Recently, Papua New Guinea has opened a new route of sea travel for Indonesia, connecting Madang and The Province of Papua. The agreement was signed on 21 October 2018, and both parties are anticipating the newly opened route to be fully operational shortly.
Madang is a province in Papua New Guinea (PNG). As a bordering country, PNG shares 810 kilometres of border, and quite a hefty amount of economic values, to say the least. For example, during October 2018, when the exchange rate of US Dollar (USD) to Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) has broken through IDR 15,200, many Papuans use Papua New Guinean Kina as the currency.
PNG’s export to Indonesia has been steadily increasing, while the import rate of PNG from Indonesia seems to be going another way around. In the big cities of Indonesia, the high exchange rate of USD against IDR becomes a full discussion that invites a lot of anxiety and negative speculations.The casual usage of Kina and Rupiah along Indonesia-PNG border is a sign of increasing interdependency between both countries. Livestock foods, for example, are often imported from PNG to Indonesia.
The relations between PNG and Indonesia is not only about the goods, but also regarding the people. For many years, Indonesia and PNG have allowed members of these communities to move back and forth. At the far north of the border, PNG people frequently use the crossing at Wutung to visit the Bhatas markets, just inside Indonesia, which offer a huge range of cheap goods, from bags of rice to the latest DVDs from Java. Since ages ago, the municipal administration of Indonesia’s Jayapura city has forged co-operation agreements with counterparts in the two main towns of PNG’s Sepik region, Wewak and Vanimo,in sectors such as fisheries, agriculture and education. And the two national governments have plans to boost collaboration in areas of infrastructure. As the result, a lot of PNG citizens and their families in Indonesian part of the island share similar views in acknowledging Indonesia’s sovereignty over West Papua.
In July 2018, PNG’s foreign minister Rimbink Pato assured the world that PNG supports the sovereignty of Indonesia in West Papua. In another occasion, PNG’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill made a comment that Pacific countries should discuss the issue of West Papua in a fair way, at the UN forum.
The interaction between PNG and Indonesia has somewhat proven that an ally does not really have to deny that there is still a lot to be improved with Indonesia’s governance in Papua. However, instead of being a heckler just like Vanuatu did, PNG kept its cool and tried to bring up a healthy discussion on human rights issues.