Human rights watchdog calls for police probe into ‘unclear’ Papua killings

Christmas spirit at a Human Rights Day rally in the Papuan capital of Jayapura this week. Image: Voice Westpapua

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Indonesian police should investigate a Papuan armed group’s killing of at least 17 people, including a soldier, at a construction area in Nduga in Papua’s densely forested Central Highlands earlier this month, Human Rights Watch said today.

The circumstances of the killings on December 2 remained unclear, said the watchdog.

Papuan militants should cease unlawful killings, and the Indonesian government should ensure that its security forces act in accordance with international standards and not commit abuses in response to the attack, said the watchdog.

READ MORE: Indonesia’s Papua media blacklist

“A Papua militant group’s attack on a worksite raises grave concerns that require a full investigation,” said Elaine Pearson of Human Rights Watch.

“Militants and responding security forces should not inflict harm on ordinary Papuans.”


The West Papua National Liberation Army (Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat), the military wing of the Free Merdeka Movement (Organisasi Papua Merdeka), claimed responsibility for the killings, saying those killed were military personnel from the Indonesian Army Corps of Engineers.

An army colonel said that three of the survivors of the attack were military personnel working as engineers.

Indonesian police prepare to face peaceful Papuan protesters in the capital of Jayapura this week. Image: Voice Westpapua

‘Military engineers’
Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the Papuan armed group, told the media that the attacks were organised by the militant’s group’s third Ndugama Command.

He said they had monitored the workers for three months and concluded that they were engineering corps personnel wearing civilian clothes.

However, Indonesia’s public works minister, Basuki Hadimuljono, said that those killed were workers from state-owned companies PT Istaka Karya and PT Brantas Abipraya, sent from Sulawesi to work on the 4300 km Trans-Papua highway.

He said that only the soldiers protecting the workers were armed, including the one killed in the attack.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in reaction to the attacks he had “ordered the armed forces commander and the police chief to pursue and capture all the perpetrators of such rude and violent acts”.

Priests, seminarians and students take part in a peaceful Human Rights Day march in the capital Jayapura this week. Image: Voice Westpapua

In West Papua, December 1 is widely commemorated as the day West Papua declared nationhood. In 1961, under Dutch rule, an elected council consisting mostly of indigenous Papuans commissioned the creation of a national anthem and flag.

On December 1, 1961, the West Papuan Morning Star flag was flown beside the Dutch tricolor for the first time.

Indonesia took control over Papua with United Nations recognition in 1969.

500 plus arrested
Over the last five decades, some Papuans have resisted Indonesian rule. On December 1, 2018, more than 500 students were arrested in more than 10 Indonesian cities after peacefully raising the Morning Star flag and demanding a referendum on independence.

Indonesia’s National Police initially announced that the killings in Nduga were in retribution for a worker taking photographs of Papuan militants organising a flag-raising ceremony near a road and bridge construction.

More than 100 military and police officers were evacuating the dead and injured, and engaged in a military operation against the militants.

Human Rights Watch has long documented human rights abuses in Papua’s Central Highlands, where the military and police have frequently engaged in deadly confrontation with armed groups.

Indonesian security forces have often committed abuses against the Papuan population, including arbitrary detention and torture. A lack of internal accountability within the security forces and a poorly functioning justice system mean that impunity for rights violators is the norm in Papua.

“The Indonesian security forces should exercise care when operating in Nduga, directing all security personnel to treat Papuans in accordance with international standards,” said the watchdog.

“They should transparently investigate and hold accountable anyone implicated in a criminal offence. Both the military and the police should allow journalists to operate independently in the area.”

A cartoonist’s depiction of Indonesian government restrictions on media freedom and rights monitoring in Papua. Cartoon: © 2015 Toni Malakian/Human Rights Watch

Remote access
Nduga is an extremely remote area where no journalists have had access since the attacks.

A decades-long official restriction on foreign media access to Papua and controls on Indonesian journalists there have fostered that lack of justice for serious abuses by Indonesian security forces and fueled resentment among Papuans.

“The situation in Nduga is muddled in large part because no journalists can independently go into the area to interview witnesses and verify what happened,” Pearson said.

