Hundreds of workers from the Confederation of United Indonesian Workers (KPBI) held a protest march at the weekend in the capital of Jakarta and Fiji’s Coalition on Human Rights staged a march today to commemorate World Human Rights Day.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian workers marched from the Farmers Monument in Central Jakarta to the nearby State Palace on Saturday, reports CNN Indonesia.
During the action, the workers highlighted the problems of corruption and the failure to resolve human rights violations.
“This action is a reflection of the regime that is in power, Jokowi [President Joko Widodo] has failed, particularly in cases of corruption and human rights violations in Indonesia”, said KPBI secretary-general Damar Panca.
The Jakarta rally for human rights at the weekend. Image: Rayhand Purnama Karim/CNNI
Panca said that during Widodo’s administration corruption had become more widespread as had human rights violations. Trade unions had also suffered human rights violations when holding protests.
Panca said that not long ago during a peaceful demonstration, workers were assaulted and had tear gas fired at them by security forces.
“Not just that, 26 labour activists have been indicted. So we are articulating this now because it is the right moment – namely in the lead up to Anti-Corruption Day (December 9) and Human Rights Day (December 10),” he said.
Social welfare demands In addition to highlighting human rights violations, they also demanded that the government take responsibility for providing social welfare for all Indonesians and rejected low wages, particularly in labour intensive industries, low rural incomes and contract labour and outsourcing.
Panca said that Saturday’s action was also articulating several other problems such as inequality in employment, the criminalisation of activists and the need for free education.
The KPBI is an alliance of cross-sector labour federations. Saturday’s action was joined by the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Trade Union Federation (FSP2KI), the Cross-Factory Labour Federation (FBLP), the Populist Trade Union Federation (SERBUK), the Indonesian Harbour Transportation Labour Federation (FBTPI), the Indonesian Workers Federation of Struggle (FPBI), the Industrial Employees Trade Union Federation (FSPI), the Solidarity Alliance for Labour Struggle (GSPB) and the Greater Jakarta Railway Workers Trade Union (SPKAJ)
“This action is not just in Jakarta, similar actions with the same demands are also being organised by KBPI members in North Sumatra. In Jakarta they have come from across Jabodetabek [Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi, Greater Jakarta],” he said.
According to CNN Indonesia’s observations, the hundreds of workers wearing red and carrying protest gear continued to articulate their demands from two command vehicles near the State Palace, directly in front of the West Monas intersection.
They also sang songs of struggle and followed the directions of speakers shouting labour demands. The protest was closely watched over by scores of police officers.
The march will begin at 10am from the Flea Market ending in a rally at Sukuna Park and is the culmination of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence from November 25 to December 10.
World Human Rights Day is celebrated annually on December 10 to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.
This year is a significant milestone for the UDHR as it marks its 70th Anniversary.
Human Rights Day is a day to celebrate and advocate for the protection of Human Rights globally. Since its launch in 1997, the NGOCHR now includes members such as the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre, Fiji Women’s Rights Movement, Citizen’s Constitutional Forum, FemLINK Pacific, Ecumenical Centre for Research and Advocacy, Drodrolagi Movement, Social Empowerment and Education Program and observers, Pacific Network on Globalisation, Haus of Khameleon and Diverse Voices and Action for Equality.
A protest action by the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) in Indonesia’s East Java provincial capital of Surabaya yesterday demanding self-determination for West Papua has been attacked by a group of ormas (social or mass organisations).
Police later raided Papuan student dormitories in the evening and detained 233 students in a day of human rights violations as Indonesian authorities cracked down on demonstrations marking December 1 – “independence day”, according to protesters.
The group, who came from a number of different ormas, including the Community Forum for Sons and Daughters of the Police and Armed Forces (FKPPI), the Association of Sons and Daughters of Army Families (Hipakad) and the Pancasila Youth (PP), were calling for the Papuan student demonstration to be forcibly broken up.
“This city is a city of [national] heroes. Please leave, the [state ideology of] Pancasila is non-negotiable, the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is non-negotiable”, shouted one of the speakers from the PP.
At 8.33am, a number of PP members on the eastern side of Jl. Pemuda began attacking the AMP by throwing rocks and beating them with clubs. Police quickly moved in to block the PP members then dragged them back.
