Widodo wants security forces to guard all development projects in Papua

Sixteen bodies have been retrieved from the killings of workers on a Papuan infrastructure project claimed by pro-independence militants to be Indonesian soldiers. Image: Hark Arena

By Ray Jordan in Lampung, Indonesia

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo insists that work on the Trans-Papua road project will continue despite this week’s shooting of construction workers in the Papua regency of Nduga.

Widodo is asking that all infrastructure projects and Trans-Papua construction workers always be accompanied by security personnel.

For the moment, Widodo said that the government would prioritise the evacuation of the victims of the shooting by the West Papuan Liberation Army that is regularly branded by the authorities as armed criminal “separatists”.

READ MORE: West Papua independence leader urges calm after killings

“Yes this is because there is still a process there that isn’t finished yet, we will prioritise the evacuation as quickly as possible. After that construction will continue”, Widodo told journalists at the Mahligai Agung Convention Hall at the Bandar Lampung University in Lampung City, North Sumatra.

According to The Jakarta Post, the casualties include 19 workers of state-owned construction company PT Istaka Karya, who had been assigned to build a 275 km section to connect Wamena and Mamugu as part of President Widodo’s flagship trans-Papua road project.


One Indonesian Military (TNI) soldier was also killed.

But the West Papua National Liberation Army (WPNLA), which claimed responsibility for the attack and said 24 people had been killed, alleged the workers were in fact soldiers in disguise, according to RNZ Pacific.

Independence rallies
Last Saturday, as members of the Liberation Army held a ceremony to commemorate Papua’s independence from Dutch colonial rule on December 1, 1961, as part of many rallies across Papua, Indonesia and internationally, a worker was said to have snapped a photo of the scene.

This enraged the militants.

In Sumatra, President Widodo said that wherever construction work was being carried out in Papua, workers must be accompanied by security forces in order to provide a sense of safety.

A Papuan freelance journalist John Pakage, who was reportedly beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened. Image: Wenslaus

“I want to convey that wherever construction work is going on it is always accompanied by security personnel in order to truly provide security guarantees for workers who are working in the field, in the jungles, in preparing infrastructure, particularly roads in the land of Papua which will never stop, but will continue regardless,” he said.

Widodo said the government’s goal was to continue development in Papua in order to create a sense of social justice in eastern Indonesia. Widodo said he wanted all of Indonesian society to experience this development.

“This is to provide infrastructure in the land of Papua and secondly also social justice for all Indonesian people to address the discrepancies in infrastructure between Java and Papua, between the east and west, that is what we can truly pursue”, said Widodo.

Earlier, national police chief General Tito Karnavian claimed that the West Papua Liberation Army led by Egianus Kogoya numbered no more than 50 people who had around 20 firearms.

‘Diplomatic’ resolution
The Guardian reports that Benny Wenda, the chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said it was hard to know exactly what happened at Nduga, amid conflicting reports on the long-running tensions, and without free access for media or human rights groups.

Indonesian authorities had not responded to requests for comment from The Guardian.

Wenda told The Guardian he could not stop the liberation army but wanted to tell them the UMLWP wanted to solve the issue “diplomatically”.

“We don’t want any bloodshed, we want Indonesia to come to the international table to discuss and we can agree to a referendum That’s what our campaign is about,” he said.

Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the WPNLA, the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), said in a telephone interview that they attacked a government construction site last weekend because they believe the project is conducted by the military, according to Jawa Pos TV.

“Trans-Papua road projects are being carried out by Indonesian military and that is a risk they must bear,” Sambom said.

“We want them to know that we don’t need development, what we want is independence.”

According to Wenslaus, John Pakage, a freelance journalist who was also a former Reuters and Tabloid Jubi journalist, was beaten by members of the Indonesian Mobile Brigade Corps and his family threatened.

