within the region in general. He has insisted that Indonesia‘s presence in the group has swayed Solomon Islands’ stance on West Papua.
Other Perspectives on West Papua
In May 2018, The Solomons’ Special Secretary on Foreign Relations, Rence Sore, made a testimony that a visit to West Papua was all it took for him to have a more balanced perspective on how the Indonesian government has been dealing with the separatists while still developing West Papua at the same time. In August 2018, Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters, stated that his country recognizes West Papua as a part of Indonesia. He also stated that the social and economic condition in West Papua was better than Papua New Guinea. He mentioned that even the people in Papua New Guinea will agree that the GDP and social conditions of West Papua are higher.
It is very easy for academics nowadays to fall into deep theoretical debates, completely neglecting the perspective of statesmen who are trying to experience and understand the life in West Papua first-hand. In the end, the more practical point of views will eventually serve best as the balance of interests between conflicted parties, and now as an academic, DR. Kabutaulaka would need to prove the premises of his claim.
Kabutaulaka, Tarcisius Tara in Wasuka, Evan. (October 11 2018). Academic slams Solomon Islands’ change in tone on West Papua. Retrieved from ABC:
https://www.abc.net.au/radio-australia/programs/pacificbeat/sols-w-papua-update/10358802 , 2018.
Sore, Rence in Radio New Zealand. (23 May 2018). Shift in Solomon Islands government’s view on Papua. Retrieved from RNZ: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/358029/shift-in-solomon-islands-government-s-view-on-papua , 2018.
Peters, Winston in Radio New Zealand. (31 August 2018). Foreign Minister says NZ recognises Indonesian control of Papua. Retrieved from RNZ: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/365377/foreign-minister-says-nz-recognises-indonesian-control-of-papua , 2018.
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