The AMP protesters had began gathering at the Submarine Monument at 6am before moving off to the Grahadi building where the East Java governor’s office is located.
However they were only able to get as far as the Surabaya Radio Republic Indonesia (RRI) building before they were intercepted by police from the Surabaya metropolitan district police (Polrestabes) and the East Java district police (Polda).
‘Independence’ day The AMP demonstration was held to mark December 1, 1961, as the day West Papua became “independent” from the Dutch. For the Papuan people, December 1 is an important date on the calendar in the Papuan struggle which is commemorated every year.
The historical moment in 1961 was when, for the first time, the West Papuan parliament, under the administration of the Dutch, flew the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag, symbolising the establishment of the state of West Papua.
Since then the Bintang Kejora was flown alongside the Dutch flag throughout West Papua until the Dutch handed administrative authority of West Papua over to the United Nations Temporary Executive Authority (UNTEA) on October 1, 1962, then to the Indonesian government on May 1, 1963.
The UNTEA was an international mechanism involving the UN to prepare a referendum on whether or not the Papuan people wanted to separate or integrate with Indonesia.
The referendum, referred to as the Act of Free Choice (Pepera), resulted in the Papuan people choosing to be integrated into Indonesia.
Since then, the administration of West Papua has been controlled by the Indonesian government and the flying of the Bintang Kejora illegal – as it is deemed an act of subversion (maker) – and have responded to protests with violence and arrests.
Police arrest 99 Papuan activists at pro-independence rally in Ternate Arnold Belau of Suara Papua reports from Jayapura that at least 96 activists from the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) were arrested by police in Ternate, North Maluku, after they forcibly broke up a rally in front of the Barito Market.
A Suara Papua source from Ternate said that the FRI-WP action was closed down by police and intel (intelligence) officers and the demonstrators forced into trucks as they were about to begin protesting in front of the Barito Market.
The source said that several activists were dragged and assaulted as they were forced into the truck.
“Several comrades who were at the action were dragged and forced to get into a truck by police and intel in Ternate,” they said.
The source said that as many as 99 people were arrested, 12 of them from West Papua and the rest activists from FRI-WP. One of the protesters had to be rushed home because because of breathing difficulties.
“One of the people had difficulty breathing and was rushed home. Twelve people were from Papua and the rest from Ternate. Currently they are being taken to Polres [district police station]”, they said.
Ternate district police Tactical Police Unit head (kasat sabhara) Aninab was quoted by semarak.news.com as saying that the protesters would be taken to the Ternate district police station.
‘Given guidance’ “We will take them to Polres, question them. If in the process of delving into the matter it is discovered that they committed a violation then they will be charged, but we will bear in mind that are still young and [they should be] given guidance,” he said.
Earlier, the protesters sent a written notification of the action to the Ternate district police but it was rejected with police saying that the planned action was subversive (maker).
Upon arriving at the Ternate district police station they will be registered and those who originate from Papua will be separated from those from North Maluku.
FRI-WP is demanding that the Indonesian government must resolve human rights violations in Papua and that the Papuan people be given the freedom to hold a referendum to determine their own future.
Background Although it is widely held that West Papua declared independence from Indonesia on December 1, 1961, this actually marks the date when the Morning Star (Bintang Kejora) flag was first raised alongside the Dutch flag in an officially sanctioned ceremony in Jayapura, then called Hollandia.
The first declaration of independence actually took place on July 1, 1971 at the Victoria Headquarters in Waris Village, Jayapura.
Known as the “Act of Free Choice”, in 1969 a referendum was held to decide whether West Papua, a former Dutch colony annexed by Indonesia in 1963, would be become independent or join Indonesia. The UN sanction plebiscite, in which 1,025 handpicked tribal leaders allegedly expressed their desire for integration, has been widely dismissed as a sham.
Critics claim that that the selected voters were coerced, threatened and closely scrutinised by the military to unanimously vote for integration.
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.
NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters announces a K22 million (NZ$10 million) aid project to help polio vaccination for Papua New Guineans at the St John Ambulance Operations Centre in Port Moresby. Video: EMTV News
A former prime minister has accused Papua New Guinea’s current leader Peter O’Neill of exposing the country to “international ridicule and criticism” over the lavish staging of APEC and failure of the meeting to make the customary Leaders’ Declaration for the first time in its history.