Detik News translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was “Jokowi Minta Pekerja Trans Papua Selalu Didampingi Aparat Keamanan“.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Business as usual’ vows Parkop after storming of PNG Parliament, rioting

The National Parliament of Papua New Guinea came under attack yesterday as angry police and corrections officers stormed into Parliament Haus and destroyed the main entrance.  Video: EMTV News

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

National District Governor Powes Parkop has pledged that it will be business as usual today in the Papua New Guinean capital of Port Moresby as normalcy has been restored in the city after yesterday’s rioting, looting and an assault on Parliament.

Parkop declared this after meeting members of the Security Force, together with National Parliament Speaker Job Pomat, Minister for Finance James Marape, Minister for Police Jelta Wong, and other ministers yesterday afternoon at Sir John Guise Stadium in Waigani, reports Loop PNG.

Security forces protested over the lack of payment of security allowances for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders summit last week by storming Parliament Haus in Waigani and causing damage.

READ MORE: Army ‘not involved’ in storming of PNG Parliament

Port Moresby looting captured by Camara Geita on Twitter yesterday. Image: PMC screenshot

This triggered off rioting in parts of the city and looting in shops.


“Government has agreed to settle the allowances as soon as possible and we all agreed to return to duties to restore calm and normalcy to the city with immediate effect!”

Parkop said the issue of allowances for officers providing security during the APEC meeting is being resolved by the national government and relevant agencies.

He said that K10 million (NZ4.4 million) was released yesterday and was being processed to be disbursed as soon as possible.

A live feed fof shooting, looting and rioting in Port Moresby yesterday. Video: Camara Geita/Twitter

‘Purely administrative’
“This is a matter that is purely administrative.

“Schools should return to normal, shops should open and offices and business should operate as normal instantly. There is no cause for concern or worry.

“I call on everyone not to rely on rumours and fake news to cause an alarm and incite fear unnecessarily.

“The event was regrettable but it’s under control and there is no reason to be fearful anymore.”

Yesterday, business houses, schools and shops closed early due to the looting that occurred at different parts of the city, reports EMTV News.

This followed the rampage at the Parliament by frustrated Joint Security Task Force members over the non-payment of their APEC allowance.

The APEC pay dispute and why the PNG police protested. Video: EMTV News

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Hundreds of protesting PNG police move in on Parliament over pay

PNG security forces protesting in Waigani over unpaid APEC security allowances. Image: Loop PNG

By RNZ Pacific

Hundreds of Papua New Guinea police have descended on Parliament Haus in the Port Moresby suburb of Waigani demanding payments they say they are owed for providing security at last weekend’s APEC leaders summit.

RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in PNG, Melvin Levongo, said multiple police vehicles with armed police were involved.

He said police were demanding to speak with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and APEC Minister Justin Tkatchencko about the extra allowances they were owed.

READ MORE: Reporters attacked as security forces move into Parliament Haus

Levongo said a policeman told him they were very angry at the government.

“You guys have got money to purchase Maserati cars but we are asking for our allowance, so that’s the situation currently at the moment,” he said.


Levongo said traffic had been halted in and around Parliament Haus, and that there was no military involvement in the protest.

Photographs are circulating on social media showing damage at Parliament Haus, including broken glass windows and doors for which PNG police are said to be responsible.

Opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer’s Facebook page shows hallways and lobbies that have been trashed and an image of startled shadow ministers whose meeting was interrupted.

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

PNG security forces on guard at Parliament Haus in Waigani today. Image: Brian Kramer FB Opposition Madang MP Bryan Kramer speaking in a live Facebook feed about today’s protest at Parliament Haus. Image: Bryan Kramer FB

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG governor may block Australian naval base bid on Manus

Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin … critical of Port Moresby government’s lack of consultation. Image: RNZ Pacific

By RNZ Pacific

The governor of Papua New Guinea’s Manus Province has hinted that he could obstruct Australia’s bid to build a naval port on Manus Island.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on November 1 that his country would fund the development of a deepwater base at the old Lombrum Naval Base used during the Second World War.

The move is seen as a counter to China’s aspirations to develop the site.

