Couple remanded in big Vanuatu human trafficking, slavery case

By Richard M. Nanua and Royson Willie in Port Vila

Vanuatu’s Magistrates Court has remanded a Bangladeshi couple over what is alleged to be the biggest human trafficking and slavery case in Vanuatu and the region.

Sekdah Somon and Buxoo Nabilah Bibi – the owners of the “Mr Price” home and furniture store in Vanuatu – were arrested and charged with 12 counts of human trafficking.

Somon and Bibi are also facing 12 counts each of slavery, contrary to section 102 (a) and 11 additional counts of money laundering against section 11 (3) (a) of the Penal Code.
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The Vanuatu Daily Post was reliably informed that between September 21, 2018 and November 2018 Somon and Bibi allegedly brought in 12 people from Bangladesh illegally to find jobs in Vanuatu.

Reliable sources confirmed that complainants have filed complaints within the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) and the proceedings commenced after the arrest of the accused in Port Vila.

They said 92 people had been allegedly illegally brought to Vanuatu by the couple and their cases are yet to be dealt with and brought before the court.

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The Daily Post was also informed the couple were from Bangladesh but the husband had a Zimbabwe passport while his wife was using a Mauritius passport.

Other passports
The couple were denied bail in the Magistrates Court on Wednesday amid concerns the couple may have other passports in their possession that made them a possible flight risk as they are originally from one country but evidence indicated they are using passports from different countries.

The Magistrates Court said that any bail should be obtained at the higher court after considering the seriousness of the offending is of public importance.

The couple were rejected bail because they might interfere with the witnesses.

The victims were placed in various locations in Port Vila.

Sources confirmed while the case was still under investigation there might also be some breaches in Vanuatu immigration laws, labour laws and Vanuatu Financial Service Commission (VFSC) laws.

They said it was likely that more people would be charged depending on the findings of the investigation.

The Daily Post was told the couple allegedly arranged and facilitated their entry in Vanuatu using deception, denial of their freedom of movement, coercion or threat of violence exploited and placed them in servitude.

Bangladeshi workers
They said after the 12 Bangladeshi workers came to Vanuatu, the couple allegedly subjected them to slavery by engaging them in work under oppressive terms and conditions, under menace of penalty and without freedom to leave at any time.

There were allegations these workers were promised good money for jobs in Vanuatu but they have to pay them some money in return for the offer.

The sources said that some of them allegedly paid $US2000 to the couple, some paid $US3900, $US4000, $US5000, $US6000 and $US8000.

They said the couple were alleged to have directly and indirectly made arrangements that involved property that they knew or ought to have known to be proceeds of crime when they procured those amounts from the victims.

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Andrew Napuat, has confirmed the arrest of the investor behind “Mr Price” in relation to alleged money laundering and human trafficking.

While the couple are known as owners of Mr Price, sources said the investigation was still underway to check whether or not the company had a link with the global Mr Price.

This is not the first time that Mr Price Asian Junction has been in the spotlight in Vanuatu as in June this year 21 work permits were revoked for workers brought in from overseas by the company.

Buzz 96FM interview
“We didn’t want to come out in the media to talk about the case because of the sensitivity of it,” Minister Napuat told Buzz 96FM’s Kizzy Kalsakau.

“But since people are already talking about, I felt that it’s good that we come out and provide initial clarifications.”

After the revocation of work permits, the investors appealed to the minister and the revocations were reversed but with conditions to employ ni-Vanuatu and for imported workers to do work they came to do.

The minister said the investigation would take a while.

He said appropriate authorities such as the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA) and Customs Department and Ministry of Finance that are responsible for business licenses will have to be consulted.

Napuat said those brought to work under Mr Price would be treated as witnesses in the case against the investor behind Mr Price.

He denied rumours that people were brought in from overseas in containers.

False information
Minister Napuat is appealing for members of the public not to spread false information about the issue.

Meanwhile, Acting CEO of Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority Kalpen Silas said due diligence was carried out before Mr Price’s application was forwarded to the VIPA board for approval.

However, Silas said one of the requirements under the VIPA Act was that any investor who breaks any Vanuatu law through provision of false information would be penalised.

He said VIPA was aware of investigations currently being carried out on Mr Price.

The case is expected to resume within two weeks.

Human trafficking has been defined as the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation.

The maximum penalty for this in Vanuatu as set out in section 102 (b) of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135] is 20 years behind bars.

