Indonesia committed to Pacific, says ambassador

According to Tantowi Yahya, Indonesia, with its significant Melanesian population, considers itself part of the Pacific region.

He said that like Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia was interested in helping prosperity, democracy and human development in the Pacific.

Pacific Islands states, Ambassador Tantowi explained, could expect ongoing help from Indonesia on the big issues confronting them.

“Climate change has been a great issue, right. We are trying to help. There will be some co-operations with Indonesia in those countries on that issue, and also capacity building,” he said.

The ambassador emphasised the commonalities between Indonesia and countries across the Pacific Islands region.

“We eat more or less the same food with the people in Samoa, in Vanuatu, in Solomon Islands; we drink more or less the same thing; and we have more or less the same culture. So that shows the brotherhood.”

While there is strong grassroots support in Pacific Island countries for West Papuans, Ambassador Tantowi said the indigenous population of Papua region was not pushing for independence.

The push for a self-determination referendum, he suggested, has been made from overseas-based elements who did not represent the local populace.

The ambassador said the provinces of Papua and West Papua, and their regencies, are governed by ethnic Papuans.

He disputed claims that Papuans seek a new self-determination process, saying Papuans took up the opportunity to vote in Indonesia’s elections with relish.

“If you talk about a referendum, you’re asking about yourselves. If it comes from your people, then probably it can be accepted by the government,” he said.

“But here the voice of referendum is not coming from the Papuans. They are Papuans who live abroad and they are no longer Indonesians.”

Tantowi Yahya said that in the last election Papuans strongly supported the government of Joko Widodo.

He credited the Indonesian President with having made significant gains in economic development in Papua since 2014, especially with infrastructure.

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