Pacific Media Watch

12 March 2014

REGION: West Papuan Leaders' Group welcomes Vanuatu PM support

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New Zealand’s indigenous Māori people expressed support for the people of West Papua at the Pasifika Festival in Auckland at the weekend. Image: Tanu Gago/Oceania Interrupted

PORT VILA (Solomon Star News / Daily Post / Scoop / Pacific Media Watch / West Papua Daily / Vanuatu Daily Post): The West Papuan Leaders Group has welcomed the pro-freedom for West Papua statements made at the United Nations' Human Rights Council in Geneva last week by Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Moana Carcasses Kalosil.

Carcasses said the UN must stop neglecting the indigenous people of West Papua, 10 percent of whom are claimed to have been slaughtered by Indonesian military invaders over the past 50 years.

"Since the controversial Act of Free Choice in 1969, the Melanesian People of West Papua have been subject to on-going human rights violations committed by the Indonesian security services. The world has witnessed the litany of tortures, murders, exploitation, rapes, military raids, arbitrary arrests and dividing of civil society through intelligence operations" said Carcasses.

Carcasses has also been critical of states in the Melanesian region which have turned a blind eye to abuses of West Papuans by the Indonesian military.

When he arrived back in Vanuatu after last week's UN meeting, he told his government that Vanuatu was "the only country in the world that is not afraid to stand up and speak out for the right of freedom for the West Papuan people whether in the United Nations (UN), or other meetings anywhere in the world,” the Vanuatu Daily Post reported this week.

Two months ago, member states of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) held a so-called fact-finding mission to West Papua, but were prevented from meeting any West Papuan activists, most of whom were arrested and detained in prison for the duration of the meeting.

Pacific Media Watch reported at the time on a statement issued by the West Papuan National Committee (KNPB) which said the group had been a "sham delegation" organised by Indonesia that held secret meetings with almost only Indonesian government officials.

Armed soldiers
Indonesian military attack helicopters and dozens of armed soldiers lined the routes taken by the fact-finding group to prevent them from seeing indigenous West Papuans who were peacefully protesting.

Meanwhile, growing levels of support for West Papuan independence are being expressed across the region.

Performing artists, the Pacific Conference of Churches, popular online community campaign petition tool Avaaz and Surfers for West Papua have all launched appeals for West Papua in the past week.

Avaaz launched a petition against the virtual theft of West Papuan children by religious Indonesian organisations.

The petition says that the religious organisations promise poor West Papuan parents that their children will get a free education in Indonesia. But the children are then flown to Jakarta, Java, where they are regarded as 'primitive blacks' who need 're-education' in Islamic boarding schools.

"For the parents, it is impossible to ever find or even contact their children again, as the children's names are being changed and their traces erased. Children who flee from the boarding schools, have no financial means to return to their families in West Papua" says the petition.

The new single "Rise Morning Star - Freedom for West Papua" also made waves across Melanesia.

Church silence
Fijian singer Seru Serevi released the single in the Fijian capital of Suva last weekend, prompting the Pacific Conference of Churches to admit that "the church had remained silent for too long and therefore played a part in the victimisation of Papuans", the Solomon Star News reported.

“Here we have in our own backyard, in Melanesia, a people who are being oppressed because of their wish to discuss self-determination and they are being silenced by their colonisers,” Reverend Francois Pihaatae, general secretary of the conference of churches told the newspaper.

He congratulated Serevi for writing and performing his freedom song and said it was time for the church to speak out too.

Indigenous Māori and Pacific women in Aotearoa New Zealand also protested over the weekend for freedom for West Papua. The solidarity group, Oceania Interrupted, said they had covered their mouths with the Morning Star flag "as a symbol of enforced West Papuan silence. Our hands are bound to symbolise the lack of freedoms experienced by West Papuan people".

Meanwhile, Surfers for West Papua, an awareness-raising campaign aimed at exposing Indonesia's brutal oppression and on-going occupation of West Papua, said surfers should avoid Indonesia because their tourist dollars would be funding the brutal military occupation of 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