Ben Bohane: A tribute to the ‘grand old man’ of the OPM Bernard Mawen

OPM Southern Commander Bernard Mawen (right) with Commander John Koknak (left) and the Morning Star flag at the time of being interviewed by Vanuatu-based journalist Ben Bohane in 1998. Image: © Ben Bohane

OBITUARY: By Ben Bohane

The Free Papua Movement (OPM) Southern Commander Bernard Mawen has died. He was the “grand old man” of the OPM, one of the first to begin the armed struggle for independence in West Papua in the 1960s and he will be missed by his people.

I interviewed him in 1998 in his camp along the Fly river on the border where he lived among the thousands of West Papuan refugees forgotten on the PNG border, who live on little more than sago and bananas.

Indirectly, his OPM guerrillas remain a protective buffer for both PNG and Australia against Indonesian aggression but it’s unlikely you’ll hear any eulogies from Canberra or Moresby and certainly not from Jakarta.

He lived for his people, in the bush, and that’s all you can ask of a leader. RIP.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Flashback to Kanaky in the 1980s – ‘Blood on their banner’

About 175,000 New Caledonians will vote on the future of their Pacific territory this Sunday—a status quo French-ruled New Caledonia, or an independent Kanaky New Caledonia. What will be their choice? David Robie backgrounds the issues that led to the vote.

With New Caledonia facing the first of possibly three referendums on independence on Sunday—given the widely expected defeat this time around, it is timely to reflect on the turbulent 1980s.

An upheaval known locally by the euphemism of “les evenements” led to the 1988 Matignon and 1998 Nouméa accords as a compromise solution for indigenous Kanak demands for independence back then and the power sharing that has evolved for the past three decades.

The climax is with this Sunday’s vote, but if the status quo remains the accords provide for a further two referendums in 2020 and 2023.(1)

READ MORE: Asia Pacific Report coverage of the referendum


When the Pacific was still in the grip of Cold War geopolitics, France claimed that it wished to retain its South Pacific presence for similar reasons to the United States—a concern about communism and the old Soviet Union, the desire for stability and the maintenance of the “balance of power”.

But there were other, more sinister, factors behind the publicly stated reasons. French colonialism in both New Caledonia and Tahiti in the 19th century was largely motivated by the wish to prevent the South Pacific becoming a “British lake”. (2)


New Caledonia became the most critical factor in this political equation. When Vanuatu became independent from Britain and France in 1980, France’s then State Secretary for Overseas Territories, Paul Dijoud, pledged that “battle must be done to keep New Caledonia French”.

New Caledonia was at that time the last “domino” before French Polynesia where the vital nuclear tests for the force de frappe were still being carried out until they ended in 1996.

Revolt, assassinations
It is in this context that the 1984 Kanaks revolted against French rule, which eventually cost 32 lives—most of them Melanesian, with the Hienghène massacre the most devastating early clash and culminating in the assassinations of independence leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yéiwene Yéiwene on 4 May 1989.

Within eight weeks of the start of the rebellion, militant Kanak leader Éloï Machiro, who had bloodlessly captured the mining town of Thio, was dead—shot by French police marksmen. From then on nationalist tensions in New Caledonia rapidly became convulsions, spreading throughout the South Pacific and culminated in the Ouvéa cave massacre on 5 May 1988 with the brutal death of 19 young militants and two French security forces. (3)

The New Caledonian events led to my 1989 book Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific (4) and the shocking story of the Ouvéa hostage-taking saga and its savage climax was told graphically in Mathieu Kassovitz’s 2011 film Rebellion (l’Ordre et la morale).(5)

A report by CIGN hostage negotiator Captain Philippine Legorjus, who had tried valiantly to achieve a peaceful end to the crisis, said: “Some acts of barbarity have been committed by the French military in contradiction with their military duty.”

His report later became the basis of the controversial feature film’s script.

The following 1984 article, “Blood on their Banner”, one of my first while covering New Caledonia as an independent journalist through the 1980s, was published in the New Zealand Listener and later included in my 2014 book Don’t Spoil My Beautiful face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific.(6)


A masked Kanak militant near Thio, New Caledonia, 1985, on the cover of the Swedish edition of David Robie’s 1989 book Blood on their Banner. Image: David Robie/PMC


New Zealand Listener

27 October 1984

Leaders of New Caledonia’s independence movement say that time is running out. Their blood has already been spilt and they fear more bloodshed lies ahead.(7)

A new flag flutters defiantly from makeshift flagpoles in a handful of villages in New Caledonia. It is blue, red, and green-striped—symbolising the sky, blood and earth. A golden orb represents the rising sun.

This premature banner of independence was first hoisted in Lifou Island during an official ceremony recently marking the 44th anniversary of General de Gaulle’s call for a Free France.

Two flags … French tricolour and the Kanak ensign symbolising independence. Image: David Robie/PMC

Mayor Edward Wapae, of the ruling Independence Front, recalled that de Gaulle’s speech in 1940 showed a determination to “liberate France soil from the Nazi occupiers and to reconquer French independence, the principles of which had made her the home of the rights of man and liberties”.

In the next breath, Wapae said that the children and the grandchildren of the Kanaks (the largest single ethnic group in New Caledonia), who had fought for France then, were fed up with vain promises. He made a “last chance” plea for France to honour “her declarations condemning colonisation and defending the right of each people to decide their own future”.

The flags are just one manifestation of a growing mood of impatience and disillusionment among Kanaks demanding independence in the French-ruled South Pacific territory—New Zealand’s closest major Pacific Island neighbour. Another is the talk in villages of the “sacrifices” made by peasants during the Algerian war of independence.

French Pacific Regiment troops on ceremonial parade outside New Caledonia’s Territorial Assembly in Nouméa. Image: David Robie/PMC

South Pacific Forum leaders, meeting in Tuvalu during August [1984], again caution against putting too much pressure on France while urging that Paris speed up the colonisation process.

Take-it-easy attitude
Yet for the Kanaks, and neighbouring Vanuatu, this take-it-easy attitude is rather bewildering. “The Forum sees things the same way as the French socialists and our position—their Pacific brother—isn’t seriously considered,” complains Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who as Vice-President of the Government Council holds the territory’s highest elected post.

He has been particularly disillusioned with Australia and New Zealand, at least until Prime Minister David Lange’s sudden “reconnaissance mission” to Nouméa in early October.

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Father Walter Lini, also disappointed at the Forum’s lukewarm support, plans to press the New Caledonian case at the United Nations and try to get it reinstated on the so-called Decolonisation Committee’s list. He blames the Forum if violence erupts in the territory and fears “foreign opportunists may exploit the instability”.

The Independence Front, now renamed the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), recently decided to boycott and obstruct fresh elections due in the territory next month in protest against a new statute of autonomy.

Instead, the FLNKS has called its own parliamentary elections for November 11, planning to form a provisional government by December and renamed the country Kanaky.

Although the statute calls for a referendum on independence in 1989, the Forum believes this should be advanced to 1986—while the FLNKS wants independence next year.