Sir Mekere Morauta, MP for Moresby North West in the nation’s capital, today declared in a statement: “APEC has revealed to the world the corruption, waste and mismanagement within the O’Neill government, and their devastating effects on the nation and citizens.”
He said the leaders summit had shone an international spotlight on O’Neill’s “crude and cynical attempts to play one nation against another”.
Sir Mekere also accused the prime minister and lacking an ability to understand the nuances of international relations and the dramatic geopolitical changes happening in the region.
NZ Foreign Minister Winston Peters at St John Ambulance Operations Centre in Port Moresby yesterday. Image: EMTV News
“What should have been a moment for PNG to shine on the international stage instead descended into chaos, including embarrassing diplomatic incidents, international media allegations of financial and procedural impropriety and organisational disarray,” Sir Mekere said.
“Papua New Guinea’s international standing has been diminished.”
The former PM said the issue for Papua New Guinea was not a failure of the international APEC organisation, the countries involved, or of PNG’s professional diplomats – it was an issue of failed leadership.
Quality of life Sir Mekere said PNG should not have hosted APEC in the first place.
The K3 billion “lavished” on the event should have been spent on improving the quality of life of ordinary Papua New Guineans.
“Instead we have preventable diseases such as polio, leprosy, TB and malaria surging and people dying – 21 children are now known to have contracted polio,” Sir Mekere said.
“Many schools are closing across the nation. Public servants are not being paid properly and other entitlements such as superannuation payments are being withheld.
“Essential infrastructure outside Port Moresby is crumbling into the dust, and government systems and processes are failing by the day.”
However, Prime Minister O’Neill said he had made history in inviting Pacific Island leaders to take part in the APEC leaders summit, reports the PNG Post-Courier.
“I know Australia, New Zealand and PNG are active members of APEC, but there are also countries within the Pacific region that have their own story to tell,” O’Neill said.
Reception dinner He said this when he led the Pacific leaders to a reception dinner hosted by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Australian High Commission residence last night.
Pacific leaders who attended included Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai and the Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands, Solomon Islands and Tonga.
“I would like to thank the Pacific leaders for joining us here at the margins of the APEC meeting.
“Again [the reason] to bring the Pacific Island leaders’ to APEC is that we don’t want to be forgotten out of the APEC community,” O’Neill said.
“In recent years, thanks to the leadership of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, the great work of the government, and the industrious and enterprising people of the country, PNG has thrived in national development, and its society has taken on a new look,” said President Xi.
Mutual trust This is the first state visit of President Xi where he reiterated his goal to fortify “mutual trust” and to take bilateral ties to next level.
“I look forward to working with your leaders to cement mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, and increase people-to-people exchanges in order to take our bilateral ties to a new level,” said President Xi.
EMTV Online reports that President Xi officiate at the opening of a new school today for PNG students, Butuka Academy.
“Only one of China’s many gifts to PNG,” he said.
President Xi said the rapid growth of the China-PNG relations was “an epitome of China’s overall relations with Pacific Islands countries”.
“The Chinese often say: ‘Distance cannot separate true friends who remain close even when thousands of miles apart.’ The vast Pacific Ocean is indeed a bond between China and Pacific Islands countries,” said President Xi.
President Xi said China would stand firm with Pacific Islands countries and all other developing countries.
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives at Port Moresby’s Jacksons International Airport last night for a state visit and the APEC summit. Image: Loop PNG
Brighter future “The relations between China and Pacific Islands countries are now better than ever and face important opportunities of development,” he said.
“China will work with Pacific Islands countries to brave the wind and waves and set sail for a brighter future of our relations.”
The Post-Courier reports that early this year, President Xi met with Prime Minister O’Neill in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing as part of a trip that saw the Pacific nation signing on to the “One Belt One Road” initiative.
This was an initiative seen by the US as a threat, and it had injected US$113 million in Asian investment.
Prime Minister O’Neill, in this meeting with President Xi, said he wanted more cooperation on economy, trade, investment, agriculture, tourism and infrastructure.
After the APEC summit in PNG, President Xi is set to visit Brunei and the Philippines where he will engage in an in-depth conversation with the two head of the state strengthening bilateral ties.