This article is republished from the Vanuatu Daily Post with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

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

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

OBITUARY: By Ben Bohane

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

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

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

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

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Vanuatu student journalist launches first poetry collection and aims higher

Telstar Jimmy with her poetry book Journey of Truth at USP’s Laucala campus in Suva … now keen to help others publish. Image: Harrison Selmen/Vanuatu Daily Post

By Harrison Selmen in Suva, Fiji

Vanuatu student journalist Telstar Jimmy launched her first poetry book in Fiji last week and vows bigger plans ahead to to help boost publishing in her country.

Although it took her several years to achieve her passion, Jimmy was proud that everyone around her is enjoying the moment.

“I feel relieved that I was finally able to publish, and overjoyed that I can now be able to share my poems with others – not just in Vanuatu but in the Pacific, because friends from Solomon Islands, Fiji and Nauru have already started buying the book and giving me a lot of positive feedback on it,” she says.

Jimmy’s plan now is to find other poets in Vanuatu and promote their work in anthology collection that can give them recognition.

“I know many have the potential but they lacked the opportunity to shine and share their stories,” she says.

While on the verge of completing her Bachelor degree at the University of the South Pacific majoring in journalism and language and literature at the end of this year, the launch of her book marks a double highlight in her academic journey.

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The title of the book is Journey of Truth with four chapters and 76 pages.

Oceanic views
The poems cover global issues, oceanic views of the Pacific, family values and love stories.

She says the title of the book reflects the many stories in the book depicting real life events and journeys of life.

When asked who inspired her develop her poetry and why she decided to write a book, Jimmy answers, “Grace Molisa [an acclaimed ni-Vanuatu politician, poet and campaigner for women’s equality in politics] was my big inspiration … but then she passed away so soon”.

She said one of the main reasons to publish the book is to create a resource for Vanuatu generations with the Oceania and Pacific context.

As a mother of three children and mentor for many young Vanuatu students at Laucala during her three years of study, Telstar Jimmy describes the poems as a voice for all the silenced women – especially in a male-dominated country like Vanuatu.

Many student journalists at USP have posted messages on social media to congratulate the Vanuatu journalist for her poetic talents.

“Writing was fun and easy but publishing was quiet hard,” she says, thanking her family for funding her publication in Fiji.

Never give up
Jimmy’s message to her peers is never give up in life, even if it takes many years to achieve their dream.

“Don’t neglect the potential that you have.”

She thanked her families, especially her parents, siblings, children and husband for their support.

“Not forgetting Tony Alvero and Jerome Robert for the artistic designs, my English teachers at Malapoa and literature lecturers at USP, colleagues and friends and most importantly the almighty God for the wisdom and blessings,” she says.

  • Telstar Jimmy featured in a Pacific Media Centre climate change video last year by AUT student journalists Julie Cleaver and Kendall Hutt. Asia Pacific Report has a content sharing arrangement with Vanuatu Daily Post.

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Vanuatu Daily Post … latest news hot off the free press

“How your newspaper gets to you” … Vanuatu Daily Press press rolling with the day’s news. Video: VDP

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

The Vanuatu Daily Post, only daily newspaper in Vanuatu, and a leading champion of a free press in the South Pacific, has posted a video of its printing press in action in Port Vila.

It is a rare insight into small press publishing in the region. The video of the Seattle-manufactured Web Leader has been posted on the newspaper’s social media to inform readers.

Launched in 1993 as The Trading Post, the newspaper quickly established itself as a pioneer of freedom of press in Vanuatu and has broken practically every major news story first since its launch by English-born publisher Marc Neil-Jones.

The publisher faced enormous difficulties in the early years and was subject to deportation, jailing and assaults.

However, those days have passed on, the newspaper reports on its website and has had local Ni-Vanuatu editors since 2003.

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Currently the editor is award-winning Jane Joshua, backed up by the group media director Dan McGarry.

“As Vanuatu’s largest privately owned media company, employing nearly 50 people, Trading Post Ltd has successfully moved in publishing the official tourism newspaper of the Vanuatu Tourism office called What To Do In Vanuatu and has launched a popular radio station called 96 BUZZ FM,” the paper says.

Vanuatu Daily Post is a successful and profitable newspaper and is consistently been the first choice for all advertising in Vanuatu.”

The striking Vanuatu Daily Post logo.

