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West Papua ignored, Fiji poll condemned as Forum leaders emerge

Cartoonist Malcolm Evans on the Pacific Islands Forum. Below: Forum video made by AUT video journalists Christopher Chang and Alexander Winkler. Source: PMC YouTube

Alex Perrottet, Pacific Scoop

8 September, 2011

Alex Perrottet: West Papua’s self-determination failed to rate a mention at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting today in spite of a high profile protest for human rights yesterday and a public plea for a United Nations special representative.

The communiqué released tonight mentioned nothing of the fledgling and troubled Pacific colony ruled by Indonesia, despite the regional body’s heavy rhetoric so far on human rights and self-determination.

This did not, however, prevent the Forum leaders from considering French Polynesia in its bid for decolonisation.

PIF 40 years logoThe communiqué said that leaders: “Reiterated their encouragement to French Polynesia and France to seek an agreed approach on how to realise French Polynesia’s right to self-determination”.

In terms of gaining observer status, the leaders invited the United States territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas as well as the ACP Group, as they valued their “vitally important role” in the Pacific.

Yet Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi confirmed that there was no mention of West Papua at the Forum leaders retreat on Waiheke Island today.

Earlier today Mana Party leader Hone Harawira welcomed a possible change in the United Nations view when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that the West Papuan issue should be taken up by the Decolonisation Committee, but Harawira also condemned the exclusion of Maori representation at the Forum which was structured and “very European”.

Call for UN action
Fifteen human rights and social justice movements based in Australia and New Zealand today called on Ban to immediately appoint a special United Nations representative to investigate alleged human rights violations in West Papua and its political status.

Australian Prime Minister Gillard said no more than that she would refer to the communiqué “regarding applications to the Forum as observers”.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa also criticised the results of a controversial Lowy Institute poll on how Fiji islanders regard the military regime and its political direction which was released yesterday.

He dismissed market research company Tebbutt Research, who undertook the polling, as being unreliable.

He said many similar polls had been conducted in Samoa “during periods leading up to elections for the last eight elections that we won”.

“And every single poll of those eight polls was completely wrong.”

“Well said,” added a supportive Gillard.

Polls ‘taken for granted’
She said Australians took opinion polls for granted and understood that questions were confidential and there was no prospect of answers being traced back to people.

“I suspect that the understanding of those things and the sense of pressure is quite different in Fiji,” she said.

The Prime Minister maintained her strong stance on the Fiji situation.

“But this isn’t a question about opinion polls, this is a values question,” she said.

“And the central question is whether you believe in democracy or not.

“I do. And that’s why we’re pressing Fiji for an early return for democracy.”

Graham Davis on the Fiji poll
Professor Crosbie Walsh on the poll
David Robie on Pacific human rights
Tupuola Terry Tavita on American Samoa’s plea
Henry Yamo on West Papuan freedom
Harawira condemns lack of Maori representation


See video

About the authors

PMC profile photograph

Alex Perrottet

PMW contributing editor 2011-2012

Alex Perrottet is a journalist who has completed a Masters degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at AUT University.

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Scoop

Pacific affairs 'hub' website

Published as a partnership between the AUT Pacific Media Centre and Scoop Media Ltd. Contributions include items from student journalists at AUT University, DWU University and the University of the South Pacific.
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