More than 550,000 people were due to vote today in the election as wet and stormy weather hit Fiji.
“As at midday we are not doing very well in terms of turnout,” said the Elections Supervisor Mohammed Saneem.
He said some of the more worrying turnouts reported so far were in Lami in Suva and in the west of the main island where only six out of a total of 181 voters had turned out at one polling station.
“My advice to all voters is to come out and vote,” Saneem said.
The Fijian Elections Office also said it had received complaints from some areas that bus services were not operating.
“My mother is 85 years old. Our road is flooded. No transport available. Polling centre at Visama Sanatan Dharam Primary. She wants to vote but weather is not favourable. Any help?” one voter asked on the Fijian Elections Office Facebook page.
The office had managed to contact the companies and urged them to follow an agreement to provide transport to polling stations, Saneem said.
Tropical disturbance Fiji has just entered the cyclone season and a tropical disturbance has formed to the northwest of the country.
Officials have also been urging people to take their umbrellas and brave the bad weather.
It is a public holiday in Fiji, which is going to the polls for just the second time in 12 years.
Fiji’s prime minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, said he would be disappointed if he did not win today’s election.
Bainimarama was speaking as he cast his vote at Vatuwaqa Primary School in the capital Suva.
“We’re hoping to win the majority so we can form the next government,” he told journalists.
Other political party leaders also cast their ballot at various polling stations this morning.
Sitiveni Rabuka was photographed standing in the rain in a queue with other voters at his polling station.
There are strict conditions around the media during the blackout period but journalists have been allowed to photograph all party leaders as they head to the ballot box.
Voters have a choice of 233 candidates, from six political parties, vying for 51 seats, and they have been urged to double check where they are due to vote or risk being turned away.
This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.
A report on innovative solar energy technology for the Pacific. Video: NZIPR
By Sri Krishnamurthi with Peter Wilson in Auckland
Solar-powered batteries are the key to a future without electricity grids for Polynesian countries in the Pacific (Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga), a study has found.
The study is funded by the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) to assess the feasibility of a low-cost, energy future – titled “Polynesian pathways to a future without electricity grids”.
The first phase of the research, conducted by Peter Wilson (principal economist and head of Auckland business for the NZ Institute of Economic Research) and his team of Professor Basil Sharp (Auckland University professor and chair in energy economics) and Gareth William (head of Solar City Energy Services), queries whether distributed solar electricity is a practical alternative to grid-based electricity.
“The project is investigating the impact of new technologies on electricity sectors in the Pacific, we are looking at whether solar panels and batteries could augment or eventually replace electricity grids and large diesel generators,” says principal investigator Wilson.
“First phase is showing that the costs of both solar panels and batteries is diminishing very quickly and it won’t be very long before they will be economic in the Pacific and so that you have the potential to start radically changing how energy is delivered to Pacific nations.”
While he believes it is technologically feasible now, the prohibitive cost of the batteries at the moment – the leading provider of solar batteries being Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall – is something that has economically got to arrive yet, but the trend is towards costs being reduced significantly.
He says that within 10 years batteries and solar panels together could have a large impact on existing electricity sectors in the islands, and he sees that as a positive development because it will make it easier to extend electricity to people who don not currently have it at a cheap cost.
Decisions needed However, he says, it does mean that the island governments must consider what they do with their existing generators and existing distribution assets if they are found to be non-competitive against the new technology.
“While it is not economically feasible yet, the trends are there and so it’s something that the Pacific governments should start thinking about,” says Wilson.
“At the moment they’re focusing very much on using solar panels to replace their electricity generation, they’re just connecting to their existing electricity grids and existing technologies.
“We think the batteries are going to change the equation and that is something that should be looked at, and the point is that this is not just something for the Pacific Islands, it’s happening around the world and a lot of countries and a lot of companies are trying to work out what to do, but they don’t really have a solution.”
He is expecting exciting new technological developments in batteries as a means of storing electricity into the future.
“The basic technology is not changing. What is changing is the cost of the batteries and their efficiency, how much power they can hold,” says Wilson.
“We’ve all seen how cell phones have become smaller and smaller over the few last years, and a large amount of that is because the batteries getting smaller and better, electric vehicles are doing the same thing. It is the same technology just using it for a different purpose.”