“Having independent monitors on the ground will help deter abuses by both the militants and security forces, which would benefit all Papuans.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Telling the real stories behind ‘plastic’ Pacific islanders and stereotypes

A look at the lives of Pacific islanders who choose to ignore or struggle to embrace their heritage. Video: Plastic Polynesia trailer

By Leilani Sitagata

Two final-year communication studies students at Auckland University of Technology decided for their end-of-year project to film a mini documentary about what it means to be a “plastic” islander.

The television majors Elijah Fa’afiu and Jamey Bailey brought it all to life to create Plastic Polynesia.

The nickname “plastic” refers to a person who is out of touch with their culture and perhaps cannot understand or speak their language.

READ MORE Dear Heather, we’re really talented, empowered – and we’re not leeches!

The film looks at the lives of Pacific Islanders who choose to ignore or struggle to embrace their heritage and follows a student learning Samoan for the first time.


Fa’afiu says he was passionate to pursue this concept because he can relate to being “plastic”.

AUT filmmakers Jamey Bailey (producer) and Elijah Fa’afiu (director). Image: Leilani Sitagata/PMC

Plastic identity
“I identify with the term ‘plastic’ and it turns out that I’m not the only one who does,” he says.

“I wanted to explain this word and how it differentiates Pacific Islanders from each other.”

He says that over the years he has not been in touch with his Samoan and Māori heritage, and this is the case for a lot of Kiwis.

‘Disconnected from roots’
“I feel I’ve been disconnected from my roots, that wasn’t intentional – it was just how things ended up.”

Alongside Fa’afiu was producer Bailey, who was in a similar boat to him when it comes to being connected to his culture.

“I label myself as ‘plastic’ because it’s an easy scapegoat.

“I don’t speak the language, I don’t do church, I don’t do all the things I’m supposed to do.”

He says that this film was an opportunity to challenge and explore what exactly “we are meant to do”.

Part of the documentary follows university student Rashad Stanley as he undertakes the journey to learning the Samoan language.

Not knowing
This was important to Fa’afiu as he says he can relate to the experience of not knowing such a big part of his culture.

“Being born in New Zealand, my parents did take me to church and speak Samoan to me, but I never really absorbed the language.”

Plastic Polynesia also touches on the idea of how Pacific Islanders are stereotyped.

Bailey says he strongly believes this generation is the one that’s working hard to break the misconceptions surrounding all types of people.

“Growing up, the common stereotypes are that we’re only at school for the sports and music, and mainstream media has been a big part of the way Pacific Islanders are perceived.

“With Plastic Polynesia, we’re trying to break those stereotypes and show that there are Polynesians out there who are different.”

The film also includes an interview with Hibiscus and Ruthless’ Nafanuatele Lafitaga Mafaufau Peter as well as many students.

Bailey says the message is key and he hopes the audience will catch on to the importance behind the story they share.

“In terms of face value, a lot of people just see brown skin and we want to tell that stories don’t get heard.

“Our goal by the end of this is to bring awareness that we can’t get grouping people, we’re all individual.”

Leilani Sitagata is a reporter on the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project.

  • Plastic Polynesia will be screened during the AUT Shorts film festival being held at The Vic in Devonport on November 22
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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

3 killed in West Papua clashes as military pursue elusive rebel leader

Indonesian military and West Papuan pro-independence militants in fresh clashes … new intensity in the Highlands fighting. Image: Victor Yeimo FB page

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

At least three people have been killed in a week of shooting clashes between the Indonesian military and police and  militants from the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB), say reports from the Jakarta-ruled Pacific territory.

The Victor Yeimo pro-independence social media page says the military are trying to capture Purom Wenda, a TPN-PB commander.

Victor Yeimo is chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB).

News agency sources said two Papuan independence fighters and a third person had been killed during the clashes in the remote interior highlands of West Papua.

Wenda has eluded Indonesian security forces for 15 years.

Villagers have fled into the jungle because of the gunbattles, which have been intense since November 2.


Wenda said in a statement two of his fighters had been killed in a shootout with police and soldiers in the rugged Lanny Jaya district after his group shot dead a motorbike taxi driver they believed was spying for Indonesian forces.

“Indonesia said that they have given us special autonomy, infrastructure, and other excuses. We do not want all that. We only want freedom.”

Raising awareness
Meanwhile, RNZ Pacific reports that a group of around 200 people called the West Papua Interest Association had crossed over the border into PNG’s Western Province last week.

It wrote to local police notifying of plans to raise awareness about rights issues.

