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PNG takes regional lead in free West Papua campaign

AIRI INGRAM & JASON MACLEOD | Pacific Scoop

Governor Powes Parkop and Benny Wenda (Image - Jason MacLeod)MELANESIAN SUPPORT for a free West Papua has always been high.

Travel throughout Papua New Guinea and you will often hear people say that West Papua and Papua New Guinea is wanpela graun – one land – and that West Papuans on the other side of the border are family and kin.

In the Solomon Islands, Kanaky, Fiji and especially Vanuatu, people will tell you that ‘Melanesia is not free until West Papua is free’. This was the promise that the late Father Walter Lini, Vanuatu’s first prime minister made.

Ordinary people in this part of the Pacific are painfully aware that the West Papuan people continue to live under the gun. It is the politicians in Melanesia who have been slow to take up the cause.

But that may be changing.

Earlier this month, Powes Parkop, Governor of PNG’s National Capital District, nailed his colours firmly to the mast.

In front of a crowd of 3,000 people, Governor Parkop insisted “there is no historical, legal, religious, or moral justification for Indonesia’s occupation of West Papua”.

Welcoming West Papua independence leader Benny Wenda, who was in PNG as part of a global tour, the governor said that while he was in PNG “no one will arrest you, no one will stop you, and you can feel free to say what you want to say”.

These are basic rights denied to West Papuans who continue to be arrested, tortured and killed simply because of the colour of their skin.

Governor Parkop, who is a member of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, which now has representatives in 56 countries, went on to formally launch the free West Papua Campaign.

He promised to open an office, fly the Morning Star flag from City Hall and pledged his support for a Melanesian tour of musicians for a free West Papua.

Governor Parkop is not a lone voice in Melanesia calling for change.

Last year, prime minister Peter O’Neill broke with tradition and publicly admonished the Indonesian government’s response to ongoing state violence, human rights violations and failure of governance in West Papua.

O’Neill said he would raise human rights concerns in the troubled territory with the Indonesian government.

Now Governor Parkop wants to accompany the prime minister on his visits to Indonesia “to present his idea to Indonesia on how to solve West Papuan conflict once and for all.”

PNG commentator Emmanuel Narakobi remarked on his blog that Parkop’s multi-pronged proposal for mobilising public opinion “is perhaps the first time I’ve heard an actual plan on how to tackle this issue”.

On talk back radio, Governor Parkop accused Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr of not taking the issue of West Papua seriously, of “sweeping it under the carpet.”

In Australia, Bob Carr may be trying to pour cold water on growing public support for a free West Papua, but in Melanesia the tide is moving in the opposite direction.

Jason MacLeod teaches and researches at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Airi Ingram is a Papuan musician and activist

Comments

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Steve Gallagher Darong

It's like we cannot wait for superpowers like US or regional powers like Australia to fight for West Papuans' freedom.

Australians and Americans have their national interest which they pursue through their foreign policy. Moreover, they are different culturally and ethnically from us Melanesians. They won't feel for our brothers in West Papua like we do (maybe some do).

There is evidence of torture and genocide committed by Indonesian soldiers in West Papua on our brothers. Lots of it is unseen and untold.

It's a secret war by Indonesia against our brothers on their own land, the land on which our forefathers lived freely.

We PNGians have enjoyed; but for our brothers, the freedom has been taken away by force.

The artificial boundary drawn by our colonisers created the problem and yet ignored the need to solve it. The Dutch people are now enjoying themselves in their country with the development that their people achieved with our resources, shame on them.

Why not come and solve the problem. "Yesterday you came and bullied us when we were still a baby, now that we are grown men, we are feeling the eternal pain waiting for someone to cure it".

Melanesians must unite to speak for our brothers' independence. We want free Papua, free Melanesia.

We hope Prime Minister O'Neill and Governor Parkop wll do it.

Lei Atua

It's very true, Melanesia is not free unless West Papua is free. It's taking too long for this struggle to come about.

West Papua really needs help from sister nations like us to act as some form of refuge. It's very insulting when the same people as us, who have common links with us in terms of culture etc, are still struggling for independence, and we are relaxing.

It's about time PNG as a nation rose up to help its sister nation. A great thanks to Governor Parkop for taking the lead.

Zenitram Dee

Congratulations Governor Parkop! Your voice will greatly have an impact.

It is very true that West Papuans are our Melanesian brothers and we need to help them rather than seeing and hearing about their human rights being violated at gunpoint.

The international community should come together to voice this issue because it is an ongoing conflict ever since Indonesia took over West Papua.

Leonard Roka

As leaders, just don't entertain us in the media but go into real politics with Asian imperialism on a Melanesian people.

West Papuans need you, Melanesia.

Tim Ashton

One of the cold wars less honourable moments when the US, GB and the rest rolled over to placate Indonesia which was threatening to join the Soviet bloc.

No doubt Carr and the rest of DFAT believe that sacrificing a couple of million Papuans is a justifiable tithe to pay to Indonesia for the continued friendship.

Personally, any relationship based upon blackmail is worthless and we should have stood up years ago, but that was never going to happen as DFAT attempts to represent both trade and foreign relations and money will win over ethics every day.

Corney K. Alone

Proud of you, Hon Governor Powes Parkop! Keep fighting for human dignity and respect.

As a NCD resident and voter, you have my family's support.

Modern slavery, torture and imprisonment of any human soul (be it black, brown, yellow or any mixed pigmentation) is unacceptable in the 21st century.

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