Labour rally in Jakarta, Fiji march highlight global human rights issues

How UN agencies strive to put human rights at the centre of their work. Video: UN

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Hundreds of workers from the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI) held a protest march at the weekend in the capital of Jakarta and Fiji’s Coalition on Human Rights staged a march today to commemorate World Human Rights Day.

In Jakarta, the Indonesian workers marched from the Farmers Monument in Central Jakarta to the nearby State Palace on Saturday, reports CNN Indonesia.

During the action, the workers highlighted the problems of corruption and the failure to resolve human rights violations.

READ MORE: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70

“This action is a reflection of the regime that is in power, Jokowi [President Joko Widodo] has failed, particularly in cases of corruption and human rights violations in Indonesia”, said KPBI secretary-general Damar Panca.

The Jakarta rally for human rights at the weekend. Image: Rayhand Purnama Karim/CNNI

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Panca said that during Widodo’s administration corruption had become more widespread as had human rights violations. Trade unions had also suffered human rights violations when holding protests.

Panca said that not long ago during a peaceful demonstration, workers were assaulted and had tear gas fired at them by security forces.

“Not just that, 26 labour activists have been indicted. So we are articulating this now because it is the right moment – namely in the lead up to Anti-Corruption Day (December 9) and Human Rights Day (December 10),” he said.

Social welfare demands
In addition to highlighting human rights violations, they also demanded that the government take responsibility for providing social welfare for all Indonesians and rejected low wages, particularly in labour intensive industries, low rural incomes and contract labour and outsourcing.

Panca said that Saturday’s action was also articulating several other problems such as inequality in employment, the criminalisation of activists and the need for free education.

The KPBI is an alliance of cross-sector labour federations. Saturday’s action was joined by the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Trade Union Federation (FSP2KI), the Cross-Factory Labour Federation (FBLP), the Populist Trade Union Federation (SERBUK), the Indonesian Harbour Transportation Labour Federation (FBTPI), the Indonesian Workers Federation of Struggle (FPBI), the Industrial Employees Trade Union Federation (FSPI), the Solidarity Alliance for Labour Struggle (GSPB) and the Greater Jakarta Railway Workers Trade Union (SPKAJ)

“This action is not just in Jakarta, similar actions with the same demands are also being organised by KBPI members in North Sumatra. In Jakarta they have come from across Jabodetabek [Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, Greater Jakarta],” he said.

According to CNN Indonesia’s observations, the hundreds of workers wearing red and carrying protest gear continued to articulate their demands from two command vehicles near the State Palace, directly in front of the West Monas intersection.

They also sang songs of struggle and followed the directions of speakers shouting labour demands. The protest was closely watched over by scores of police officers.

Fiji rally for rights
In Suva, Fiji, the NGO Coalition on Human Rights organised a march for today to commemorate World Human Rights Day.

The march will begin at 10am from the Flea Market ending in a rally at Sukuna Park and is the culmination of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence from November 25 to December 10.

World Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

This year is a significant milestone for the UDHR as it marks its 70th Anniversary.

Human Rights Day is a day to celebrate and advocate for the protection of Human Rights globally. Since its launch in 1997, the NGOCHR now includes members such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Citizen’s Constitutional Forum, FemLINK Pacific, Ecumenical Centre for Research and Advocacy, Drodrolagi Movement, Social Empowerment and Education Program and observers, Pacific Network on Globalisation, Haus of Khameleon and Diverse Voices and Action for Equality.

The Indonesian report was translated by James Balowski of Indoleft News. The original title of the article was “Ratusan Buruh Berunjuk Rasa di Istana, Soroti Pelanggaran HAM”.

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Former PM Sir Mekere blasts ‘lavish staging’ and ‘ridicule’ of APEC

NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters announces a K22 million (NZ$10 million) aid project to help polio vaccination for Papua New Guineans at the St John Ambulance Operations Centre in Port Moresby. Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A former prime minister has accused Papua New Guinea’s current leader Peter O’Neill of exposing the country to “international ridicule and criticism” over the lavish staging of APEC and failure of the meeting to make the customary Leaders’ Declaration for the first time in its history.

Sir Mekere Morauta, MP for Moresby North West in the nation’s capital, today declared in a statement: “APEC has revealed to the world the corruption, waste and mismanagement within the O’Neill government, and their devastating effects on the nation and citizens.”

