Governor of Indonesia’s Papua seeks connection with PNG

As Port Moresby's Governor Powes Parkop (middle) welcomed his counterpart from Indonesia's Papua province Lukas Enembe (left) in Papua New Guinea's capital, the Indonesian ambassador to PNG, Ronald Manik (right), also made an appearance. Photo: Wanpis Ako

As Port Moresby’s Governor Powes Parkop (middle) welcomed his counterpart from Indonesia’s Papua province Lukas Enembe (left) in Papua New Guinea’s capital, the Indonesian ambassador to PNG, Ronald Manik (right), also made an appearance. Photo: Wanpis Ako

The Governor of Indonesia’s Papua province wants West Papuans to be able to connect more with people in neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

The call from Lukas Enembe comes as he is visiting PNG’s capital Port Moresby.

He travelled there to attend celebrations to mark the country’s 43rd anniversary of independence at the invitation of the governor of PNG’s National Capital District, Powes Parkop

Mr Enembe, who was recently re-elected as governor, said that it shouldn’t have taken 43 years for PNG and Papua to have formal contact.

“Why we didn’t come to PNG and connect with them before, for all these years, it’s no good,” he reflected in a telephone interview from Port Moresby.

“That’s why I’m thinking we must open the relationship with PNG, we must join together economically, politically, culturally. It’s good for our people, good for our government,” continued Mr Enembe.

“We need to be closer with PNG. They’re very important in the Pacific Islands. That’s why we must join together with them.”

For years, links with between the people on both sides of the border running down the middle of New Guinea have been limited, partly through a mix of poor transport links and restrictions implemented by security forces on the Indonesian side.

Mr Enembe said that now the Indonesian national government also saw the merits of closer ties with PNG, and was not opposed to his visit this week.

“My government said ‘you go, this is very important’, because it’s good to build the relationship with PNG. They’re not afraid of that.”

Papua New Guinea foreign minister Rimbink Pato.

Papua New Guinea foreign minister Rimbink Pato. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

According to PNG’s Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, the two countries have forged a close relationship where all issues of mutual interest, including sensitive border matters, were discussed in a constructive way.

He was responding to criticism from Mr Parkop who last week spoke out about human rights abuses in Indonesia’s Papua region, widely known as West Papua.

Mr Parkop was critical of both PNG and Indonesian governments for not confronting the West Papuan rights issue openly.

However, Mr Pato denied that there was a lack of interaction regarding Papua. The minister said PNG welcomed the Indonesian government policy under President Joko Widodo to take a development-led approach to the Papuan Provinces rather than a security-led approach.

Governor Enembe said President Widodo was aware of the problems in Papua, and was travelling frequently to Papua.

Mr Enembe is not outwardly pro-independence. But he said while Papua region had been given special autonomy by Indonesia in 2001, the arrangement hadn’t worked out well, because Jakarta still controlled affairs in the Papuan provinces.

He was candid about the impact of Indonesian security forces in Papua.

“Every day my people are being killed,” Mr Enembe said. “That’s why I think… the military of Indonesia, the police of Indonesia, they’ve stopped thinking about the humanity in Papua.

“Some people in the Highlands, and the coast, they come to me, they’re crying, crying about what’s happening in Papua. Humanity is very important.”

The governor of Papua New Guinea's National Capital District, Powes Parkop.

The governor of Papua New Guinea’s National Capital District, Powes Parkop. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

The Governor claimed that West Papuans were dying at a disturbing rate through three main causes: because of neglected health services, because of the spread of HIV / AIDS, and because of alleged killings by the security forces.

“We are becoming a minority… a lot of people they die. I don’t know… is this by a system… I don’t know.”

He said Indonesia had co-opted Papua’s land, minerals and forest resources, while West Papuans were largely left without a say in the matter. According to him, that’s part of the reason why Papuans sought to reconnect with PNG people, their Melanesian kin.

“We can open the links to PNG, because Papua and PNG… this is our land, from Sorong to Samarai one land. One land. Papua New Guinea people and Papua people, we have one land, one culture, this island.”

From left: Indonesian ambassador to PNG, His Excellency Ronald Manik, Governor Enembe, Governor Parkop and others walking out of the tarmac at Jackson's International Airport in Port Moresby.

From left: Indonesian ambassador to PNG, His Excellency Ronald Manik, Governor Enembe, Governor Parkop and others walking out of the tarmac at Jackson’s International Airport in Port Moresby. Photo: Wanpis Ako

Port Moresby and Papua’s Jayapura city are planning exchange programmes in the areas of tradition, culture, economics, social, sports and music to strengthen their sister-city relationship.

“I want us to work towards these small things achieving that, bridging the gap to open up for each other to greater future,” Mr Parkop said.

“Sending your Pesipura [Jayapura] soccer team to challenge our local team or us participating in Lake Sentani or Jayapura Festival can start to open up and develop the relationship which is not based on fear.”

After Moresby, the Governor is heading to PNG’s second city of Lae, where he hopes to sign an economic collaboration agreement with the Morobe provincial government.

Then before heading back across the border, Mr Enembe will visit the northern towns of Madang and Wewak, further building links between his province and PNG.


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