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Japanese development aid funding splits Pacific unity on key WHO post

Dr Colin Tukuitonga, a New Zealander of Niuean descent and proposed by New Zealand, was given resounding support for his nomination from Pacific countries. Image: AUT

The Western Pacific post for the World Health Organisation is a vitally important role for the region. However, reports Sri Krishnamurthi for Asia Pacific Journalism, the earlier unity over a strong Pacific candidate has slipped.

All the headlines at the recent Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru were political so the upcoming nomination for the election next month for the key role of World Health Organisation regional director for the Western Pacific went largely unnoticed.

The Pacific’s endorsement of Colin Tukuitonga, a New Zealander of Niuean descent and proposed by New Zealand, was resounding and support for his nomination from all countries had seemed to be a fait accompli.

He along with three others – Dr Narimah Awin, proposed by Malaysia; Dr Takeshi Kasai, proposed by Japan; Dr Susan Mercado, proposed by the Philippines – were then in the running for the nomination which will take place during the 69th session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, Philippines, on October 8-13.

READ MORE: Building healthy communities on the Pacific

APJS NEWSFILE

“Yes, all health ministers agreed and endorsed me at the WHO Regional Committee Meeting held in Brisbane in October 2017.

“They agreed to have one candidate and five ministers approached me to stand,” Tukuitonga told Asia-Pacific Report.

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At the forum in Nauru he learned that the endorsement from the Pacific Island states was not as united as first thought.

“Since then, we are aware that Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have expressed public support for the Japanese candidate [Dr Kasai],” he says.

Most of Pacific supportive
“We understand that this is in exchange for Japan paying for developments in country. We also understand that Vanuatu has made the same decision.”

“We understand that all other Pacific nations remain supportive, including New Zealand and Australia as well as other nations.”

The Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community says it is a positive for the role being at the PIF, it provided an opportunity to network with the leaders.

“All regional agencies – the council for regional organisations in the Pacific (CROP) decisions and priorities are influenced by forum leaders decisions. It is also a good opportunity to meet Pacific leaders and others.

“PIF presents a lot of opportunities to meet bilaterally with donors and those that are present. It also a critical forum”.

He does have a view on the 120 children in the detention camps on Nauru and their mental state but does not want to air it publicly.

But he is happy to voice his concerns about the health of Pacific people.

Diabetes, heart disease major problem
“Non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes and heart disease are the major cause of death and disease,” says the former chief executive of NZ’s Ministry for Pacific Island Affairs.

“NCDs are fuelled by poor diets, low levels of physical activity, high rates of smoking and high prevalence of obesity.

“In some Pacific nations, child health diseases remain high due to lack of clean water and sanitation. All Pacific health systems are fragile and underfunded leading to high preventable deaths and disabilities.

“Continuing high fertility rates putting pressure on government services in all Pacific countries. PNG also has high rates of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria,” says Dr Tukuitonga.

Making matters worse for the people of the Pacific is the very realistic issue of climate change.

“A clear and present danger for all Island nations, threatening lives and livelihoods, we have five of the 15 countries most vulnerable to disasters are in Pacific,’’ he says.

“Climate change causes less dramatic impacts such as ocean acidification, causing coral bleaching and threatening the food chain and it provides 80 percent of the protein source for Pacific communities which come from fish and seafood.

Big deal
“Threats on food security is a big deal for the Pacific. Significant negative health impacts such as spread of mosquito-borne dengue fever and other diseases.

“Climate change aggravates existing problems, so preparedness is key for example, outbreaks post disaster is the result of existing organisms, not new organisms.”

He has worked for WHO before and finds it “challenging” but not a mission impossible.

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

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Vanuatu steps up UN bid for West Papua rights, new referendum

West Papua has been sidestepped by both the the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum. But, reports James Halpin of Asia Pacific Journalism, Vanuatu is undeterred as leading champion for the West Papuan cause and is pressing for United Nations support.

After the failure of the Pacific Islands Forum to move on the issue of West Papuan self-determination earlier this month, Vanuatu is now taking the issue to the United Nations next week

Vanuatu raised the plight of political prisoners charged with treason at a UN working group of arbitrary detention and involuntary disappearances, reports RNZ.

Ninety three West Papuans have been arrested this month for their involvement in peaceful protests.

READ MORE: Contrasting accounts of Indonesian genocide and betrayal in West Papua

APJS NEWSFILE

Simply peacefully raising the Morning Star flag representing an independent West Papua risks 15 years’ imprisonment.

