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EDITORIAL: Working On Things That Matter With Indonesia

The timing of the visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi comes as no surprise to political observers. As part of a Pacific tour that included stops in Papua New
01 Mar 2015 09:23
EDITORIAL: Working On Things That Matter With Indonesia

The timing of the visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi comes as no surprise to political observers.

As part of a Pacific tour that included stops in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, the Indonesian Minister is in charge of raising her country’s profile and ensuring it still has friends in the region.
Pacific politicians often take the pragmatic approach to dealing with bigger Asian neighbours that provide huge opportunities for trade and industry.

We won’t interfere in the internal affairs of your country and we expect that to be reciprocated in the Pacific Islands, is the mantra uttered in the corridors of power.  That her visit comes a week and a bit after a solidarity march in Suva for West Papuans is indicative of how the Indonesians are reading the pulse of the Pacific Islands.

Even Australia and New Zealand, so used to parroting the condescending moralistic tones of the U.S, are wary of upsetting their Indonesian neighbours over the issue of human rights and independence in West Papua.

When asked recently in Parliament about the issue of West Papua, Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola was non-committal on whether the Melanesian Spearhead Group would welcome West Papua into their ranks as an official member.  Ratu Inoke was not being dismissive of the question from the Opposition. On the contrary, it pointed to the importance of ‘closed-door diplomacy’ without having to be subject to unnecessary public scrutiny.

The issue is certain to come up in talks with the Indonesian Foreign Minister.  Ratu Inoke is well aware of the increasing public profile of the issue of West Papua, that is being championed, by civil society in Fiji, particularly the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). He is also one of the architects of Fiji’s ‘friend to all’ approach to international diplomacy. This underlying philosophy will guide the talks he has with the Indonesian Foreign Minister and indeed, later this year when he meets with the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) on the issue of West Papua.

The way forward is a win-win solution where all parties come out of the negotiating room with something positive. Pro-independence West Papuan groups want an equal voice at the negotiating table amongst other things, the Indonesian Government wants respect for its democratic sovereignty, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) wants to respect the rights of all Melanesians and Fiji wants to position itself as the hub of the Pacifi c and a catalyst for Pacific and international reform and leadership.

Actually, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if we can work things out. There’s no reason why we can’t. The best thing that could come out of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister’s visit is a commitment to strengthening relations with Fiji and also to listen to our broader concerns.

Feedback:  josua.tuwere@fijisun.com.fj

 




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