Lini criticises the view, often expressed by Australia and New Zealand, that Paris has been doing all it could and should be given time to decolonise. “The history of French decolonisation frequently has not been peaceful … and no other South Pacific nation, apart from Vanuatu, has suffered it.”

Vanuatu’s ruling Vanua’aku Pati has made a revolution that opens the door for the FLNKS to form a government-in-exile in Port Vila. But Vanuatu’s government ministers are reluctant to discuss this and it is believed they would prefer a “people’s government to be with the people” in New Caledonia.

Hectic trip
In Tuvalu, Lange won support for establishing a five-nation Forum ministerial delegation—including New Zealand and Vanuatu—to visit Nouméa for talks with French authorities and the indépèndantistes.

After briefly flying to Nouméa and Port Vila at the end of his hectic trip, he stressed it was clear all New Caledonian political groups apart from the right-wingers wanted independence. He hoped to bring the factions together before the elections but his peaceful initiative may already be too late.

A Kanak girl in Nouméa’s Place des Cocotiers during a pro-independence rally in 1984. Image: David Robie/Tu Galala

Why are the indépèndantistes taking this more militant stance when they are at present in the driver’s seat as the senior coalition partner in the government? “With the present colonial electoral system and past immigration policies, Melanesians are a minority in their homeland,” explains Vice-President Tjibaou, a 48-year old sociologist. “We cannot accept that logic. Now we’re putting a halt to it.

“We need a statute that will accept our logic—the logic of Kanak sovereignty.”

The bitter reality for New Caledonians, both brown and white, is that the French government has pushed through an autonomy statute that nobody wants. The Territorial Assembly in Noumea unanimously rejected the bill earlier this year. Justin Guillemard, leader of the extreme right-wing Caledonian Front, describes the law as an “administrative monstrosity” and “racist” in favour of Melanesians.

President Francois Mitterrand’s government, so keen to foster a strong middle ground, now seems further away than ever from any consensus among New Caledonians. And the Caldoche (settlers) are alarmed at the FLNKS’s determination to seek foreign help.

Wealthy businessman Jacques Lafleur, a deputy in the French national Assembly and leader of the Republican Congress Party which held local power until two years ago, denounced as “provocative” a visit by Tjibaou to Port Moresby in August when he lobbied an Asian-Pacific leaders’ regional summit. Lafleur also condemned a recent visit to Libya by two other Independence Front leaders.

Great admirer
The 51-year old Lafleur is a fifth-generation Caldoche and a great admirer of former Prime Minister Sir Robert Muldoon— “the only South Pacific leader who understands us”.

With an air of cynicism, he says: “Maybe there could be independence in 20 years or so, but it depends on what sort … I would never be a Kanak citizen. We are French people and the Kanaks are French too… One bad move and there will be blood in the streets.”

But for the Kanaks, blood has already been flowing in the streets and they fear more being spilt. French authorities have been quietly building up the strength of military forces in the territory to maintain order, if necessary. It is believed more than 4000 paramilitary and regular troops are now garrisoned there.

A French Pacific Regiment marine in a Nouméa military parade in the 1980s. Image: David Robie/PMC

One MP, Yann-Celene Uregei, has a photograph in his office of his face battered and bleeding from the blows of a policeman’s truncheon at a protest rally during a previous French Government’s rule. Two years ago a group of extremist white thugs burst into the Territorial Assembly chamber and attacked pro-independence MPs. They received light sentences. There have also been sporadic riots.

On the night of 19 September 1981, French-born Pierre Declercq, 43, secretary-general of the Union Calédonienne and a leading strategist of the Independence Front, was shot with a riot gun through the study window on his Mt Dore home. It was the first assassination of a South Pacific political leader. Now, three years later, nobody has yet been put in the dock for the murder.

During August more than 600 people marched on the Noumea courthouse demanding that a trial be held over the killing of “white martyr” Declercq, whose party was the key member of the FLNKS. Similar protest rallies were held in Poindimie, Pouebo, Voh and on Lifou Island in the Loyalty group.

Kanak wearing a “white martyr” tee-shirt honouring an assassinated early FLNKS leader Pierre Declercq. Image: David Robie/PMC

A young motorcycle mechanic, Dominic Canon, was arrested and charged four days after the murder. Another man, Vanuatu-born barman Martin Barthelemy, was arrested a year later. But both suspects have been freed on bail.

Judicial delay scandalous
Marguitte Declercq accuses justice officials and gendarmes of obstructing inquiries into her husband’s killing; League of Human Rights secretary-general Jean-Jacques Bourdinat has called the judicial delay scandalous.

When I spoke to the cherubic-faced Canon, now 22, in his workshop on the outskirts of Noumea just after his release on $5000 bail from the notorious Camp Est prison, he insisted: “I’m innocent. They put me in jail for nothing.”

New Caledonia’s problem stem from its complex racial mix. Kanaks number only 60,000 out of a population of 140,000. About 50,000 Europeans form the next largest group, and the rest are potpourri of Vietnamese, Indonesians, Tahitians and Wallisians.

New Caledonia was annexed by France in 1853, mainly for the use as a penal colony. In three decades after 1860 more than 40,000 prisoners—including leaders of the 1871 Paris commune insurrection and other political exiles—were deported to the colony.

“Colonial assassins” graffiti denouncing French colonial rule in the Place des Cocotiers, Noumea, 1984. Image: David Robie/PMC

For almost a century the Kanaks were deprived of political and civil rights But after they finally won the vote in 1951, they begun to wrest a limited share of their own country’s development—which was later fuelled by a nickel boom.

According to Vice-President Tjibaou, the New Caledonian territorial government has less power now than during the controversial loi cadre years between 1956 and 1959, when the territory was almost self-governing. Later conservative French governments favoured policies which meant New Caledonia was governed as an integral part of France until the Mitterrand administration embarked on reforms in 1981—after the assassination of Declercq.

The indépèndantistes argue that the current French reforms, far from being progressive, have in fact only been restoring some of the progress made in the 1950s. And they fear that if the Socialists lose office in the French general election due in 1986 they will be faced with another stalemate. Hence their urgency for independence next year.

Unique style
They claim President Mitterrand betrayed a commitment to independence made before being elected, and again at a roundtable conference at Nainville-les-Roches last year.

The controversial statute will increase the Territorial Assembly from 36 seats to 42 (slightly favouring the indépèndantistes): create a unique style of upper house comprising custom chiefs and representatives of elected town councils; introduce six regional (Kanaks prefer the word pays, or cultural community) administrations; and establish a special commission to prepare the way for a referendum on self-determination in 1989.

Kanak villagers guard a barricade near Bourail, New Caledonia, 1985. The Kanak flag bears a red band representing the blood sacrificed in their struggle. Image: David Robie/London Sunday Times

“We haven’t any choice but to oppose the application of the statute,” says Tjibaou. “We must impose an ‘active’ boycott, because if we accept these elections under the statute of autonomy, we accept the colonial logic behind them.”