Hawai’ian benchmark Hawai’i is an example they studied because it is like the South Pacific countries.
“Hawai’i which has a similar geography to the South Pacific, it’s North Pacific and tropical country with small islands and they too have moved to replace the diesel-fired generators with solar panels,” says Wilson.
“That’s a good benchmark to look at on the technological side but the economics are slightly different because it’s bigger Island, but what we particularly looked is that is an example of what could happen.”
The next phase is due to begin as soon as the NZIPR give it the greenlight.
Peter Wilson explains the way forward. “Hopefully it starts sometime this year and that involves going out to the islands and doing on-the-spot investigations, talking to people, at the moment phase one was desk research based in New Zealand.”
“So far the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been very supportive of the project They’ve been funding quite large numbers of solar panels into the Pacific and they are quite keen to look at this next development which is adding batteries to that investment.”
He says the electricity generation industries are facing a major change in the evolution of the technology with what they do in their business.
‘Technological revolution’ “These industries are facing a technological revolution. They have choices, how do they respond? do they try to get ahead the curve, do they bury head in sand, do they try and make it someone else’s problem.
“We are seeing around the world this issue is being addressed, in some countries, some companies are very supportive and wanting to get to get on the bandwagon.”
Ultimately the goal is renewable energy to expand access to affordable, reliable and clean energy in the Pacific. Renewable energy targets feature prominently in all their Nationally Determined Contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Already a change is underway in Australia and New Zealand with a slow but sure transformation to renewable energy.
“It’s starting to change now. You are seeing in Auckland the lines company Vector is starting to invest in large batteries (Tesla Powerwall batteries) rather than just look at extensions to the grid.
This is a project that can change the economies of scale of Pacific countries and Peter Wilson is banking on it to transform lives in Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga.
The Pacific Media Centre shares content with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research as part of a collaboration agreement. The video was edited by Blessen Tom as part of the partnership.
David Robie, who reported from New Caledonia several times during the 1980s for Islands Business magazine, The Australian, New Zealand Times and other media, returned to the French Pacific possession to observe last weekend’s historic referendum. He was also on board the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace environmental ship that was bombed by French secret agents during the height of “les évènements”. He reflects in the second of two articles.
PART 2:By David Robie in Nouméa
A cartoon published by Nouméa’s daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, on the eve of the historic independence referendum in New Caledonia at the weekend caught my eye. Noting that thanks to the referendum, people throughout the world – with the possible exception of at least New Zealand whose media was largely absent – were talking about New Caledonia.
“We’re demanding one referendum a month,” says a travel agent.
A touch cynical perhaps, but this caricatured sentiment contrasts with the anti-independence parties that want to scotch the next two referendums – due in 2020 and 2022 – provided for under the 1998 Nouméa Accord. This agreement was an updated version of the original Matignon Accord that ended the civil unrest of the 1980s and opened the door to long-term stability and progress.
The three anti-independence parties, Les Republicains led by Sonia Backès (New Caledonia’s version of Marine le Pen?), Rassemblement and Caledonie Ensemble, reckon that the people have spoken and there is now no need of further referendums.
They were shocked that the indépendantistes did so well given that they had already written off the “declining” demand for independence and were confidently predicting a crushing 70/30.
The referendum choice was simple and stark. Voters simply had to respond yes or no to the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?”
Credible independence vote The “no” response slipped to a 56.4 percent vote while the “yes” vote wrested a credible 43.6 percent share with a record 80 percent turnout.
The final vote count … an unexpectedly close result between the “no” and “yes” vote, offering hope for the Kanaks. Image: Caledonia TV
The encouraging yes vote is even more remarkable when it is taken into account the demographic gerrymandering by the French government that ensured the indigenous Kanaks – who have ruled by France for 165 years since New Caledonia was declared a penal colony in 1853 – would remain a minority in their homeland and in this vote.
More than 20,000 convicts were shipped to New Caledonia in the 19th and early 20th centuries, including Muslim rebels fighting against colonisation in Algeria, and dissidents from the 1870 Paris commune. Later migrants included Japanese, Javanese and Tonkinese (North Vietnamese) labourers in the nickel mines.
