Finance minister Mark Brown, who attended the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in August where the ongoing conflict in West Papua was discussed, said the Cook Islands government fully supports the use of international agencies to deal with human rights issues faced by West Papua.
A province of Indonesia, West Papua covers the two western peninsulas of the island of New Guinea.
It has an ongoing conflict with Indonesia and has accused its government of conducting a genocidal campaign against the indigenous inhabitants.
Brown said there were two issues pertaining to West Papua.
One, he said, was the issue of human rights abuses that were allegedly being undertaken and the second was the issue of sovereignty.
“In terms of human rights issues, there are the proper avenues and forums that is available to address concerns of human rights in West Papua.
“The government fully supports utilising those international agencies to deal with those issues of human rights.
“And (the government) fully expects the Indonesian government to be able to provide answers to the allegations of the human rights abuses.”
In terms of West Papua’s sovereignty, Brown said the Cook Islands’ position lay with that of the United Nations (UN).
He said there were protocols that countries or international members of the UN had to follow, adding that forums could also be used to address issues around sovereignty.
“Again, we would urge that we utilise as much as possible the correct channels to address these issues rather than seeing situations being inflamed from using social media and trying to embarrass (the government), I guess, what Indonesia does as a country on this issue of West Papua.”
In an open letter to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, the Australia West Papua Association urged regional leaders to continue to raise concern about the human rights situation in West Papua with the Indonesian government.
Indonesia has repeatedly denied human rights abuse levelled against it.
At the UN General Assembly in New York last month, Ainan Nuran, a Third Secretary at Indonesia’s Permanent Mission in New York, accused the Melanesian leaders of supporting separatism in a sovereign nation.
She said the Papuan provinces (Papua and West Papua) would always remain an integral part of Indonesia.
Melanesian countries and Pacific Islands Leaders Forum members Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have repeatedly shown support for West Papua’s independence movement.
“These countries were foolishly deceived by individuals with separatist agendas to exploit the issue of human rights.
“If human rights are at the heart of the issue, why were these concerns not raised in the appropriate forum, namely the 3rd Cycle of the Periodic Review of Indonesia at the United Nations Human Rights Council,” Nuran told the Assembly.
Meanwhile in a Radio New Zealand report, the UN decolonisation committee says it will not accept a petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans calling for an independence vote.
The petition, presented by the independence leader Benny Wenda last month, asked the UN to appoint a special representative to investigate abuses and to put West Papua back on the decolonisation agenda.
But the UN decolonisation committee says the West Papua cause is outside its mandate, which extends only to the 17 states identified by the UN as “non-self-governing territories”, reports RNZ.
In a statement, Indonesia’s UN representative, Triansyah Djani, who sits on the committee, called Wenda’s petition “a hoax and separatist propaganda”.