Tjibaou believes the election result would be insignificant and unrepresentative of the territory. Many FLNKS leaders consider that the French government couldn’t allow an unrepresentative local government, so they would annul the elections and be forced into making quicker concessions for electoral reforms.

French officials concede there could be a case for a qualified franchise, such as Fiji’s nine-year residential clause, but consider the FLNKS demand that voters should be only Kanaks or people with at least one parent born in New Caledonia to be “unconstitutional”. Fearful of eventual independence, white Caledonians are applying in droves for immigration permits to Australia. Wealthy New Caledonians are also buying lands in New Zealand’s South Island, California, Hawai’i, Queensland and the French Riviera.

Most Kanaks support the Independence Front, a coalition of five parties until the Kanak Socialist Liberation, led by charismatic Nidoishe Naisseline, split away recently over the election boycott decision. Naisseline, a Sorbonne-educated grand chief, says Kanaks “shouldn’t try to copy nationalist movements in Africa and Indo-China”.

The majority of Europeans back Lafleur’s Republican Congress Party which used to advocate continued integration with France. Now it is outflanked on the right by the Caledonian Front while the centrist Caledonian New Society Federation (FNSC), also mainly European, has been supporting the Independence Forum for the last two years.

New Caledonian politics is highly complex, and feelings are potentially explosive.
While the rest of the South Pacific—apart from Vanuatu, which was forced to cope with an abortive secession—peacefully gained independence, New Caledonia seems fated to break that pattern. Little wonder the indépèndantistes have included symbolic blood on their banner.


Ongoing conflict
Over the next seven years, I closely reported the ongoing conflict in Kanaky for Pacific and global media.

Multimillionaire mining and property mogul Jacques Lafleur, one of the richest men in France and the biggest thorn for Kanak independence, even though he eventually reluctantly signed the two critical accords paving the way for possible independence, died in 2010 aged 78.
He dominated New Caledonian politics for more than three decades, including 29 as a member of the French National Assembly.

Along with Jean-Marie Tjibaou—one of the great visionary Pacific leaders until he was assassinated in 1989 (7), Lafleur signed the 1988 Matignon accord and then the Noumea accord in 1998, and honoured a pledge to Tjibaou to open the way for a Kanak stake in the nickel mining industry.

Lafleur agreed to sell his controlling stake in Societe Miniere du Sud Pacific (SMSP) to the Kanak-dominated Northern Province government in 1990.

New Caledonian nickel is shipped to many Asian countries where it is processed to manufacture steel, electronics and consumer goods. The nickel industry has made many Caldoche wealthy, with minerals for 90 percent of the territory’s export revenue.
Criticism of the industry is highly unpopular with the establishment.

The Pacific Media Centre’s Professor David Robie is author of Blood on their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific and Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face.

1. Haut-Commissariat de la Republique en Nouvelle-Caledonie (2018). Consultation sur l’accession a la plein souverainete de la Nouvelle Caledonie.
2. David Robie (1989). Introduction. In Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific. London: Zed Books, p. 17.
3. Max Uechtritz (2018, May 7). Blood in the Pacific: 30 years on from the Ouvéa Island cave massacre. Asia Pacific Report.
4. David Robie (1989). Och världen blundar… kampen för frihet i Stilla havet [And the world closed its eyes – campaign for a free South Pacific]. Swedish trans. Margareta Eklof]. Hoganas, Sweden: Wiken Books; David Robie (1989). Blood On Their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific. London: Zed Books.
5. David Robie (2012). Gossana cave siege tragic tale of betrayal. Pacific Journalism Review: Te Koakoa, 18(2), 212-216.
6. David Robie (2014). Don’t Spoil My Beautiful face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific. Auckland: Little Island Press./
7. David Robie (1984, October 27). Blood on their banner. New Zealand Listener, pp. 14-15
8. Sarah Walls (2009). Jean-Marie Tjibaou: Statesman without a state: a reporter’s perspective. The Journal of Pacific History. 44(2), 165-178.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Most important years in history’ – last chance over climate, says UN report

Warming beyond 1.5C will unleash a frightening set of consequences and scientists say only a global transformation, beginning now, can avoid it. Climate Home News reviews the warnings in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change research report released yesterday.

Only the remaking of the human world in a generation can now prevent serious, far reaching and once-avoidable climate change impacts, according to the global scientific community.

In a major report released yesterday, the UN’s climate science body found limiting warming to 1.5C, compared to 2C, would spare a vast sweep of people and life on earth from devastating impacts.

To hold warming to this limit, the scientists said unequivocally that carbon pollution must fall to “net zero” in around three decades: a huge and immediate transformation, for which governments have shown little inclination so far.

READ MORE: Global warming of 1.5C summary for policymakers


“The next few years are probably the most important in our history,” said Debra Roberts, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) research into the impacts of warming.


The report from the IPCC is a compilation of existing scientific knowledge, distilled into a 33-page summary presented to governments. If and how policymakers respond to it will decide the future of vulnerable communities around the world.

“I have no doubt that historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs,” the lead climate negotiator for small island states Amjad Abdulla said. “I urge all civilised nations to take responsibility for it by dramatically increasing our efforts to cut the emissions responsible for the crisis.”

What happens in the next few months will impact ON the future of the Paris Agreement and the global climate

Abdulla is from the Maldives. It is estimated that half a billion people in countries like his rely on coral ecosystems for food and tourism. The difference between 1.5C and 2C is the difference between losing 70-90 percent of coral by 2100 and reefs disappearing completely, the report found.

Small island states
Small island states were part of a coalition that forced the Paris Agreement to consider both a 1.5C and 2C target. Monday’s report is a response to that dual goal. Science had not clearly defined what would happen at each mark, nor what measures would be necessary to stay at 1.5C.

As the report was finalised, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on sustainable energy Rachel Kyte praised those governments. “They had the sense of urgency and moral clarity,” she said, adding that they knew “the lives that would hang in the balance between 2[C] and 1.5[C]”.

37 things you need to know about 1.5C global warming

At 2C, stresses on water supplies and agricultural land, as well as increased exposure to extreme heat and floods, will increase, risking poverty for hundreds of millions, the authors said.

Thousands of plant and animal species would see their liveable habitat cut by more than half. Tropical storms will dump more rain from the Philippines to the Caribbean.

“Everybody heard of what happened to Dominica last year,” Ruenna Hayes, a delegate to the IPCC from St Kitts and Nevis, told Climate Home News. “I cannot describe the level of absolute alarm that this caused not only me personally, but everybody I know.”

Around 65 people died when Hurricane Maria hit the Caribbean island in September 2017, destroying much of it.

In laying out what needs to be done, the report described a transformed world that will have to be built before babies born today are middle aged. In that world 70-85 percent of electricity will be produced by renewables.

More nuclear power
There will be more nuclear power than today. Gas, burned with carbon capture technology, will still decline steeply to supply just supply 8 percent of power. Coal plants will be no more. Electric cars will dominate and 35-65 percent of all transport will be low or no-emissions.

To pay for this transformation, the world will have invested almost a trillion dollars a year, every year to 2050.

