Aana Alofi No. 3 M.P., Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, has become the first Samoan Member of Parliament to join a global group of parliamentarians calling for self-determination for West Papua.
In doing so, Toeolesulusulu is the 86th member to join the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, and only the seventh from the entire Pacific Islands region.
The group was launched in the Houses of Parliament, London, in 2008, following decades of reports about human rights abuses by Indonesian security forces in West Papua.
The West Papua Declaration signed by the M.P.s reads,
“We the undersigned recognise the inalienable right of the indigenous people of West Papua to self-determination, which was violated in the 1969 “Act of Free Choice”,
AND call upon our governments through the United Nations to put in place arrangements for the free exercise of that right SO that the indigenous people of West Papua can decide democratically their own future in accordance with international standards of human rights, the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.”
Toeolesulusulu is no recent convert to the cause, having first learnt about West Papua over a decade ago when he was working in Fiji for the World Wide Fund for Nature (W.W.F.).
One of the other groups also working there was the P.C.R.C., the Pacific Centre for Resource Concerns, which had long focused on making the region nuclear free, as well as supporting independence efforts.
People from West Papua were campaigning in Fiji at the time, and they, along with most other non- governmental organisations there at the time, got to hear about their concerns.
However, since then, that interest and support for West Papua is actually “waning”, said Toeolesulusulu, “in the 80s and 90s, there was strong lobbying, there was more active work going on.”
This is partly because Pacific states have moved on from their founding years, when international issues of independence have region. turned to domestic issues of sustainability and economic growth.
He also blames a lack of leadership from western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, but also closer partners like New Zealand and Australia – all with their own interests in West Papua.
“New Zealand and Australia are tied to Indonesia with trade and military connections,” said Toeolesulusulu.
He agreed that trade links had had a corrupting influence on regional politics, but indicated the problem was wider than just the region.
“It’s a global phenomenon, you look at Africa, South America, and how the United States, for example, pushes its global agendas to get their way. Also New Zealand and Australia, they also have interest to push, to put their own people first.”
However, he did not agree with criticism that the Melanesian Spearhead Group had ‘sold out’ when it recently signed trade and sovereignty agreements with Indonesia.
“That’s a strong statement.
“As I’ve said, the relationships now are more directed towards trade and development assistance, and a lot of countries are looking more to their local needs.”
As Indonesia continues to pour thousands of its own migrants into West Papua, getting self-determination for West Papua gets harder, he says.
“They should have done the right thing at that time. “It’s even harder now with still more Indonesians coming into the region.”
But he says it’s an important area of human rights, “that we should be doing more to make a stand.
“Especially when you look at how the Pacific Islands came about, when you look at Samoa, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, all these countries had colonial powers.”
Toeolesulusulu praises the role taken up by Vanuatu. “Countries like Vanuatu are starting to take a strong interest.”
Earlier this month, Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Kalosil Carcasses, a founding member of the IPWP, speaking at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, called for international action on West Papua.
"Why are we not discussing it in this Council, why are we turning a blind eye to them and closing our ears to the lone voices of the Papuan people, many of whom have shed innocent blood because they want justice and freedom."
Mr. Carcasses said roughly 10 percent of the indigenous population have been killed by Indonesian security forces since 1963.
More recently, between October 2011 and March 2013, 25 Papuans were murdered but nothing has been done to bring the perpetrators to justice.
He urged the Council to consider adopting a resolution to establish a country mandate on the situation in West Papua, which would include an investigation of alleged human rights violations, and provide recommendations on a peaceful political solution.