Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Asia Pacific Report

FIJI/WEST PAPUA: McCully plays down West Papua issue in media

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Item: 7613

AUCKLAND (The Nation/Pacific Media Watch): New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says Fiji is not such a pressing issue and the region is taking a "careful approach" to West Papua.

"The Forum probably is taking a fairly careful approach to a very complex issue," he said on The Nation current affairs programme on TV3 today.

In an interview with Sean Plunket, he was responding to reports that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had said at a media conference at this week's South Pacific Forum the West Papua issue should be discussed by the Decolonisation Committee of the General Assembly. 

The former Dutch colony of West Papua has been Indonesian-ruled since the so-called 1969 Act of Free Choice.

In the past month Indonesian security forces have cracked down on Papuan rallies for independence and been accused of human rights atrocities.

"New Zealand supports the special autonomy law that’s been put in place by Indonesia in relation to Papua," McCully said.

"We obviously are taking a close interest in developments there, and are trying to target some of our development assistance there. 

"It’s a topic that I raised with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, who again was one of the heavyweights who came down to be part of our post-forum discussions. I raised that issue with him, and we had a very frank but very constructive discussion about it."

'Wait and see?'
Plunket: "So, we wait and see?"

McCully: No, we think progress needs to be made, but progress is being made in relation to the special autonomy law there."

Asked by Plunket about Fiji because there had been a "reluctance to talk about it" at the Forum, McCully said: "I don't think Fiji is the issue."

McCully denied that there had been a "softening" of New Zealand policy over Fiji with the decision by the Forum to allow Fijian officials to take part in Pacer Plus trade negotiations.

"There’s a view among Pacific leaders that rather too much time has been spent on Fiji at recent Forum meetings, a desire to deal with some of the other pressing issues in the region - and that’s why you saw the result [in allowing Fiji into Pacer Plus]," McCully said. 

"But it’s true also there’s a desire among forum, members to see the 'Pacific Way' employed, to see engagement with Fiji, to see them not excluded from trade and economic discussions, like the Pacer Plus discussions. 

"I’ve made it clear from the beginning that New Zealand’s been very relaxed about the idea of Fijian officials being part of the Pacer Plus discussions. 

"Quite frankly, it wouldn’t worry me too much if we saw them involved at a more senior level as well."

Asked whether New Zealand would review its current "hard line" position, McCully said: "If the regime would get rid of the emergency regulations and stop the censorship of the press and stop taking the trade union leadership down to the barracks or the Methodist Church leadership down to the barracks for a bit of a sorting out, then we’d probably have something to talk about."

(cc) Creative Commons

Transcript of the interview on Pacific Scoop

Ban Ki-moon's statement about West Papua


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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
(cc) Creative Commons


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