He said the leaders summit had shone an international spotlight on O’Neill’s “crude and cynical attempts to play one nation against another”.

READ MORE: PNG security forces strike at Parliament for unpaid APEC allowances

Sir Mekere also accused the prime minister and lacking an ability to understand the nuances of international relations and the dramatic geopolitical changes happening in the region.

NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters at St John Ambulance Operations Centre in Port Moresby yesterday. Image: EMTV News

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“What should have been a moment for PNG to shine on the international stage instead descended into chaos, including embarrassing diplomatic incidents, international media allegations of financial and procedural impropriety and organisational disarray,” Sir Mekere said.

“Papua New Guinea’s international standing has been diminished.”

The former PM said the issue for Papua New Guinea was not a failure of the international APEC organisation, the countries involved, or of PNG’s professional diplomats – it was an issue of failed leadership.

Quality of life
Sir Mekere said PNG should not have hosted APEC in the first place.

The K3 billion “lavished” on the event should have been spent on improving the quality of life of ordinary Papua New Guineans.

“Instead we have preventable diseases such as polio, leprosy, TB and malaria surging and people dying – 21 children are now known to have contracted polio,” Sir Mekere said.

“Many schools are closing across the nation. Public servants are not being paid properly and other entitlements such as superannuation payments are being withheld.

“Essential infrastructure outside Port Moresby is crumbling into the dust, and government systems and processes are failing by the day.”

However, Prime Minister O’Neill said he had made history in inviting Pacific Island leaders to take part in the APEC leaders summit, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

“I know Australia, New Zealand and PNG are active members of APEC, but there are also countries within the Pacific region that have their own story to tell,” O’Neill said.

Reception dinner
He said this when he led the Pacific leaders to a reception dinner hosted by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Australian High Commission residence last night.

Pacific leaders who attended included Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and the Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga.

“I would like to thank the Pacific leaders for joining us here at the margins of the APEC meeting.

“Again [the reason] to bring the Pacific Island leaders’ to APEC is that we don’t want to be forgotten out of the APEC community,” O’Neill said.

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Tahiti’s Salmon fined for defaming president with ‘vote buying’ claim

Tahiti President Edouard Fritch wins election defamation case against rival … awarded US$2000 pay out in damages. Image: French Polynesia govt

By RNZ Pacific

A senior French Polynesian politician has been fined for defaming the president Edouard Fritch during the election campaign in April.

The criminal court in Tahiti found the Territorial Assembly leader of the opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira party, Geffry Salmon, guilty and fined him US$5,000.

He has also been ordered to pay US$2,000 to Fritch who wanted to be paid US$20,000 in compensation.

Fritch took legal action in June, saying Salmon defamed him at a news conference with claims that his party had been giving out subsidies to buy votes.

Fritch’s lawyer said Tahoeraa never lodged any complaint about any alleged abuse of funds but instead Salmon tried to damage his rivals.

Next month, Fritch is due in court with his predecessor as president, Gaston Flosse, with both accused of abusing public funds.

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In the last term, Fritch was twice convicted for corruption.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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Nauru media ban on ABC targets Australian detention centre gag

There has been much wringing of hands over Nauru’s ban on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for next month’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit. But, reports Sri Krishnamurthi of Asia Pacific Journalism, even more perplexing is Canberra’s relative silence.

The elephant in the room about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation ban that has people tip-toeing through the frangipani and whispering in hushed tones is the Canberra’s asylum seeker detention centre in the small Pacific state of Nauru.

Nauru is the host of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit on September 3-6 and the ban on the ABC has been widely condemned by media freedom groups, including the Pacific Media Centre.

The Nauru detention centre has become a significant part of Nauru’s economy since 2001, and in the wake of the strip mining of phosphate (guano) which left it bereft of resources and finances.

READ MORE: NZ Pacific journalists ‘appalled’ by Nauru ban on ABC at Forum

“Nauru’s Australian-managed detention camp is a disgrace, just as the one on Manus island was (now closed). It shows the profound hypocrisy of both Australian and Nauruan authorities,” says Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific Desk for Reporters with Borders (RSF).

“Canberra outsources its absurd anti-immigration policy and washes its dirty hands in paying huge amounts of money to Yaren which, in exchange, accepts to carry on human rights violations.

