A post at the border between Papua in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

Jokowi Strengthens Ties With Papua New Guinea

MAY 12, 2015

Jakarta. During a visit to Port Moresby on Tuesday, President Joko Widodo called for closer ties with Papua New Guinea while praising the economic development in the country bordering Indonesia's easternmost province.

Joko signed two memoranda of understanding, one on the management of natural resources and the other on combating transnational crime.

"I'm optimistic that the bilateral relation between Indonesia and PNG will keep improving," the president said in a statement published on the Cabinet Secretariat's website.

Joko said PNG is an important partner for Indonesia, as it shares an island with Indonesia.

"As members of the same family, I'm sure PNG will help Indonesia develop a friendship with the Melanesian nations in the region," the president said in the statement.

The Indonesian president was accompanied on his trip by Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Sudirman Said and the head of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Marciano Norman.

Melanesian Spearhead Group

Indonesia's relations with its eastern neighbors have been in the spotlight because of a meeting later this month of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, of which a group of Papuan independence activists wants to become an official member.

There have recently been conflicting statements from the Vanuatu government about its desire to open an embassy in Jakarta and Minister Retno earlier this year visited Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji, declaring Indonesia's commitment to disbursing a total of $20 million in financial assistance to support capacity building of MSG nations.

Peter O'Neill, the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, welcomed Joko and the agreements signed, but he has previously expressed concern over the human rights situation in the Indonesian part of New Guinea.

"I think as a country, the time has come to speak for our people about the oppression there," O’Neill told cabinet ministers on Feb. 4, as quoted by ABC News. “Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet, we take no notice. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded.”

Joko on Sunday announced that restrictions on foreign journalists entering Papua would be lifted, after pardoning five Papuan prisoners a day earlier.