Our relationship to land will be transformed. To stabilise the climate, governments will have deployed vast programmes for sucking carbon from the air. That will include protecting forests and planting new ones.

It may also include growing fuel to be burned, captured and buried beneath the earth. Farms will be the new oil fields. Food production will be squeezed. Profoundly difficult choices will be made between feeding the world and fuelling it.

The report is clear that this world avoids risks compared to one that warms to 2C, but swerves judgement on the likelihood of bringing it into being. That will be for governments, citizens and businesses, not scientists, to decide.

During the next 12 months, two meetings will be held at which governments will be asked to confront the challenge in this report: this year’s UN climate talks in Poland and at a special summit held by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres in September 2019.

The report’s authors were non-committal about the prospects. Jim Skea, a co-chair at the IPCC, said: “Limiting warming to 1.5C is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

Graphic from the IPCC’s special report on 1.5C.

‘Monumental goal’
Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and a former lead author of the IPCC, said: “If this report doesn’t convince each and every nation that their prosperity and security requires making transformational scientific, technological, political, social and economic changes to reach this monumental goal of staving off some of the worst climate change impacts, then I don’t know what will.”

The scientist have offered a clear prescription: the only way to avoid breaching the 1.5C limit is for humanity to cut its CO2 emissions by 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and reach “net-zero” by around 2050.

But global emissions are currently increasing, not falling.

The EU, one of the most climate progressive of all major economies, aims for a cut of around 30 percent by 2030 compared to its own 2010 pollution and 77-94 percent by 2050. It is currently reviewing both targets and says this report will inform the decisions.

If the EU sets a carbon neutral goal for 2050 it will join a growing group of governments seemingly in line with a mid-century end to carbon – including California (2045), Sweden (2045), UK (2050 target under consideration) and New Zealand (2050).

But a fundamental tenet of climate politics is that expectations on nations are defined by their development. If the richest, most progressive economies on earth set the bar at 2045-2050, where will China, India and Latin America end up? If the EU aims for 2050, the report concludes that Africa will need to have the same goal.

Some of the tools needed are available, they just need scaling up. Renewable deployment would need to be six times faster than it is today, said Adnan Z Amin, the director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency. That was “technically feasible and economically attractive”, he added.

Innovation, social change
Other aspects of the challenge require innovation and social change.

But just when the world needs to go faster, the political headwinds in some nations are growing. Brazil, home to the world’s largest rainforest, looks increasingly likely to elect the climate sceptic Jair Bolsonaro as president.

The world’s second-largest emitter – the US – immediately distanced itself from the report, issuing a statement that said its approval of the summary “should not be understood as US endorsement of all of the findings and key messages”.

It said it still it intended to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

The summary was adopted by all governments at a closed-door meeting between officials and scientists in Incheon, South Korea that finished on Saturday. The US sought and was granted various changes to the text. Sources said the interventions mostly helped to refine the report. But they also tracked key US interests – for example, a mention of nuclear energy was included.

Sources told CHN that Saudi Arabia fought hard to amend a passage that said investment in fossil fuel extraction would need to fall by 60 percent between 2015 and 2050. The clause does not appear in the final summary.

But still, according to three sources, the country has lodged a disclaimer with the report, which will not be made public for months. One delegate said it rejected “a very long list of paragraphs in the underlying report and the [summary]”.

Republished under a Creative Commons licence.

A Nasa satellite photo showing the retreating extent of sea ice in the Arctic. The latest IPCC climate change report says unprecedented action is needed to keep global temperature rises to 1.5C. Image: IPCC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Palu quake and tsunami sweeps away key Indonesian human rights activism

Palu mayor Rusdy Mastura (seen on the billboard), apologised in 2012 for the mass killings of Communists in Indonesia, becoming the first and only Indonesian official to do so. This paved the way for family and victims of the massacre to receive aid. Image: Ulet Ifansasti

ANALYSIS: By Dr Vannessa Hearman

When the earthquake and tsunami hit the city of Palu, Central Sulawesi, last weekend, they not only brought wreckage and death. The twin disasters also swept away efforts by activists and the municipal administration to support the survivors of Indonesia’s violent anti-communist purges in 1965-1966.

In the rest of the country, such survivors are still very marginalised.

In Palu, a city of some 350,000 inhabitants and the capital of Central Sulawesi province, activists had convinced local government leaders to work with them in helping these survivors.

READ MORE: One week on, Palu quake survivors begin to worry about the future

Palu is the only place in Indonesia where a government leader has made an official apology to the victims of the anti-communist violence in the area. Some nine days after the devastating natural disaster, the fate of some of those activists is still unknown.

Indonesian people lived under Suharto’s New Order authoritarian regime between 1968 and 1998, when the president was forced to resign. From 1965-66, the army, under Suharto, spearheaded anti-communist operations that killed half a million people and led to the detention of hundreds of thousands.


The army blamed Indonesia’s Communist Party (PKI) for the murder of seven army officers on the night of 30 September and in the early hours of 1 October, 1965, by a group calling itself the Thirtieth September Movement. The 53rd anniversary of these events coincided with the terrible disaster in Central Sulawesi.

The Palu earthquake and tsunami aftermath … fate of many 1965-1966 “purge” human rights activists unknown. Image: Tempo – Search for quake, tsunami victims to stop on Thursday as death toll tops 1760

In 2012, the Palu mayor, Rusdy Mastura, apologised to the victims of the anti-communist violence. He pledged to provide assistance to them and their families in the interests of “equality, openness and humanitarian considerations”.

In his speech, Mastura recalled how, as a boy scout in 1965, he had been tasked with guarding leftist detainees.

Victims of abuses
Mastura was speaking at an event organised by local human rights group, SKP-HAM (Solidaritas Korban Pelanggaran Hak Asasi Manusia, Solidarity with Victims of Human Rights Abuses).

SKP-HAM was founded in 2004. Its best-known leader is the dynamic secretary, Nurlaela Lamasitudju, the daughter of local Islamic cleric, Abdul Karim Lamasitudju.

SKP-HAM is part of the national Coalition for Truth and Justice (Koalisi Pengungkapan Kebenaran dan Keadilan, KKPK).

In 2012, the KKPK held several public events and community “hearings”, dubbed the “Year of Truth Telling”, to pressure the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to rehabilitate the victims of the violence.

In April 2012, Yudhoyono was reported as having expressed his intention to apologise to victims of human rights abuses committed during the Suharto New Order regime.

Yudhoyono’s promised apology never materialised. However, the “Year of Truth Telling” events yielded some important gains in Palu.

Following his apology, the SKP-HAM lobbied Mastura to deliver on his promises by providing healthcare and scholarships. A mayoral regulation and a Regional Action Plan for Human Rights (Rencana Hak Asasi Manusia, Ranham) were promulgated to enable this.

Autonomy laws
These local government instruments have been made possible through Indonesia’s regional autonomy laws.

The mayoral regulation also established a committee to oversee human rights protection and restoration of victims’ rights. On May 20, 2013, Palu was declared a “Human Rights Aware City”.