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“For sure, Nauruan authorities don’t want journalists to investigate this issue, to report on the living or surviving conditions of the refugees and to interview the numerous men, women and children arbitrarily detained in the camp,” he told Asia Pacific Report.

“And the Australian government doesn’t want this hypocrisy to be exposed either, since Canberra is responsible for this matter.”

No illusion
Veteran New Zealand journalist Michael Field, who has covered the Pacific for three decades, is under no illusion why Nauru has banned the ABC and imposed restrictions on the accredited media that will be covering the Forum.

“It is hardly surprising given the way Nauru has been turned into an Australian concentration camp – Nauru and Australian authorities are desperate to avoid an independent view of it all,” says Field.

“Australia has treated Nauru as a colony long after independence. But the current Nauru government is strongly opinionated and has a deep sense of its own point of view.”

Associate Professor Joseph Fernandez, a media law specialist and academic at Curtin University, Western Australia, and an RSF correspondent, believes Canberra should use its influence to get Nauru to back down on its ban.

“This kind of attitude from governments towards the media should be checked and it should be done convincingly. After all, Australia does provide financial aid to Nauru,” Dr Fernandez says.

“It should use this as a leverage to ensure such governments do not behave in an unacceptable way especially when Australian interests are at stake.

“The Australian public are entitled to not have a representative from their public broadcaster denied permission to cover the event only on the grounds that the host government is not happy with the broadcaster’s previous coverage.”

Not surprised
He is not surprised by Canberra treading warily around the issue.

“It is disappointing that the Australian government has not been more active in opposing this ban, but it isn’t surprising because our leaders tend to take a ‘softly, softly’ approach,” Dr Fernandez says.

He does think that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should be a bit more vocal on ABC’s banning from a free media point-of-view, than washing its hands of the affair and claiming Nauru has “sovereign” rights.

“Yes, of course. Even though Nauru may be right to say that it should have the final say about who it grants an entry visa to, in the present case the grounds for such refusal are very flimsy and an affront to the notion of a free press,” says Dr Fernandez.

The ABC more than any other media organisation in the Pacific has arguably covered Nauru better than the rest, and by doing so has got under the thin veneer of democracy of Baron Waqa’s presidency.

“The ABC has a history of investigation in Nauru. In 2015, it investigated a bribery scandal of President Waqa by an Australian phosphate dealer,” RSF’s Bastard says.

Michael Field says: “I guess it is simply because the ABC has covered Nauru more than other news outlets.”

‘Fearless reporting’
Dr Fernandez explains: “The ABC is well regarded for its fearless reporting, not just in Australia but also on other countries.

“The ABC coverage of Nauru has been quite critical in the past and this is not something countries with less established democracies are comfortable with.

“Those in power sometimes allow that power to go to their heads. If the Nauruan government has a complaint about specific ABC reporting it should use the proper channels to take these complaints forward.

“The ABC has one of the most elaborate complaints mechanisms in the country. That aside, if something is legally actionable they should take action through the courts. After all, governments and their leaders are better placed to seek redress through the courts.”

Bastard bluntly states that the Nauruan government is authoritarian in its outlook.

“Nauruan authorities don’t have a strong history of promoting freedom to inform, especially since 2013. What with the US$8000 fee to apply for a visa (waived for the Forum), with no guarantee of approval, the blocking of Facebook for almost three years, increasing cases of blatant censorship on domestic media in the recent years…

“There is nothing to gain in acting like this if you want to build a long-term democracy. But if the current government wants to remain in power…?”

To boycott or not?
The news media appears divided on the proposed boycott of the Forum, as threatened by the Australian Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery president David Crowe last month.

Bastard agrees with the boycott: “Yes, absolutely,” he says.

“Media and journalists have to show solidarity with their colleagues. If a government doesn’t want to abide by democratic rules in letting the press do its work freely, then the press as a whole doesn’t have to abide by authoritarian decisions.”

But, says Field: “Journalists should report the news – not boycott it…. And if there are handicaps in that reporting, then tell the readers. Not run off into the corner and have a cry.”

News Corp in Australia has already rejected the boycott, and while the New Zealand Press Gallery sympathises with its Australian counterparts it will not be boycotting the Forum.

We share the concerns expressed by our Australian counterparts in the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery about the Nauru Government’s decision to ban the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from the Pacific Islands Forum,” says Stacey Kirk, chair of the NZ Parliamentary Press Gallery.