In response PNG’s police border commander, Samson Kua, advised them not to proceed with their plans.

He said he did not want people disturbing the peace around the time PNG is hosting next week’s APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders summit in Port Moresby.

“They will have to wait until APEC is over, and they can do their awareness on whatever they want to do. So actually they’re very peaceful,” Kua said.

“They’re not getting involved with any awareness at the moment, they’re very peaceful. They’re just laying low and staying in their own camps.”

The West Papuans are within their rights to be in PNG, as they hold Traditional Border Crossing cards which allow them to travel over the border into PNG.

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

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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: Let’s be honest! Nearly every PNG public health facility is facing medicine shortages

Merut Kilamu being given the last bottles of Amoxycillin suspension for her baby. Image: Scott Waide/My Land, My Country blog

COMMENTARY: By Scott Waide

In Lae City, Papua New Guinea’s second-largest city, there are seven urban clinics, each serving between 100 and 150 patients a day.  They get their medical supplies form the Government Area Medical Store (AMS) in Lae.

The AMS  in Lae also supplies the Highlands and the rest of Momase.

For the last six years, staff at the clinics have  been battling  medicine shortages.  You can see,  first hand,  how the medicine shortage affects people in Lae.

READ MORE: PNG faces ‘catastrophe’ if no crisis action taken

At Buimo Clinic on Friday,  a mother and baby came in  for treatment.  She  was  told that the last bottles of Amoxicillin suspensions would be given for her child  and that she  would have to go to a pharmacy to complete the treatment course.

The woman’s name is Merut Kilamu.  She lives with her family at Bundi Camp in Lae.  She is not just a statistic.  She is a real person who is bearing the brunt of the ongoing medicine shortages.


“Sometimes, we are able to buy the medicine,” she says. “Other times,  when we don’t have the money, we can’t buy what we need.”

Patients go from the clinics to  Angau Hospital in the hope that they will get  the medicines  they need. But Angau can’t handle the numbers.  Hospital staff have even  posted on Facebook saying they too need the basic supplies of antibiotics, antimalarial drugs and consumables like gauze, gloves and syringes.

Hospitals and clinics have become little more than prescription factories channeling their patients to pharmacies who charge the patients upwards of K40 (about NZ$18) for medicines. Pharmacies are profiting from the desperation and ill health of the Papua New Guineans.

Prices increased
In 2017, when clinics ran out of antimalarial drugs, pharmacies increased the prices.

In some instances, officers in charge of clinics felt the need to negotiate with pharmacies to keep their prices within an affordable range.  It is difficult for staff in smaller clinics to send away patients knowing they can’t afford  to pay for medicines.

“Sometimes, we can’t send them away. Staff have to fork out the money to help them pay,” says Miriam Key, nurse manager at Buimo  clinic.

This is a nationwide medicine shortage!

As much as  the politicians dislike it, social media gives a pretty accurate dashboard view of the health system from the end user.  Charles Lee posted on Facebook about how the medicine shortage was affecting his family in Mt Hagen.

“Relatives in Hagen have flown to POM to seek medical treatment because of a shortage of drugs in Hagen.”

His post drew more than 20 comments.

Gloria Willie  said from Mt Hagen:

“They just discharged a relative from ICU and we are taking her to Kundjip (Jiwaka Province)  today and if they are not allowed to receive  medical attention then, we are also planning to bring her to port Moresby. It is really frustrating.  But because of our loved ones, we are trying any possible way to have them treated.”

‘Stay at home’
Melissa Pela responded saying:

“Same here in Kavieng. Patients told to buy Panadol and keep at home. If you feel something like fever/running nose etc.. just take it. They say treat it before it becomes serious because there is simply no medicine.”

The officer in charge of Barevaturu clinic in Oro Province, Nigel Tahima,  said by phone,  the  they are seeing an increase in the number of patients  because other clinics just don’t have  medicine.

The reports are flooding in from all over the country. There are too many to mention in one blog post.

If urban clinics are a gauge to measure the flow of medicines from the AMS to the patient, you can imagine what rural clinics are going through.

They are too far from the AMSs and too far to adequately monitor. The only way to get an understanding of their problems is when staff make contact or when you go there.

Scott Waide’s blog columns are frequently published by Asia Pacific Report with permission. He is also EMTV deputy news editor based in Lae.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media