Each year, the city holds a series of human rights-related events.

In May 2015, the Palu City Regional Planning Body oversaw the process of checking and verifying the identity of victims and their needs, using the information compiled by human rights groups as a base.

A trailblazing city
SKP-HAM had collected 1200 testimonies about the 1965-66 violence from victims in the area. From these testimonies, it had created and uploaded to YouTube short films of survivors’ testimonies.

It had also published a book about the 1965-66 events in Sulawesi, in collaboration with Indonesian author, Putu Oka Sukanta. Mastura wrote the book’s preface.

The group supported weaving cooperatives involving women survivors and ran a café and meeting space, Kedai Fabula, at its office in Palu. In partnership with religious groups and the municipal administration, members of the group organised social activities to involve abuse survivors in the life of the city.

The activities of SKP-HAM Palu is a reminder of what has been lost. It was a trailblazing city whose achievement in human rights advancement provided a model for the rest of the country.

The people of Palu, with a great deal of assistance, will rebuild, but we still wait for more news from the city.

SKP-HAM leader, Lamasitudju, survived the earthquake and tsunami. With a sprained ankle and having lost several family members in the disaster, she is volunteering to collect and provide information regarding the situation in Palu.

Indonesia needs groups like SKP-HAM that campaign for inclusiveness and equal rights to survive into the future.

Dr Vannessa Hearman is a lecturer in Indonesian studies at Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory. She is a member of the Asian Studies Association of Australia Council. Charles Darwin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU. Asia Pacific Report republishes this article under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘I was coerced into the 1987 coup,’ admits Sitiveni Rabuka

By Sri Krishnamurthi of Asia-Pacific Report

A repentant Sitiveni Rabuka, the Fiji military strongman who sparked off the country’s “coup culture” in 1987, admits he was “coerced” by the defeated Alliance party into carrying out the first coup.

Three decades after I watched Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka walking Parliamentarians out of the back door of Parliament at the point of a gun on 14 May 1987, dressed in a light-blue suit, he has told me who the architects of the coup were – and his regrets about it all.

It has taken 31 years, and Rabuka, the face of the 1987 Fiji coups, is becoming more open and vocal about who were really behind the South Pacific’s first military takeover.

READ MORE: Background on the four Fiji coups and the 2009 constitutional ‘half coup’

The 14 May 1987 Fiji military coup by Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka … sparked off the legacy of the so-called “coup culture”. Image: FB file

Hardly a day goes by when Sitiveni Rabuka, now leader of the Social, Liberal, Democratic Party (SODELPA), isn’t asked to recall that fateful day that changed the course of history in Fiji.


The people of Fiji who have joined the diaspora in other parts of the Pacific, Commonwealth and beyond still view him with suspicion, if not the hatred of old – believing the old adage that a “leopard can’t change his spots”.


It is for that reason I was a little apprehensive to meet the man who loomed larger in the imagination than Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Unlike the slasher, Rabuka was real. So was the impact of his coups.

SODELPA leader Sitiveni Rabuka … today he is very much the casual, relaxed diplomat. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC

But, to be greeted by “bula” followed by his disarming and wide Fijian smile makes one realises that Rabuka, who has been on the international stage since he became Prime Minister in 1992, is now very much a diplomat.

Gone was the soldier
Gone was the soldier and in his place sat a casual, relaxed, worldly politician ready to speak his truth with remarkable honesty.

Taking him back to 1987, the burning questions were: whether he thought that the coup’s objectives were met? And who were the unseen faces behind the takeover?

Rabuka reiterated that the coup was instigated by the Alliance Party and its leader, the late then Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara (who later became president). Each time he talks on the subject, Rabuka seems to provide a little more detail than before.

“1987 was really political in the sense that the Alliance leaders at the time wanted something done, wanted something changed, and yes (I took the action),” Rabuka says, referring to the meetings he had with Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara that led to his actions – the leader of the now-defunct Alliance party.

“The only way to change the situation now is to throw this constitution out of the window.”

These were the words of Sir Ratu Mara,” he told Dr Sue Onslow in an interview in Suva on Thursday, 10 April 2014.

Time and time again he apologised for the coups in 1987.

‘I have apologised’
“I have said that before, I have apologised for the hurt to the people for the coups,” he says without hesitation.

“I knew they [the coups] were wrong and because I apologised I was forgiven. I apologised to the Indians at the time on the very next “Girmit” [agreement] day on May 14 the following year [1988]– one year after the first coup.

“I attended the “Girmit” festival and apologised.”

Multiculturalism is very much a part of his lexicon now, although he does not subscribe to the theory of assimilation and homogeneity in all cultures and races.

“The biggest challenge to multiracialism all over the world is understanding — crosscultural understanding,” he says.

“As long as we understand each other we can co-operate, not integrate and not assimilate but we can harmoniously co-exist.”

If SODELPA wins next month’s election what does he intend to be his first action on the steps of Parliament?

‘I’m anticipating victory’
“In Parliament I will be thanking the people for giving us a majority. I’m anticipating that we’ll be victorious, and I will thank the people of Fiji for giving us their confidence, particularly in me.

“The many that I have hurt, they may not vote for me this time, but more and more are coming around and embracing me.”

He admits to trying to form a coalition against FijiFirst, but not all – like Roko Tupou Draunidalo and the Hope party – were buying into it. That she has no time for Rabuka is evident in her frequent, public outbursts.

“I don’t know, maybe because her step-father was Dr [Timoci] Bavadra [elected Prime Minister in 1987 when he carried out the coup] and maybe she has not forgiven me since 87,” says Rabuka.

“We’ve spoken to everyone except for Tupou. Her party was not formed when we were doing the coalition talks and she just went straight ahead and said, ‘no, we’ll never coalesce with SODELPA as long as Rabuka is involved’”.

Besides domestic politics, Rabuka is keeping an eye on the geopolitical situation. The indications are that he is uncomfortable with the growing presence of China in Fiji.

“China is an international player but not a traditional partner and we should consolidate our co-operation with our traditional partners – people we know and whose systems are similar to ours.”

Chinese base plan ‘blocked’
China announced it was giving Fiji 30 million RMB yuan (FJ$9.5 million) in aid last month.

Just a day later, Australian media reported that it had been revealed that Canberra had  successfully blocked China from funding a major regional military base in Fiji.

In August, Australia and Fiji jointly announced the Black Rock military base in Nadi was to be redeveloped as a regional hub for police and peacekeeping training, according to a report by Radio New Zealand.

“If it is aid it is aid, but it is not really aid because it has to be a reciprocal arrangement and I don’t know what that reciprocal arrangement is.”

There were rumours of China setting up a naval base near Suva like those reportedly planned for Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

However, Rabuka does not think it is plausible and would require much more than simply making a military decision.

“Bases are government decisions, not military decisions, I don’t think they can just come in and set up a base without the government [approving it].

Government should allocate
“The government should accept the aid as aid to the government and allocate it, instead of the aid going straight to the military,” says the man who should know.