READ MORE: Scott Waide: How China is several moves ahead in Port Moresby

Manus Governor Charlie Benjamin told Reuters news agency that he had not been consulted on the development and that it would have to benefit the local residents.

“I have my people living on the island and we are the ones affected,” Benjamin said.


“The government might have the right but if we decide to put our foot down, there will be problems.”

The Manus governor has previously been critical of central government’s lack of consultation over the Australian-run refugee detention centres based on the island.

Military outpost
Manus is PNG’s northernmost and smallest province with 50,000 people and an Australian-funded navy base there could provide a military outpost for Canberra in the Pacific.

Prime Minister Morrison has said Australian vessels would be regular visitors.

RNZ Pacific’s Johnny Blades reports from APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) that the United States will join Australia in expanding the Lombrum Naval Base on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

US vice-president Mike Pence made the announcement at the APEC leader’s summit in Port Moresby yesterday.

Pence, who is representing his country at APEC in the absence of President Donald Trump, used his speech to assert US partnership with Pacific Islands and other allies in the wider region.

Without elaborating on details, he confirmed the US would partner with PNG and Australia on a joint naval base on Manus, reported Blades.

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

The newly built APEC Haus in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby which is hosting the 2018 APEC leaders summit this weekend. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZ Pacific

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

New Caledonia blockade tension fails to mar French PM’s talks on future

French security forces arrive in force to deal with protesters demonstrating over the independence vote defeat near St Louis, Noumea. Image: Screenshot – Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes

By David Robie in Nouméa

French security forces moved in today to clean up the main road near an indigenous Kanak tribal area after a day of tension and rioting failed to mar a lightning visit by French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and post-independence referendum discussions.

Philippe flew in yesterday morning from Vietnam for a day of meetings with political leaders, customary chiefs and voting commission officials to take stock of the historic referendum on Sunday.

While the people of New Caledonia voted to remain French with a resounding 56.4 percent of the vote, it was a lower winning margin than had been widely predicted in the face of an impressive mobilisation by pro-independence groups.


The yes vote was 43.6 percent but Kanak voters were already a minority of the restricted electorate for this vote that included Caldoche (settlers), descendants of a French penal colony for Algerian and Paris commune dissidents, and people of Asian and Wallisian ancestry.

A record 80.63 percent turnout with 141,099 voters in a largely calm and uneventful referendum day has opened the door for serious negotiations about the future of New Caledonia.

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe speaking to pool journalists on Nouméa television last night after his national address. Image: Screenshot of Caledonia NCTV

After meeting a range of leaders during the day and flying to Koné to meet President Paul Néaoutyine of the pro-independence stronghold Northern province, Philippe made a televised address to the territory last night.


Praising the people of New Caledonia for the peaceful conduct of the referendum, he called for a “meeting of the signatories” next month to consider the next step.

The breakdown of the New Caledonian independence vote. Graphic: Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes

‘Absolutely unique’
“It is absolutely unique,” he said on television. “There is no other example in the history of France, and there are probably not many examples in the history of other nations of a democratic process of this quality.

“It’s admirable. The question is what brings us together. What shall we do?”

After the prolonged series of clashes in the 1980s known locally as les Evénements” – culminating in the Ouvéa cave massacre when 19 Kanak militants were killed on 5 May 1988 with the loss of six gendarmes and the assassination of respected Kanak leaders Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene a year later – New Caledonia has enjoyed 30 years of relative peace and progress.

The Matignon Accord in 1988 and then the Nouméa Accord a decade later paved the way for Sunday’s referendum

Prime Minister Philippe indicated that a fresh approach was now needed with a greater emphasis on social and economic development than political structures and to address “inequalities”.

The prime minister had lunch with students at the University of New Caledonia. Following his TV address and evening “pool” interview with media, he flew back to Paris last night.

Under the Nouméa Accord, up to two more referendums can be held in 2020 and 2022 with one-third support from the territorial Congress.

Scrap extra votes
The anti-independence parties want to scrap the provision for further referendums while the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) coalition and UNI want the votes to go ahead as planned.