“There is no intention for the NZ Parliamentary Press Gallery to boycott the forum at this stage,” she told Asia Pacific Report.”

With only a matter of weeks to the Forum there is water to run under the bridge yet.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Digital Media) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

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Indonesian anti-corruption watchdog arrests nine, including House member

A masked supporter of Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) holds up a poster declaring “I am KPK” during a 2015 protest in support of the commission. Image: VOA file

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators have arrested nine people during a raid in Jakarta, including a member of the House of Representatives, an expert staffer, a driver and a businessman, reports the Jakarta Post.

The KPK also seized Rp 500 million (US$34,692) as evidence, the newspaper said.

KPK chairman Agus Rahardjo alleged the evidence confiscated was related to a transaction involving the House’s Commission VII overseeing energy, mineral, research and technology and the environment.

Reports circulated that the lawmaker in question was Eni Saragih, the deputy leader of Commission VII, and that she was arrested in the residence of Social Affairs Minister Idrus Marham. Both are Golkar Party politicians.

Agus said the arrests were conducted of Friday following anonymous tip-offs, reports the Post.

Golkar politician Maman Abdurahman immediately dismissed the report of the arrest, saying that the KPK had merely “picked up” his colleague “ES” from Idrus’ residence while the minister was throwing a birthday party for his youngest child.

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Maman was also present at the party.

“I didn’t know what reason the KPK had for picking her up. We should wait for the KPK to release an official statement. I hope she stays strong,” he said in a statement.

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PNG opposition demands PM O’Neill resign over Mendi torching riot

Oro Governor Gary Juffa speaks during the Opposition demand for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s resignation. Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Papua New Guinea’s Opposition has demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill over this week’s rioting in the Southern Highlands capital of Mendi.

Opposition Leader Patrick Pruaitch, flanked by fellow members, made the call yesterday following the torching of an aircraft, and the burning of the Mendi courthouse and other buildings, reports EMTV News.

The Opposition claimed that what happened in the previous 24 hours in O’Neill’s home province was a demonstration of lack of confidence in the government under Prime Minister O’Neill’s leadership.

RNZ Pacific reports that frustration over alleged corruption sparked the unrest in Mendi with reporter Melvin Levongo saying police were outnumbered and unable to stop a mob armed with high-powered weapons destroying an Air Niugini Dash-8 aircraft at the provincial airport.

After this, the protesters burned down the governor’s residence, the local courthouse and other buildings.

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Police said Thursday’s National Court ruling upholding Governor William Powi’s 2017 election had sparked the rampage.

The election result had been challenged by losing candidates Joseph Kobol and Bernard Peter Kaku.

PNG Defence Force troops being deployed to Mendi. Image: Loop PNG

Loop PNG reports that security is being strengthened for doctors working in Mendi.

The president of the National Doctors Association, Dr James Naipao, said the doctors were near or in the Mendi hospital.

“If the civil unrest gets out of hand, they will be evacuated,” he said.

Authorities said 200 PNG Defence Force troops would be deployed to Mendi.

The soldiers had already flown to Mount Hagen and were on their way to Mendi.

PNGDF chief-of-staff Philip Polewara said the situation was tense. Other reinforcements had been sent from Tari to guard the hospital, police station and state property.

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Time for Xanana Gusmao to step up and fix Timor-Leste’s problems

By Jose Belo in Dili, Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste’s parliamentary elections on May 12 have returned Xanana Gusmao to the Government Palace in Dili in an alliance that gives him enough votes to govern in his own right.

While Gusmao has won an election held only 10 months after the July 2017 poll, his CNRT (Party for Timorese Reconstruction Party) lost to FRETILIN (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor) in the earlier election, albeit by a small margin. This forced him into an alliance with sometime rivals to secure the latest poll.

This suggests the people of Timor-Leste trust him, but they are not so happy with his previous government.

Timor-Leste voters sent a wake-up call to their leaders in the recent election. They are asking that the leaders, and most importantly, Gusmao, to continue governing but change their ways.

This all comes after a decade of high level government spending fueled by oil and gas riches. But questions remain. Has Timor-Leste gotten value for their money? Has the government’s spending priorities reflected the wishes and needs of ordinary Timorese voters?