Vanuatu has traditionally been the major supporter for West Papuan self-determination but has recently stepped up his diplomacy with the appointment of Lora Lini, daughter of the late founding prime minister Father Walter Lini, as special envoy for West Papua.

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Port Vila wants West Papua to be added to the UN decolonisation list. Netherlands New Guinea had previously been on the UN decolonisation list but was annexed by Indonesia in 1969 in controversial circumstances.

The UN decolonisation list, or officially the United Nations List of Non-Self-Governing Territories, engages member states in charge of those territories to move towards granting self-determination.

Tokelau on list
Currently, Tokelau, which is a dependency of New Zealand, is on the decolonisation list.

Support from the Melanesian Spearhead Group bloc is divided with the Papua New Guinean government declaring this week it would not support Vanuatu, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

The Pacific Islands Forum has failed to bring change for the issue of self-determination and West Papua.

“I can’t say there’s been a huge amount of success,” says Marie Leadbeater, spokesperson of West Papua Action Auckland and author of a recent book See No Evil: New Zealand’s Betrayal of the People of West Papua.

Vanuatu brought a draft resolution for the UN to the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, reports the Vanuatu Daily Post.

The draft was labelled the “Realisation of the right of Papuan peoples’ self-determination in the former colony of the Netherlands New Guinea (West New Guinea)”.

However, the West Papua issue was not supported by other Pacific nations and was left off the outcomes document of the Forum, reports Asia Pacific Report.

Limited goals
The Forum has been a place to push for limited goals, such as fact-finding when it comes to West Papua.

Leadbeater says New Zealand following Vanuatu’s lead could be a “game changer”, but it is not willing to challenge Indonesian sovereignty.

Similarly, on the recent issue of returning the Chagos archipelago to Mauritius, New Zealand did not support the case to be considered by the International Criminal Court.

Leadbeater is critical of the Ardern government not shifting policy towards West Papua self-determination, “realistically, so far they haven’t.”

At a meeting in Nauru as part of the Forum, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand recognised Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.

Peters added that New Zealand would follow PNG’s lead as its nearest neighbour, reports the Vanuatu Daily Post.

“I think as a Polynesian, or Melanesian or Pacific concept, the first person I’d be consulting on an issue like that is the nearest neighbour to the issue that might be a problem, namely PNG.”

Support from NZ MPs
However, Leadbeater did identify a large number of NZ government MPs who would support West Papuan self-determination, including all of the Greens and high profile Labour MP Louisa Wall.

Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley of the University of Auckland says that since West Papua’s integration into Indonesia in 1969, the cards have been stacked against them.

“You have to go back to 1963. The UN urged Indonesia to hold an act of free association. Indonesia allegedly manipulated the vote.”

Indonesia claimed that Papuans were not advanced enough to deal with democracy and instituted a meeting of tribal elders.

“They handpicked tribal leaders. This vote was contested by local folk who accused Indonesia of manipulation, bribes, and intimidation.”

After the flawed vote, Indonesia instituted a policy of transmigration into West Papua where Javanese were moved from Java to colonise less populated provinces around Indonesia, including West Papua. This policy was ended by current president Joko Widodo in 2015.

However, discrimination against the indigenous Melanesians had become endemic. For example, the courts were stacked with Javanese judges and Javanese got favourable preference.

Little appetite for criticism
Because of examples such as this, an independence movement sprang up in 1963 called the Free Papua Movement.

In the realm of international relations there was no appetite to criticise Indonesia in the 1960s.

Indonesia was sidelined during the cold war and US mining multinationals hadn’t started drilling in the province yet, says Professor Hoadley.

But, things haven’t changed in the past 50 years.

Dr Hoadley says liberal Western countries such as the Australia, New Zealand, United States, and the United Kingdom are status quo powers.

“If you redraw one boundary, then all boundaries are up for change. Better to leave things as they are.”

A consensus among Western nations is that Indonesia has “things under control” and their transgressions against human rights in West Papua are not bad enough to consider attention, claims Dr Hoadley.

Success story
After the end of the Suharto regime in 1999, Indonesia was seen as a success story; a Muslim country that has adopted political parties, elections, and freedom of the press.

“The US thinking is that they’re on a good track and we shouldn’t criticise them too much,” he says.

Ominously, nothing has come of the Rohingya genocide and there is no foreseeable future for West Papuan self-determination unless outside international influence or domestic upheaval forces Indonesia to start the process of decolonising.

