Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Questions (81)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

206 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position in relation to the wish of the people of West Papua to have the undemocratic decision presided over by the UN rescinded, and their aspiration to independence respected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25296/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

I acknowledge the concern which exists about the manner in which the act of free choice was conducted in West Papua. However, as has been stated on many occasions in the House, the review of the act of free choice would require the support of UN member states. Inquiries made by our Permanent Representative to the UN confirm that, at present, there is no significant support for such an initiative. This was confirmed to me by the UN Secretary General when I raised the matter with him during his recent visit to Ireland.

There is, moreover, a possibility that pursuing the issue of the act of free choice would prejudice ongoing efforts to develop and strengthen dialogue with the government in Jakarta, and would not contribute to the amelioration of the current situation of the Papuan people. The view of the Government is that the most productive approach to dealing with the situation of the people of Papua is through contact with the government of Indonesia.

The Government will continue to avail of every opportunity to encourage the government of Indonesia to strengthen its efforts to address the legitimate aspirations of the people of Papua. In this regard, I welcome the commitment expressed by president-elect Yudhoyono of Indonesia to implement the special autonomy law for Papua. This law dates from November 2001 but has not yet been implemented. It provides for a greater degree of autonomy for Papua than for Indonesia's other provinces.

My predecessor met the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr. Noor Hassan Wirajuda, in the margins of the UN General Assembly on 23 September 2004. The former Minister, Deputy Cowen, used the occasion to express Ireland's continuing concerns about the situation in Papua. These concerns had previously been raised with Minister Wirajuda in April 2004, during an EU Troika meeting, and again in January 2003, on the occasion of the EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting. Minister Wirajuda took note of our concerns, and expressed his belief that the special autonomy law will satisfy the aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the people in Papua. He said autonomy remains the settled policy of the government of Indonesia and that the strengthened democracy in Indonesia, following successful presidential and legislative elections, would increase autonomy. My predecessor made it clear that we would be carefully monitoring the situation in this regard.

The EU External Relations Council of 11 October 2004 adopted conclusions on Indonesia, which reiterated the EU's respect for the territorial integrity of the Republic of Indonesia and welcomed president-elect Yudhoyono's intention to implement special autonomy for Papua. Officials of my Department regularly discuss the situation in Papua with their counterparts from Indonesia, representatives of various Papuan NGOs, as well as from third countries, such as Australia and the United States.

Ireland, together with our EU partners, will continue to support the development of a strengthened partnership and effective dialogue between the EU and Indonesia. As I have said, the Government sees this as the most effective framework at this time for addressing our concerns about the situation in Papua.