Gusmao is seen as a leader with historical legitimacy, a man who has brought many good things to Timor-Leste since independence.

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He resolved the 2006 political crisis, albeit despite being complicit in precipitating it, compensated petitioners, gave pensions to the veterans, initiated the beginnings of a social safety net for the poor, brought rural businesses into the private sector, brought electricity to the villages, and made many other positive changes.

Maritime victory
Most recently he won a victory for Timor-Leste’s maritime sovereignty with a boundary agreement with Australia although some see the deal as rushed for political expediency ahead of the recent poll.

But, there are complaints that the new government needs to address, and do so quickly in the first year of the new AMP (Alliance of Change and Progress) government.

Firstly, trust must be restored in the country’s leadership and to do that the lifetime pension for politicians needs to end. Office holders must likewise be held accountable through an annual declaration of assets.

Any forms of corruption must be stamped out among the country’s politicians and civil servants.

The people think, rightly, that leaders seek positions in order to make big salaries and look after themselves. Salaries and benefits need to be cut to reasonable levels. If the leaders give up benefits and stop corrupt activities then only then can the leaders ask people to work hard, sweat, and build a better country.

Secondly, the government must strengthen anti-corruption laws and pursue corruptors at all levels in Timorese society, from the remotest mountain village to Government Palace.

Looking ahead, Timor-Leste needs to move beyond its reliance on oil and gas and the government needs to prioritize the needs of the people who also need to become a community that can create wealth rather than just consume it.

Fund getting smaller
The Petroleum Fund was large but it is getting smaller and it will not last forever. Revenues from it could cease as early as 2026.

After ten years the country has built many things, but not enough for the land, human resources and environment. It is no small feat required of the people. We need to change focus.

Timorese are an agricultural people and it is a strength that needs to be prioritised and improved. More resources must be driven into building up the agricultural productivity and diversification. Funds need to be allocated to improving our farmers’ skills and their output so they can move from subsistence agriculture to agri-business.

Ordinary Timorese are not educated enough. Millions and millions have been spent on government scholarships to build the skills of technical experts, but the chiLdren have been left behind. The primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions are underfunded and under prioritised.

The country would rather pay high tuition fees for international universities than improve the education of the 10-year-olds. This needs to stop or there will be a generation of Timorese who cannot contribute to the nation.

The country must change ways in the education sector to protect the future. School feeding programmes need improvement: a hungry child is not a child that can learn well.

The health of the people is poor, they are eating too much sugar and drinking too much beer. Timor-Leste need to dramatically improve public and preventative healthcare. The voters are asking for it.

Better health care
Rural clinics are an embarrassment. The country would rather send the rich and leaders to hospitals in Indonesia and Singapore than improve the standards of the children’s healthcare. It is not right nor is it wise. There can be no prosperity without good healthcare.

Timor-Leste needs to focus on its people in the rural areas. They need improved electricity access, improved rural roads, water and sanitation facilities. Improving these important assets will improve the ability of farmers and rural people to do business, the healthcare standards of people in the mountains and for schools to be where they should.

For sure, highways airports and bridges are important, but there needs to be a refocus on rural communities and their basic infrastructure needs such as water and sanitation.

About 65 percent of Timorese live next to or within sight of the sea. Timor-Leste has been negotiating maritime boundaries with Indonesia and managing new boundaries with Australia. With these boundaries come opportunities and challenges.

Future oil and gas resources need to be protected and developed very carefully. The fisheries can and should be an important source of sustainable income for Timorese for generations to come. The sea can also attract tourists to the coastal regions.

If Timor-Leste can protect and enhance its coastlines, tourists will be enticed to the villages creating jobs and income in a sustainable manner. But the sea can also bring problems. Rising sea levels, disasters, and smuggling. A coordinating ministry of maritime affairs is needed, just as Indonesia has done.

Again, there is much the Timorese need to do and they need to begin work today. The country just needs a trustworthy government to lead the way.

Jose Belo is an investigative journalist, publisher of Tempo Semanal and a commentator based in Dili, Timor-Leste. This article was first published by UCA News.

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PNG condemned for sorcery attacks, police brutality and over refugees

Refugees and asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island have suffered repeated violent attacks and robberies by locals, says Human Rights Watch. Video: HRW

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Papua New Guinea has been condemned for violent mob attacks on people accused of sorcery – especially women or girls, repeated assaults and robberies on refugees, failure to address police brutality and corruption in the latest country report by Human Rights Watch.