Japanese, Javanese and Tonkinese migrants among the early nickel mine workers and settlers as portrayed in Nouméa’s City Museum. Image: David Robie/PMC
Of the 174,154 registered referendum voters, 80,120 were Kanak and 94,034 on the common civil role were also entitled to voted. In the end, a total of 141,099 people cast a vote.
Forty percent of the New Caledonian population are Melanesian Kanaks, 29 percent European, and 9 percent are Polynesians from Wallis and Futuna Islands. The rest are a mixture of Asian and Pacific communities.
Voter restrictions The referendum voters were restricted under the Noumea accord to those eligible under these criteria:
Registered on the special referendum role (or fulfilled its requirements without being registered);
Born in New Caledonia and registered on the provincial electoral roles.
Lived in New Caledonia for a continuous 20 years;
Born before 1 January 1989 and lived in New Caledonia from 1988 to 1998;
Born after 1 January 1989 with a parent on the special electoral role; and
Born in New Caledonia with three years’ continuous residence (before 31 August 2018).
Pro-independence Radio Djiido’s editor-in-chief Romain Hneum takes the pulse of the voting mood at Noumea’s Hotel de Ville. Image: David Robie/PMC
The encouraging mobilisation of youth voters, a significant change since the 2014 provincial elections, and the emergence of a growing cadre of young multi-ethnic voters who are more open to a shared future than some of their conservative parents augurs well for the indépendantistes.
“This referendum was a victory for the youth. The loyalists’ predictions were thwarted, said FLNKS president Roch Wamytan. “This vote was a big leap forward. We will continue on our pathway, we will prepare the people in New Caledonia for independence.
“The struggle isn’t over until we are decolonised. One winner in the vote was fear. Over the past six months, we have tried to allay fears about retirement provisions, security and education. We clearly didn’t do enough. We will work harder on this for the next ballot.”
FLNKS official Alosio Sako said: “We’re a short step from victory, and there are still two more ballots to come.”
Independence inevitable Some who voted against independence are resigned to the belief that one day New Caledonia will become independent.
“Silver fern” voters … Spanish-French father and son Arnaud and Manuel Fuentes are opposed to independence but are definitely fans of the All Blacks. Image: David Robie/PMC
Talking to a traveller, Sammy, a Lebanese-born New Caledonian with a French passport, and his Caldoche (settler) wife, who were on my flight back to Auckland and heading to Hanmer Springs for a holiday in “très jolie” New Zealand, gave me some interesting insights.
Ironically, Sammy migrated to New Caledonia after “les évènements” in the 1980s which led to the Matignon Accord in 1988 – to escape the civil war in Lebanon.
“Independence is inevitable,” he says. “I only wish they would get on with it and not have votes, delaying things. Build for the future instead of yet another vote.
“In spite of the vote against independence, it is the way it is going. One day New Caledonia will be independent so it is best to restart our future now. We have a chance to build something really new.”
“The indépendantistes are very determined.”
He seemed to be reflecting the view of Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who flew to Nouméa from Vietnam for a day to meet political and civic leaders, and was whisked up to the Northern province stronghold “capital”Koné.
Philippe declared that a meeting would be held with the accord “signatories” next month and he hinted at some key policy changes to deal with social conditions and “balancing” the economic cleavage in this nickel rich and tourism booming territory.
Spread in Geo What made Sammy choose New Caledonia? It was so far away from Lebanon – “it was just like Syria is today” – and he had read an article about New Caledonia in the French magazine Geo.
In fact, Geo has just published a cover story last month about New Caledonia headed “New Caledonia: So near, so far”, a 43-page spread dedicated to the beauty, culture, environment and flora and fauna of this “marvellous” archipelago. It would entice anyone.
The magazine quotes linguist and poet Emmanuel Tjibaou, one of six sons of the Kanak leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou assassinated in 1989 (see Part1), who has been director of the stunning Tjibaou Centre, a cultural memorial to his father, since 2012.
“Being ’Kanak’, or a ‘man’, isn’t a question of skin colour,” he says. “The centre introduces Melanesian culture to Western eyes that are not accustomed to it. Kanak traditions are oral, like elsewhere in Oceania. We live our culture – we discover it through singing, or dancing; we speak, or we weep.”