After selling land he owned in Savusavu, Vanua Levu, to a Chinese from Brisbane in July, Rabuka was labelled a hypocrite.

However, he defended his actions by saying in the Fiji Sun: “I had an arms-length dealing with him. The name was in Chinese, but the address was from Brisbane.”

Rabuka’s road to Damascus didn’t just seemingly happen overnight but through all his trials and tribulations, and he isn’t finished yet.

He still has battles to fight, this time as a politician for SODELPA, not as a soldier.

Sri Krishnamurthi is a journalist and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at Auckland University of Technology. He is attached to the University of the South Pacific’s Journalism Programme, filing for USP’s Wansolwara News and the AUT Pacific Media Centre’s Asia Pacific Report.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific storytelling with a focus on the ignored and ‘untold’ issues

A video made by an AUT screen production graduate, Sasya Wreksono, marking the 10th anniversary of the Pacific Media Centre. Video: PMC

PROFILE: By Craig Major of AUT News

​Based at Auckland University of Technology, the Pacific Media Centre is a small team dedicated to telling stories from across the Pacific that you won’t read anywhere else.

Established in 2007 by Professor David Robie in AUT’s School of Communication Studies, the centre focuses on postgraduate research projects and publications that impact on indigenous communities across the Pacific.

“We’re a small team, but the scope of what we cover is phenomenal,” Dr Robie explains. “As researchers and reporters, we look at the repercussions that big issues like climate change, human rights violations and press freedom have on these small communities in the Asia-Pacific region.”

The team are active publishers, managing several platforms including the Pacific Media Watch and Asia Pacific Report news websites, the half-yearly academic research journal Pacific Journalism Review and its companion Pacific Journalism Monographs, the blog Niusblog and Toktok, a quarterly newsletter.

The centre has also secured a media partnership with Radio New Zealand – the first content-sharing arrangement between a New Zealand university and a news organisation – and hosts the weekly Southern Cross radio programme on 95bFM.

Some of the Pacific Media Centre team: Sri Krishnamurthi (from left), Blessen Tom, Leilani Sitagata, Associate Professor Camille Nakhid, Professor David Robie and Del Abcede. Image: Craig Major/AUT


Dr Robie, along with Advisory Board chair Associate Professor Camille Nakhid, sees the centre as having a strong advocacy role across the Pacific and further afield.

“I think it is a real strength of the PMC that the team can find issues in the Pacific that just aren’t covered in the mainstream New Zealand media, then explore them and report on them with authority and conviction,” Dr Robie says.

Beyond a travel brochure
“The team is skilled in identifying issues that are beyond the scope of what the public sees in a travel brochure.”

Dr Nakhid echoes this sentiment. “New Zealand’s media can be very insular when reporting on what is happening in the Pacific – even though there is so much happening right outside our doorstep.”

Internally the team takes a cross-discipline approach, working closely with students and staff in the School of Communication Studies (particularly Te Ara Motuhenga, the documentary collective) and the School of Social Sciences.

The centre also has international partnerships, such as with the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, and maintains close ties to Pacific communities based in New Zealand – and are sure to collaborate with community groups for events and seminars.

“Pacific Media Centre organised a seminar about the refugee situation in Myanmar recently,” recalls publications designer Del Abcede. “Through talking to the Burmese citizens that we had invited, we discovered a range of issues that only came to light in the mainstream after the Myanmar election.”

PMC reporting staff – mostly postgraduate students – are encouraged to uncover and explore the issues that interest them.

“Working with the PMC has been very illuminating,” says Sri Krishnamurthi, a postgraduate student who has covered Fiji-based news for PMC, and has interviewed two of the three party heads hoping to win Fiji’s general election next month.

“I have a background in communications and journalism, but doing this kind of reporting has been a real eye-opener,” says Krishnamurthi, a Fiji-born journalist who worked with the NZ Press Association for 17 years.

Film festival screening
And just this week two students from the centre, Hele Ikimotu and Blessen Tom, have had their Bearing Witness climate change documentary, Banabans of Rabi, accepted for screening at the 2018 Nuku’alofa Film Festival.

The trailer of Banabans of Rabi, a short documentary on climate change accepted by the 2018 Nuku’alofa Film Festival. Video: BOR

The freedom to pursue stories in the region is an opportunity for Dr Robie and the team.

“Students that work with us learn so much – and there really is no underestimation of their abilities,” Dr Robie said.

“Not only that, it promotes media and journalism as a viable career path for Pacific students, and leads to opportunities for international journalism projects.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

USTKE fights for Kanak rights in defiance of ‘dishonest’ referendum

As New Caledonia’s November 4 referendum on independence approaches, both pro and anti-independence groups are ramping up their campaigns. But, as Michael Andrew reports, some groups are choosing not to participate, arguing that the referendum is “unfair and dishonest”.

For many Kanaks, the upcoming independence referendum is a chance to reclaim control of New Caledonia, or “Kanaky”, and establish a new independent nation in the Pacific.

For pro-independence labour organisation USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers), however, the November 4 referendum is undemocratic and should be treated as a non-event.

On a visit to New Zealand this week, Leonard Wahmetu, general secretary of the mines and metals section of the USTKE, said his organisation and its political arm, the Labour Party, would not be participating in the referendum as it had been tailored to favour an outcome of remaining with France.

READ MORE: Lee Duffield’s Asia Pacific Report series on New Caledonia and the referendum


Referring to the period preceding the 1988 Matignon accord – the first step in France’s promise of eventual sovereignty for the Kanaks – Wahmetu said that the demographics of Kanaky were significantly altered when the French government encouraged mass migration from mainland France, eroding the Kanak’s voting majority in subsequent referenda.

Although participation in the November 4 voting excludes anyone who came to live in the territory after 1998, Wahmetu argued that the referendum’s credibility had been comprised by those historical events.


“The vote is not sincere, it is not honest, it is not true,” he said.

Sylvain Goldstein of France’s CGT and Leonard Wahmetu of USTKE … New Caledonia’s referendum’s credibility has been compromised by recent historical events. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Discrepancies in the roll
The referendum voting roll has also come under scrutiny, with the USTKE and other pro-independence parties claiming many Kanaks have not been included.

According to an RNZ Pacific report, pro-independence groups feel Kanaks should be automatically included on the roll, but the electoral law states that voters must register to cast a ballot.

Wahemtu argued that the vague and complex administrative process makes registration difficult for Kanaks, many of whom can’t access the documents to prove their eligibility.

According to Australian academic and journalist Dr Lee Duffield, a research associate of the Pacific Media Centre, this lack of familiarity with the Western democratic process may also be a reason why many Kanaks believe the referendum is stacked against them.

“French conservative parties and Caldoche interests are the most at home with persuasive negotiation, lobbying, campaigning and advertising. The Kanak system is more community based and not so at home with modern-day politicking,” he said.

However, he did stress that the French government had made access to the roll very open for Kanaks, citing an instance where a Kanak who had been living abroad for a long time was allowed to enrol.

