by Catherine Delahunty
Yesterday I was proud to be part of a vigil outside the South Pacific Forum organised to highlight the West Papua issue. Genocide is not a word to be used lightly but for the last forty years West Papua has been the dirty secret of the Melanesian Pacific. These people are Melanesian who through the machinations of colonial history have been separated from their neighbours Papua New Guinea and occupied by the Indonesians.
West Papua is a beautiful resource rich country where the USA owned mine Freeport McMahan Mine has open cast the sacred mountains and supplied royalties to Indonesia which that country is reluctant to forgo. The forests of West Papua are being systemically destroyed to support the illegal timber trade, palm oil plantations and rice growing. This is destroying the culture and the land of the West Papuan forest people. Meanwhile Indonesia has “transplanted” many Indonesians to West Papua.
The Pacific Island Forum has been a weak neighbour to this occupied state and only Vanuatu has shown any real support. However today outside the Forum we made a dramatic protest featuring a caged Papuan citizen with his mouth taped up. This bamboo cage represented the imprisonment, torture and abuse of a silenced people. The people from the Indonesian Human Rights committee and Pax Christi have been staunch allies of the Papuan struggle for freedom and the Green Party was proud to stand with them and our Papuan friends who have come to make their stand here and now.
I also used my MP status to walk into the opening of the Forum and while John Key spoke of the “pacific family” I held up a small banner which said “Pacific Island Forum remembers the Papuan whanau”. This attracted some international media attention especially from the Australians who’s Government has been as useless as ours has in supporting a peaceful dialogue between the independent leaders of West Papua and the Indonesian Government.
Our friends from West Papua have a deep patience and a great determination that a peace process is the way forward. Even though their people are currently dying at the hands of the military as Pacific Island Forum rolls on. Therefore we are all hoping that the words of Bank Ki-moon spoke today will lead to action. He said “We will do all we can to ensure that the people of West Papua’s human rights will be respected”. He said that West Papua should be included in the list of Pacific countries seeking decolonisation.
So what will the United Nations and our Government do? The Green Party will be watching and we will be asking!