Independent Caledonia TV … making waves and telling the stories of all ethnicities. Image: Screen shots from NCTV
Another example of emerging “new wave” institutions is a small upstart digital television channel based at Koné. Funded largely by the Kanak-governed Northern province, it is a breath of fresh air compared with the dominant Premiere television (part state-run networks with six channels that look to Paris) and Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, which has been very hostile to independence in the past, but is more subdued these days.
Caledonia TV making mark Caledonia TV is already making its mark as an independent channel that is “telling our own stories” about Kanak culture, music and traditions and exploring all ethnicities in New Caledonia.
It played an important role in the referendum by setting up TV studios in the University of New Caledonia and providing balanced coverage and ready access for grassroots people to an engage in a dialogue about their future.
Caledonia TV reporter Duke Menango … telling stories with a difference. Image: David Robie/PMC
I caught up with one of the journalists involved in referendum coverage in the campus studios, Duke Menango, who did some of his early training as a journalist at Aoraki Polytechnic journalism school in Dunedin on a New Zealand aid scholarship.
“Caledonia TV started off as a web-based channel in 2012 and then became a fully fledged TV station the following year,” he said.
“It was important to give people a choice. Previously television was dominated by the state media monopoly with only one direction and one point of view. I don’t think we were being well represented as Kanaks and as Kanak reporters.
“With us, we are going out to the people – the grassroots, and we are giving them a voice. A voice for the different tribes. And it isn’t just the tribes, we are telling the stories of all ethnicities.
“We’re giving everybody a voice.”
Caledonia TV … culture and storytelling from a Pacific perspective. Video: PMC
Stiff challenge But Caledonia faces a stiff challenge from the “mainstream” media, which is largely not sympathetic to independence.
On the weekend of the referendum, Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes devoted a full page for an editorial denouncing independence.
“France or the unknown?” warned editor-in-chief Olivier Poisson, who derided the FLNKS, claiming that it was presenting an unclear, even “confusing” platform, with contradictory objectives.
“In contrast, it’s a fact that we know New Caledonia is already independent. For sure, it isn’t a question of full sovereignty, but whether the country already decides its economic orientation, imposes its own taxes, leads education, runs health, and is able to enter into international accords and partnerships.”
Finally, his message was: “It’s too risky to take on powers that are too great for so little to gain.”
His message irked many indépendantistes, and drew criticism that the newspaper was illegally breaching the political blackout prior to the referendum
“What kind of bullshit is that again?” asked Magalie Tingal Lémé, a former news editor of the pro-independence Radio Djiido. “The editor-in-chief is not supposed to make any comments since the official campaign is over since last night. Some journalists should start being real journalists in this country.”
RNZ’s Insight visits Papua New Guinea, which is due to host an APEC Leaders Summit next month. Video: RNZ Pacific
Papua New Guinea is about to host some of the world’s most powerful leaders at the APEC summit. But as PNG’s moment in the spotlight approaches, RNZ Pacific journalist Johnny Blades asks in a special Insight report how the poorest of APEC’s members is looking after its citizens at a time of social turmoil in the country.
Driving through the countryside on our way to Port Moresby, the surrounding hills were so parched it seemed that only the hardiest of trees could ever grow here.
But as my Papua New Guinean friend Junior said from behind the wheel of the Land Cruiser, the city was growing so fast it would probably soon spread well beyond the trees anyway.
Half an hour out of PNG’s capital we stopped to get a drink at a roadside stall, where the desolation of not only the landscape but the local people came into sharp focus.
A middle aged man approached our Land Cruiser and asked whether we could give him, his wife, and their two small children a lift into PNG’s capital.
His brow was pursed in troubled lines, the gauntness of his wife was striking. They climbed in, out of the searing dry heat of the Central Province seaboard, and the man introduced himself as Ken Auda.
He explained that he and family were heading from their village to Port Moresby General Hospital.
Despite chronic drug shortages at the hospital, they were desperate to get hold of painkillers for his wife who had cervical cancer, a leading killer of PNG women.
Struggling for a cure “According to doctors’ examination, they found that ‘your wife will not live (for much longer)’,” Auda explained.
“It gives me financial problems, but I know that I’m struggling my best for my wife to be cured.”