Despite its stance of non-participation, the USTKE is staunchly pro-independence and has fought emphatically for Kanak workers’ rights since the early 1980s, when it was a key component of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS).

1980s protest action
During that period, anti-colonial sentiment was high among Kanaks, mainly due to France’s harsh policies of military action and assassinations to repress the indépendentiste movement. Violent protest in response was not uncommon.

After the tragic 1988 massacre on Ouvéa Island where 19 FLNKS militants were killed after taking a group of gendarmes (district police) hostage, the French government was forced to seriously consider the Kanaks quest for independence and the negotiation of the Matignon Accord ensued. After having signed it with the FLNKS, the USTKE detached from the FLNKS in respect of the separation of trade unionism and politics.

It continued its campaigning for Kanak workers’ rights alongside the Confederation of Labour (CGT), the largest workers’ union in France.

While the CGT supports the indépendentiste movement, it respects the USTKE’s decision not to participate in the referendum.

CGT’s Asia Pacific director of the international department, Sylvain Goldstein, explained that regardless of the referendum, the aim of the USTKE was not to evict the French, but rather achieve a more inclusive and prosperous society.

“There is not a will to end relations with France, not at all. It’s more to rebalance the rights and consider everything that needs to be considered for a better situation and open up to Pacific neighbours,” Goldstein said.

For the USTKE, a better situation would also include fairer representation and employment for Kanaks, especially in the lucrative nickel mining industry.

Promises eroded
Despite the industry being one of the largest in the world, Kanaks are grossly under-represented; something that Leonard Wahmetu said went against promises laid out in the Matignon Accord.

“There was an agreement that a lot more Kanak people will be trained to have more responsibility. Now only 50 are involved in the mining because they give the training to the people from mainland France,” he said.

Yet even skills and expertise are often not enough to guarantee employment in an industry that Wahmetu claims, is rife with discrimination.

“Even if the young people are well trained they cannot find a job because they are Kanak,” he said.

Environmental protection is another key aim of the USTKE, which would see mining companies and other multinationals held to account for their impact on Kanaky’s natural resources.

According to Sylvain Goldstein, unauthorised expansion by mining companies can imperil the natural environment, leading to conflict with Kanak tribes who have a duty to protect the land.

Protester blockade
This has occurred most recently in the town of Kouaoua, where protesters have blockaded the SLN mining company in an effort to protect endemic oak trees. The mine has since been shut down, reports RNZ.

For Leonard Wahmetu, this kind of activism is exactly what’s needed to exact change in a system where the democratic processes are not fair or impartial.

While the USTKE and the Labour Party will still be working in the political arena for policy changes and fairer electoral rolls, he stresses the importance of strong action.

“Political pressure and protest go together. We can’t just talk in the office, we must protest out in the field,” he said.

“Without this we wouldn’t be heard.”

Michael Andrew is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

New Caledonian trade union representatives visit Auckland University of Technology this week … pictured are (mid-rear) Leonard Wahmetu, general secretary of the mines and metals section of the USTKE union; Sylvain Goldstein (to his left), CGT Asia Pacific director of the international department of France’s CGT, and (far right) NZ’s First Union representative Robert Reid. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Scott Waide: Amid the PNG silence on military aid, calls go out for wide national consultation

Lombrum naval base on Manus Island … a Google’s-eye view.

COMMENT: By Scott Waide

The global trade war between China and Western powers has reached new heights in the Pacific, and in particular in Papua New Guinea. As the government of Peter O’Neill courts China on the one side of the bargaining table, receiving, aid and other benefits, PNG’s traditional military partner, Australia, is growing anxious.

Australian media has reported that their government is planning to establish a military base on Manus Island to counter the growing Chinese influence in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

The PNG government has been largely silent since Australia’s announcement.

Last night, when I contacted the Defence Minister, Solan Mirisim, he said the Papua New Guinea has been in negotiations with Australia for “a military base and a training facility on Manus”.

The plans by Australian has brought about concerns.

A former PNG Defence Force Commander, Major-General Jerry Singirok, says any decision by the Australians to place troops in Papua New Guinea must have wide consultation as well as debate in Parliament.


So far there has been none.

Retired Major-General Jerry Singirok … “threat of being smothered or over run by a behemoth of an economic and military power are real.” Image: My Land, My Country

Sovereign nation
“Australia must be mindful that Papua New Guinea is a sovereign nation. There has to be wide public consultation as well as debate in parliament because this is a strategic decision.

“Australia has neglected this region for so long. This issue has to be approached with diplomacy.”

Australia’s choice of Manus is of strategic military importance. The maritime corridor between Guam to the north and Manus to the south was used by the Japanese in World War Two to reach the Pacific.

A possible Australian presence in Manus means they get to police the northern region. The move places Papua New Guinea in the centre of a global power struggle between the US and its allies and China.

For Papua New Guinea, things are a bit complicated. How does the government call China a threat and receive aid and development loans? And how does it support Australia’s military ambitions and still view China as a friend.

Another Former PNGDF Commander, feels Australia has to find a middle ground to deal with the trade war instead of placing military personnel in Papua New Guinea.

“China is not a threat,” says retired Commodore Peter Ilau, who also served as ambassador to Indonesia.

“We have to learn to work with China. We cannot respond with a show of military force,” he says.

Both former commanders agree that the threat of being smothered or over run by a behemoth of an economic and military power are real.

China’s economic influence in Papua New Guinea extends to nearly all sectors.

In the 13-year period between 2005 and 2018, China has spent close to 12 billion kina in investments and aid in Papua New Guinea. That is 3 billion kina short of Papua New Guinea’s annual budget of 15 billion.

Chinese money has been spent of monumental projects like buildings, transport infrastructure and energy projects in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

But what concerns many in Papua New Guinea is debt to China driven by loans and obligations and the possible take over of state assets by a foreign power.

Lombrum naval base on Manus Island following World War Two in 1949. Image: Australian War Memorial

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Philippine protesters stage anti-martial law demos as Duterte trust plummets

Protesters mark the 46th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under Philippines dictator Marcos with demonstrations against President Duterte. Video: Rappler

By Paterno Esmaquel II in Manila

Protesters have staged the most widespread barrage of protests yesterday against President Rodrigo Duterte, as Filipinos marked the 46th anniversary of the declaration of martial law under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

A running list by Rappler shows rallies scheduled across 14 regions in the Philippines, including Metro Manila, and even overseas.

The protests come in the face of growing discontent under Duterte – prices of goods have been rising, thousands have died in a drug war that has failed to eradicate drugs, and critical voices such as Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Australian nun Sister Patricia Fox face threats of either arrest or deportation.

READ MORE: Filipinos remember martial law: ‘Dictatorship is back’

Duterte’s public trust and satisfaction ratings also continue to fall.


Duterte – who earlier said the dictator’s daughter, Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, donated to his presidential campaign – wants the dictator’s son and namesake, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, to be vice-president so that Marcos can succeed him.

Marcos has a pending protest against the election victory of Vice-President Leni Robredo, leader of the opposition.