The New York-based rights watchdog flagged a Madang trial that began in March of 122 people accused of killing five men and two children suspected of witchcraft and serial attacks on women.

Almost 40 percent of the country’s 8 million people live in poverty, and the government is far too reliant on religious groups and non-government organisations to provide charitable services for the economic and social rights of citizens.

Among other key points of the chapter in its annual world report:

• The government has not taken sufficient steps to address gender inequality, violence, excessive use of force by police;
• Rates of family and sexual violence are among the highest in the world, and perpetrators are rarely prosecuted; and
• Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world.

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‘Electoral violence’
Last August, Peter O’Neill was reelected as prime minister following an “election marred by widespread electoral irregularities and violence”, Human Rights Watch says.

“Soldiers and extra police were sent to the Highlands in response to fighting triggered by the election, where dozens of people, including police, had been killed in election-related violence.

“Refugees and asylum seekers on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island have suffered repeated violent attacks and robberies by locals, with inadequate hospital care on the island and no action by police.”

The watchdog says that more than three years after the 2013 Family Protection Act was adopted, Parliament in May finally passed regulations to implement the law, which criminalises domestic violence and allows victims to obtain protection orders.

However, police and prosecutors “rarely pursue investigations or criminal charges against people who commit family violence” — even in cases of attempted murder, serious injury, or repeated rape — and instead prefer to resolve such cases through mediation and/or payment of compensation.

Police often demand money (“for fuel”) from victims before acting, or simply ignore cases that occur in rural areas.

There is also a severe lack of services for people requiring assistance after having suffered family violence, such as safe houses, qualified counselors, case management, financial support, or legal aid, the report says.

Violent mobs
Violent mobs attacked individuals accused of sorcery or witchcraft, particularly women and girls.

In March, a trial involving 122 defendants began in Madang. The defendants were charged in connection with the killing of five men and two children suspected of sorcery in 2014, Human Rights Watch says.

The prosecution alleged that the men raided a village in search of sorcerers to kill, armed with “bush knives, bows and arrows, hunting spears, [and] home-made and factory-made shotguns.”

No further details were available at time of the watchdog’s report regarding the trial’s progress.

Papua New Guinea has one of the highest rates of maternal death in the world. Just over 50 percent of women and girls give birth in a health facility or with the help of a skilled birth attendant.

Although the PNG government supports universal access to contraception, two out of three women still cannot access contraception due to geographic, cultural, and economic barriers.

Abortion remains illegal in PNG, except when the mother’s life is at risk.

Police abuse rampant
Police abuse remained rampant in Papua New Guinea, says Human Rights Watch.

In May, police detained and assaulted a doctor at a police roadblock on his way home in Port Moresby. The case triggered a public outcry, but no one had been charged for the offence at time of writing.

Few police are ever held to account for beating or torturing criminal suspects, but in December 2016, a mobile squad commander was charged with the murder of a street vendor, six months after the alleged offence occurred.

A court granted him bail in January 2017. In September, police charged a former police officer with the 2013 murder of two people in Central Province.

Despite the ombudsman and police announcing investigations into the 2016 police shooting of eight university students during a protest in Port Moresby, at time of writing no police had been charged or disciplined and neither body had issued a report.

About 770 male asylum seekers and refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, and Iran, live on Manus Island.

Another 35 or so have signed settlement papers to remain in PNG, although only four of these are working and financially independent.

Temporary living
About 70 are temporarily living in Port Moresby. All were forcibly transferred to PNG by Australia since 2013, says Human Rights Watch.

Australia pays for their upkeep but refuses to resettle them, insisting refugees must settle in PNG or third countries, such as the United States.

Refugees and asylum seekers do not feel safe on Manus due to a spate of violent attacks by locals in the town of Lorengau.

Local youths attacked refugees and asylum seekers with bush knives, sticks, and rocks and robbed them of mobile phones and possessions.

Police failed to hold perpetrators to account.

In April, soldiers fired shots at the main regional processing center, injuring nine people including refugees and center staff.

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Tommy Suharto: Indonesians are ‘longing’ for return to Suharto rule

Talk to Al Jazeera in the Field programme features Tommy Suharto.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The Suharto political dynasty is being revived in Indonesia, reports Al Jazeera.