His wife next to him stared out the Land Cruiser’s front window, neither engaging in the conversation nor meeting eye. Their two kids were pre-schoolers. It was hard to tell the age of Auda and his wife. They looked around 60 but they could have been 40 – Papua New Guineans do not generally enjoy longevity.
Cervical cancer is just one of numerous health crises in PNG. Amid chronic shortages of medicines and complacencies around vaccination programmes, meant diseases like polio, malaria and TB have re-emerged, HIV AIDS is resurgent.
Shortages of basic drugs and supplies, echo shortages of health workers, rather like the situation in schools, where there are often not enough teachers for overcrowded classrooms, where up to 70 students can be taught at once, or funding shortfalls force closure.
Grassroots communities around this country of eight million people are resilient, but there’s no escaping the lapsing state of basic services around the country.
Yet according to the current government, led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, a unique opportunity for prosperity looms on PNG’s near horizon.
Biggest event For the past four years, it has increasingly been preoccupied with preparing to host a meeting of leaders from major world powers, the biggest event to take place in this country.
APEC Haus … a grand new national identity building shaped as a traditional sea vessel. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZ Pacific
Now, just a couple weeks out from the APEC Leaders Summit, big road and venue constructions are nearing completion and APEC Haus, a grand new national identity building shaped as a traditional sea vessel, has been unveiled on Port Moresby’s waterfront.
“In school I found out that APEC stands for Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation,” Auda said, “but actually… what is APEC?”
APEC, according to PNG’s Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Charles Abel, was “part of selling the country”.
“We need investment, we need partnerships, we need capital to develop our country. So APEC is going to present a wonderful marketing opportunity,” he explained.
“Because there’s so many opportunities with the natural wealth that we have and the beautiful people that we have and the wonderful culture that we have. This Asia Pacific region is going to be the major growth driver in the coming years. PNG is well placed here.”
Here at the junction of Asia and the Pacific, 2018 is turning out to be a landmark year, but perhaps for reasons other than what the government projected
Tribal violence Tribal violence surged again in the Highlands, adding to the death toll from lingering fighting between supporters of rival candidates in last year’s elections. It’s worsened the suffering of a region reeling from February’s magnitude 7.5 earthquake disaster which caused almost 200 deaths and widespread devastation of homes and buildings.
As if that wasn’t enough, a state of emergency was declared in Southern Highlands after major political unrest erupted again in June. The sight of one of the national carrier’s planes destroyed at Mendi airport during the unrest was shocking for Papua New Guineans. Then last month they saw images of a second Air Niugini plane written off, sinking in the sea off an airstrip in Micronesia
Symbolism means a lot in APEC year, and the government’s many critics see signs the country is on the verge of social breakdown.
But the government has trucked on relentlessly with its infrastructure drive for APEC, depending heavily on assistance from the likes of China, with Australia, New Zealand and others chipping in significantly to help PNG pull off the summit.
While Port Moresby may have newly sealed roads in time for the summit, the highway leading into the capital was frequently pot-holed, and even a skilled driver like Junior was having troubled navigating them.
Gripping at the seat, Auda said, in Port Moresby this year, it has been impossible to escape the APEC hoo-ha. But prepared to give it a chance, he suggested APEC could be a potential band-aid for his country.
“APEC should be supplying us some kind of services like education, road infrastructure and health,” he explained.
Hanuabada village in stilts and Port Moresby’s city skyline … ordinary people are hoping for infrastructure benefits from APEC 2018. Image: Johnny Blades/RNZPacific
Election plan Auda revealed that he intended to stand for a seat in the next local level government election.
“If I win a seat, then I will start putting my submission to (the government), a strategy plan for pushing through government services.”
As Auda outlined his practical plans for the future, his wife, who would probably not live to see him don his campaign rosette, continued to stare out the window.
Only when her little kids started arguing over a fidget spinner did she snap out of it, tending to them affectionately, before taking up a thousand-yard stare again
Promises of “development” have long been a feature of the country’s politics, but rarely come to fruition. Some big resource projects have got off the ground, but the benefit flows have been uneven.
It’s hard for people to swallow the government’s claims that hosting APEC, all its hundreds of meetings this year and the big upcoming summit, will benefit PNG’s general population.
“People say that because of this APEC, all the funds are being misused on APEC,” said Ken, shaking his head