The small Labour Party is also pro-independence but chose a tactical “non participation” approach to the referendum which it criticised as “dishonest”.

The pro-independence hand has been strengthened by the success of mobilising young people and showing the world that they “are serious” about their vision of a new nation, Kanaky New Caledonia.

“Édouard Philippe was here to listen to us,” said FLNKS president Rock Wamytan. “Despite the opposition crowing that they were going to dominate 70/30, we have spoken of dialogue and negotiation. I have remained as prudent as the Sioux”, referring to the First Nation people of Dakota who resisted US state oppression in the 19th century.

Anti-independence Rassemblement leaders Pierre Frogier said the referendum result “anchors New Caledonia in France” and there was no need for further votes.

He criticised the referendum process, claiming that it had created a “divided Caledonian society”.

Saint Louis rioting … front page news in les Nouvelle Caledoniennes today. Image: LNC

The clashes on the RP1 road near St Louis tribal area of Nouméa yesterday when protesters set fire to tyres on the main road, burned cars and pelted police with stones wracked up tension. The skirmishes sparked angry talkback sessions on loyalist radio stations and frontpage headlines of “violence” in the conservative daily newspaper Les Nouvelle Calédoniennes today.

However, security forces were deployed to the area in a show of force yesterday and were trying to regain control.

There have been other sporadic incidents too, but the referendum result has been largely accepted peacefully.

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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

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

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

Amnesty demands Jokowi honour pledge on Papuan human rights

Indonesian police and military have reportedly attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika and arrested seven people, including three teenagers. Image: Timika KNPB

By Budiarti Utami Putri in Jakarta

Human rights organisation Amnesty International Indonesia has demanded President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo fulfil his promises to resolve the alleged human rights violations in Papua.

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said Jokowi had earlier pledged to settle the shooting incidents involving civilians in Paniai, Papua.

“We underline one promise, one commitment delivered by President Joko Widodo following the Paniai incident that the President wants the case to be settled to prevent further incident in the future,” said Usman in a plenary meeting with the House of Representative (DPR)’s Legal Commission in the Parliament Complex, Senayan, Jakarta, last week.

READ MORE: Indonesia’s unresolved police killings in Papua

Usman said that there was an alleged excessive mobilisation of power and weapons from the security apparatus in Papua.

Between January 2010 and February 2018, Amnesty International Indonesia had recorded 69 cases of alleged extrajudicial killings in Papua.


The most dominant perpetrator was the National Police (Polri) officers (34 cases), followed by the Indonesia Armed Forces (TNI) (23 cases), joint officers of TNI and Polri (11 cases) and Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in one case.

Custom resolution
Usman said a total of 25 cases were not investigated, 26 cases were studied without a conclusive result, and 8 cases were dealh with through custom.

“Usually, it is about certain compensations for the victim’s family,” Usman said.

Usman said this was proof that the government lacked independent, effective, and impartial mechanisms to cope with civilians’ complaints concerning human rights violation performed by the security personnel.

The former coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) urged the government to create measures to resolve the human rights violation in Papua and demanded the government admit the incident and draft procedures for security officers in a bid to prevent violence in the region.

“President Jokowi expects Papua to be a peaceful land,” Usman said.

Meanwhile, the House’s Legal Commission deputy speaker Trimedya Panjaitan pledged to follow up the findings issued by Amnesty International Indonesia to the National Police Chief Tito Karnavian in the upcoming session next week.

“We will ask the police chief in the next meeting on September 24,” Trimedya said.

Timika attack, arrests
Meanwhile, Indonesian police and military attacked the West Papua Committee (KNPB) office in Timika at the weekend and arrested seven people, including three teenagers, alleged an unverified social media posting.

The arrested people were named as:

Jack Yakonias Womsiwor (39)
Nus Asso (46)
Urbanus Kossay (18)
Herich Mandobar (18)
Pais Nasia (23)
Vincent Gobay (19)
Titus Yelemaken (46)

This Tempo article is shared through the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN).

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media