Twenty years after the fall of the country’s notorious former President Mohamed Suharto, his youngest son is leading a new political party into next year’s elections.

Hutomo Mandala Putra, or “Tommy Suharto”, as he is commonly known, has been touring several Indonesian regions, even travelling to Solo to receive a royal title in an attempt to gain the support of would-be voters.

Suharto and his newly-formed Party Berkarya (Work Party) are focusing on the widening gap between rich and poor in Indonesia.

“We have gone through 20 years of reforms, but the situation has not improved,” he said. “Our national debt has increased, and the living conditions of our people have not improved significant[ly].”

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Party Berkarya’s aim, according to Suharto, will be to “develop a people’s economy that will be controlled by the people and benefit the people to improve people’s welfare”.

Suharto is not worried that his father’s legacy of corruption and brutality will taint his campaign; he said that Indonesians were “longing” for the return.

Legacy of corruption
The United Nations and Transparency International have alleged that Mohamed Suharto stole more state assets than any other world leader, amounting to billions of dollars, a claim his son has denied.

“These figures are not true,” he claimed. “They have said that my father owns billions of dollars in Europe in a Swiss bank … nobody has provided any evidence. It was never proven.”

In 2015, Indonesia’s Supreme Court ordered the Suharto family to repay more than $400 million embezzled from a scholarship foundation, but the money is yet to be returned.

According to Suharto, the court’s ruling is impractical and does not take into account the government closure of a bank where much of the money was invested.

“How can foundations give money back to the government if these foundations are using donors’ money, not only [money] from the government, and this money has already been given to those receiving scholarships?” he says.

“The money that they are looking for is the money which was invested in Bank Duta. The bank has been closed by the government … [and] has bigger obligations towards its customers, of course, the customers are being prioritised.”

Tommy Suharto himself has been convicted of corruption but went into hiding to avoid jail. In 2002, he was again sentenced for ordering the murder of the Supreme Court judge who handed down his previous sentence.

Released early
He was released after serving four years of his 15-year sentence.

“I have done my term and, according to the laws, I now have the same rights as anyone else. I have the right to vote and the right to be elected,” he says.
Deadly paradise

More than one million Indonesians died during Mohamed Suharto’s rule, while thousands of others were jailed without legal process.

He stepped down in 1998, after 32 years in power, following a series of riots.

One thousand Indonesians are estimated to have died during the riots, which destroyed shopping malls and homes in the capital, Jakarta.

At least 150 ethnic Chinese women were raped in the violence, which began after the Asian financial crisis caused the stock market to crash, and escalated when soldiers shot four students at a university.

Military and political leaders said Mohamed Suharto had lost his grip and abandoned him, forcing him to step down.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Tahiti incumbent defies corruption cloud to easily win election

Tahitian President Edouard Fritch … increased majority as pro-independence groups take a hit. Image: Hawai’an Public Radio/Alchetron

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

In the elections held in French Polynesia over the weekend, the ruling party of President Edouard Fritch scored a decisive victory and will return to power with an expanded majority.

Neal Conan of Hawai’i Public Radio reports:

After a campaign where corruption emerged as a major issue, the party with no fewer than nine candidates convicted of corruption won easily.

President Edouard Fritch – a two-time convict – and his Tapura Huiraatira won just under 50 percent of the vote.

The rival Tāhōʻēraʻa Huiraʻatira received about 30 percent, while the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira got 20 percent. Turnout was 67 percent.

French Polynesia’s election law automatically awards 19 seats in the National Legislature to the party that comes first, which guarantees the winners a ruling majority. The legislature then elects one of its own as President.

-Partners-

Former President Gaston Flosse was barred from running because of his corruption convictions, but still campaigned as the leader of the Tāhōʻēraʻa and tried to label President Fritch as unacceptably corrupt and indifferent to high unemployment.

‘Thieves and colonialists’
Veteran independence advocate Oscar Temaru described both Fritch and Flosse as “thieves and colonialists”, but his pro-independence party will again be relegated to third place in the legislature.

At present, hopes to revive the independence movement in French Polynesia rest on the referendum to be held in New Caledonia on November 4.

But two opinion polls released six months ahead of that referendum show strong majorities opposed to independence from France.

President Emmanuel Macron on France visited the territory last week to bolster pro-French sentiments.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media