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

West Papuan flag-raising at an undisclosed location. Image: Wenslaus OPM/FB

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Pacific Forum backs ‘constructive engagement’ over West Papua

Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu … support for West Papua at Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru encouraging. Image: PIFS

By Royson Willie in Port Vila

The Pacific Islands Forum has supported “constructive engagement” with Indonesia over “elections and human rights” at this week’s leaders summit in Nauru.

Just before the final communique was released by the Forum Secretariat, Vanuatu’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Ralph Regenvanu who was in Nauru, said in a telephone interview with Kizzy Kalsakau from 96 Buzz FM News that he hoped West Papua would be included.

Item 33 of the Forum Communique states:

“Leaders recognised the constructive engagement by Forum countries with Indonesia with respect to elections and human rights in West Papua (Papua) and to continue dialogue in an open and constructive manner.”

49th PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM C0MMUNIQUE

Regenvanu said Vanuatu would be putting forward a resolution before the UN General Assembly next year for West Papua to be relisted on the agenda of the UN Decolonisation Committee.

He said for this to happen, it would need the support of the majority of the General Assembly, which means 100 countries would have to vote in support of the resolution.

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“We are now putting up this resolution next year,” Regenvanu said.

“We have informed all Pacific Islands Forum member countries that we are doing this and we will be asking for their support when it comes to the UN General Assembly next year.

“Already, as minister of foreign affairs at the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Apia last month, I informed all my colleague foreign ministers that Vanuatu was going to do this and I asked for their support,” Regenvanu said.

‘Eight or nine’ countries in support
He said it was already clear that the resolution would not get support from Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea but around eight or nine other countries in the Pacific were in support.

Regenvanu said Prime Minister Charlot Salwai had told him before the leaders’ retreat at the Forum meeting that he would raise the issue of West Papua with the Forum leaders.

Other regional priorities cited in the communique are:

  • Leaders recalled their 2017 decision on a regional security declaration and endorsed the Regional Security Declaration to be known as the Boe Declaration.
  • Climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific people.
  • Leaders reiterated their commitment to ensuring the long-term sustainability and viability of the region’s fisheries resources.
  • Leaders acknowledged the urgency and importance of securing the region’s maritime boundaries as a key issue for the development and security of the region, and
  • Leaders expressed their grave concern with the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), noting that NCDs now represents the leading cause of premature deaths in the region.

Asia Pacific Report republishes selected Vanuatu Daily Post items with permission.

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Climate change tops action at Forum in spite of Canberra’s resistance

Nauru … host nation of the 49th Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit. Image: John Pulu/Tagata Pasifika

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Climate change, labour mobility and West Papua are some of the issues that Vanuatu played a key part in discussions during this week’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit meeting in Nauru.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ralph Regenvanu, who was part of Vanuatu’s delegation attending the just-ended Forum meeting, said the issue that was discussed more than anything else was climate change, reports the Vanuatu Daily Post.

He said there was a bit of tension as all Pacific Island Countries recognise that climate change is the single biggest threat to the survival of Pacific people but one member of the Forum does not recognise that it is a threat and is not taking any action on it.

READ MORE: Australia signs declaration on Pacific climate ‘threat’ – islands call on US to return to Paris deal

49th PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM COMMUNIQUE

That member is Australia.

The United States, a dialogue partner of the Forum, has similar views on climate change to Australia in terms of not sticking to the Paris Agreement.

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Regenvanu said Australia’s stand may be due largely to Australian domestic politics, the Daily Post reports.

He said all Pacific island countries in the Forum were moving in one direction on climate change – and Australia alone in the other direction.

Another issue Vanuatu was part of in Nauru were the agreements signed with Australia for the next stage of labour mobility to get semiskilled ni-Vanuatu to work in hospitality and aged care sectors as well as an agreement to allow Vanuatu to test certain medicines used in hospitals in Vanuatu in Australian laboratories.

On the issue of West Papua, Regenvanu said a resolution would be put before the UN General Assembly next year for West Papua – or what used to be called the Netherland New Guinea’s case – to be re-enlisted with the UN Decolonisation Committee.

He said he had informed his foreign affairs minister colleagues in Samoa last month that Vanuatu would be be tabling the resolution in the United Nations.

He called on Pacific Island countries to support the resolution.

Regenvanu said only Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia were not in support of the West Papua proposal.

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Plea for PM to be ‘game-changer’ in Pacific support for West Papua

A protest in support of West Papuan self-determination in Apia, Samoa. Image: PRN

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A New Zealand-based West Papua advocacy group has appealed to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other leaders meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next week to support Vanuatu’s United Nations initiative.