Meanwhile, Marcos on Thursday evening, September 20, launched a new campaign to revise history through a “talk show” with former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, architect and implementer of Martial Law as the elder Marcos’ defence minister.

‘No abuses’ claim
Marcos is selling the idea that no abuses happened under his father’s regime.

Protesters yesterday refused to take this sitting down.

An artist applies finishing touches on giant art heads of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and President Rodrigo Duterte for the 46th anniversary of Martial Law on September 21, 2018. Image: Darren Langit/Rappler

Roads lead to Luneta
In Metro Manila, all roads lead to the iconic Rizal Park, also known as Luneta, for a protest mounted by various groups. Groups marching from San Agustin Church, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and University of the Philippines Diliman, among other assembly points, gathered at Rizal Park to fight the return of a dictatorship.

The Catholic Church, which was instrumental in toppling Marcos in 1986, is one of the groups that helped mount the September 21 rallies.

A Mass for Dignity and Peace was held at San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, yesterday afternoon, followed by a march to Luneta with other religious denominations.

Protesters march from San Agustin Church to Luneta. Video: Rappler

Those who marched to Luneta included people of different political colours, from priests and nuns to leftist groups to Duterte critics such as former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Different though they were, protesters had a similar cry: Resist a creeping dictatorship.

Ousted chief justice Sereno speaks at anti-Martial Law rally. Video: Rappler

Sereno was one of the loudest voices in Luneta on Friday.

‘Fighting for justice’
In a raised pitch and with impassioned gestures, Sereno said onstage: “Naghirap kami sa martial law, kaya’t nilalabanan namin, at itinataguyod ang katarungan at katuwiran para hindi na maulit ‘yan. Kaya mga mamamayan, lalong lalo na mga bata: Uulitin po ba natin? Papayagan ba natin ang martial law uli?”

(We suffered during martial law. That’s why we’re fighting for and upholding justice and righteousness to avoid a repeat of that. My fellow citizens, especially children, will we permit martial law to happen again?)

Sereno – who for years kept the “dignified silence” of the Supreme Court until Duterte had her ousted – found herself leading a chant before a crowd on Friday: “Never again to Martial Law!”

Below the stage where speakers like Sereno spoke, a tired Judy Taguiwalo, who marched from Mendiola to Luneta, was seated on a monobloc chair as she granted an interview.

Taguiwalo was an activist whom Duterte named social welfare secretary, only to be rejected by the Commission on Appointments in August 2017.

Taguiwalo, who suffered during the Martial Law years, also said “never again to Martial Law.”

Nakulong ako sa panahon ng batas militar. Maraming namatay, na-torture,” she recalled. (I was imprisoned during the the period of military rule. Many people died and were tortured.)

Paterno Esmaquel II is a journalist with the online news website Rappler and these multimedia reports are drawn from the Rappler coverage.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Boe climate and security pact big step forward, but lacks a gender drive

The major item on the agenda at last week’s Pacific Islands Forum was climate change. However, a gender gap appears to be at play within climate change itself. Jessica Marshall reports for Asia Pacific Journalism.

The content of the Boe Declaration, signed at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru earlier this month, is not widely known. However, a statement from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggests that it declares climate change as a security issue.

“The Boe Declaration acknowledges additional collective actions are required to address new and non-traditional challenges. Modern-day regional security challenges include climate change,” she said in a statement.

Both the Leaders Communique and the declaration itself affirm the fact that climate change is a real issue. However, it is discussion of gender in light of that is lacking.

READ MORE: Nauru 2018 and the new Boe on the block


According to a report by Oxfam, men survived women 3 to 1 in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggests that this was because women were trapped in their homes at the time of the disaster “while men were out in the open”.


The agency also suggest that a cultural or religious custom can restrict a woman’s ability to survive a natural disaster.

“. . . the clothes they wear and/or their responsibilities in caring for children could hamper their mobility in times of emergency,” a UNDP report says.

Caregivers and providers
Figures from the United Nations show that 80 percent of those displaced by climate change were women. This, they argue, is caused primarily by their roles as caregivers and providers of food.

London School of Economics research indicates that women and girls are definitively more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than their male counterparts.

In societies where women are considered to be lower on the metaphorical food chain, “natural disasters will kill . . . more women than men,” the report says.

The two researchers could find no biological reason why women would be at more risk than men.

Based on this research, and other research like it, many public figures have called for attention to be paid to the issue.

“More extreme weather events. . . will all result in less food. Less food will mean that women and children get less,” dystopian author Margaret Atwood told a London conference in June.

The author of books like The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake said that climate change “. . . will also mean social unrest, which can lead to wars and civil wars . . . Women do badly in wars”.

Primarily burdened
When asked about the issue at an event at Georgetown University in February, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “. . . women. . . will be . . . primarily burdened with the problems of climate change”.

Earlier this month, former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark told a crowd of about 200 people at the National Council of Women (NCW) conference that the world was close to missing the opportunity to tend to the issue of climate change and women were most likely to be affected by it.

“Everything we know tells us that women are the most vulnerable in this,” she said. “If you look at the natural disasters caused by weather. . . more women die”.

According to Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, President of the Marshall Islands, women are more affected by climate change than their male counterparts but are also “less likely to be empowered to cope”.

“Women aren’t making enough of the decisions, and the decisions aren’t yet doing enough for women,” she wrote in The Guardian.

The UNDP argues it is because of a woman’s place in the household that she is in prime position to affect change when it comes to this issue.

“. . . knowledge and capabilities [regarding reproduction, household and community roles] can and should be deployed for/in climate change mitigation, disaster relief and adaptation strategies,” the report says..

Feminist solution
“A feminist solution” is what former Irish President and UN Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson argued for in June.

She explained that “feminism doesn’t mean excluding men, it’s about being more inclusive of women and – in this case – acknowledging the role they can play in tackling climate change”.

She’s not the only, nor the first, to make such a suggestion.

A whole feminist environmental movement, known as ecofeminism, has sprung up over the decades since the 1970s.

At its most basic level, ecofeminism is exactly what it sounds like: It argues that there is a relationship between environmental damage – such as that done by climate change – and the oppression of women and their rights.

For example, in her 2014 book This Changes Everything, journalist Naomi Klein argues that it is hypocritical that the self-same lawmakers who claim to be “pro-life” are also the ones who push for whole industries surrounding drilling, fracking and mining to not only survive but thrive.

Business confidence
“If the Earth is indeed our mother, then far from the bountiful goddess of mythology, she is a mother facing many great fertility challenges,” she writes.

In New Zealand, leader of the opposition National Party Simon Bridges, who is opposed to the idea of removing abortion from the Crimes Act, is also vehemently opposed to the idea of stopping oil and gas exploration in the Taranaki region.

His concern is that “It will have an effect on business confidence,” he said back in April.

The truth of climate change, as with most global issues, is that there can be no one-size fits all solution.

For some, like Helen Clark, it requires long-term mass movements. For others, it requires being invited to the conversation.

Time will tell as to which one wins out.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media