Vanuatu has pledged to take a resolution to the 2019 UN General Assembly endorsing West Papua’s right to self-determination and calling for West Papua to be re-inscribed on the list of nations overseen by the UN Decolonisation Committee (the Committee of 24).

Vanuatu has the strong backing of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

READ MORE: PMC director condemns targeting of journalists and silence on West Papua

A statement from West Papua Action Auckland group said today New Zealand had the opportunity to be a game-changer at this Forum meeting.

“New Zealand is influential at the Forum and its support for the issue to go to the UN is crucial,” said spokesperson Maire Leadbeater, author of the recent book See No Evil about NZ’s “betrayal” of West Papuan aspirations.

-Partners-

“The people of West Papua were cruelly denied their right to self-determination in the 1960s, setting the stage for decades of state sanctioned violence at the hands of the Indonesian military.

“The 1962 New York Agreement brokered by the United States delivered West Papua to Indonesian control without any consultation with West Papuan representatives.

‘Fraudulent exercise’
“The so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ held in 1969 was a fraudulent exercise carried out under extreme duress.

“This issue is extremely urgent. The people of West Papua are experiencing slow genocide due to ongoing human rights abuses and the harmful conditions of life experienced by so many Papuans.

“Authoritative human rights reports document the routine use of torture and killings as well as the denial the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Not to mention the constant inflow of migrants and the marginalisation of indigenous Papuans.

“It is time to stand up for our Melanesian neighbours. West Papuans risk their lives to speak out for self-determination and freedom.

“New Zealand should have nothing to fear by joining in a call to involve the United Nations in what is the most grievous human rights crisis in our region.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Opposition leader calls on Fiji to end ‘betrayal’ of West Papuans

Fiji Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa (centre) pictured with Papuan Morning Star flags on World Indigenous Day earlier this month … Fiji has “stabbed West Papua in the back”, she says. Image: Opposition FB

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Fiji’s Opposition Leader Ro Teimumu Kepa has called on the government of Fiji to “stop its betrayal” of the people of West Papua.

She said the government should strongly support the inclusion of the territory in the United Nation’s Decolonisation List at next year’s UN General Assembly.

“Vanuatu has taken a courageous decision to seek freedom for the West Papuans through the UN,” Ro Teimumu added in a media statement.

Vanuatu is pushing for support from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) which is meeting in Nauru next week.

Fiji’s official stance over the region has been to regard the future of the twin Melanesian provinces of Papua and West Papua as an internal matter for the Indonesian government.

Indonesia invaded the former Dutch colony in 1962 and established rule by a controversial UN-sanctioned “Act of Free Choice” in 1969 that has been widely criticised as a flawed process and achieved by coercion.

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West Papuans have continued to struggle for self-determination since then.

“I call on Fiji and other regional governments to demonstrate solidarity with this cause. It is time to stand up and be counted, ” Ro Teimumu said.

‘True Melanesian brother’
“I thank and salute Prime Minister Charlot Salwai of Vanuatu for showing real leadership, and for being a true Melanesian brother to the West Papuan people. The SODELPA opposition in Fiji is behind him in his mission.

“A SODELPA-led government will put its weight behind West Papua.”

Fiji is due to have an election this year but the date has not yet been called.

Ro Teimumu said Fiji’s government and its Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama were outspoken advocates for Melanesian unity.

“Despite this they have stabbed the indigenous Melanesian people of West Papua in the back by refusing to support their quest to be released from the colonial control of their homeland by Indonesia,” she said.

“Their behaviour towards the oppressed West Papuans is shameful.

“How dare the Prime Minister speak so glowingly of Melanesian brotherhood when he and his government have completely sold out their West Papuan kin to Indonesia?

‘Afraid to challenge’
“The truth is that they are afraid to challenge Indonesia’s sham claim to sovereignty over West Papua. They should have the courage to follow Vanuatu’s example.

“The West Papuan struggle is known here at home, throughout the region and around the globe – our silence and that of our neighbours is deafening.

“For more than 50 years, the indigenous people of West Papua have struggled for self-determination.

“It is immoral for the region and international community to look the other way and deny the people of West Papua the liberty to decide for themselves how they wish to be governed.

“There is little that we can do to reverse our past failure to support the people of West Papua; however we can do something now and in the future to make amends for our past failures.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media