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REGION: Pacific church leaders push West Papua for decolonisation talks

A recent Free West Papua protest in Melbourne, Australia. Image: David Fedele

Monday, May 19, 2014

Item: 8617

REGION (Pacific Media Watch / Radio New Zealand International / United Nations): Pacific church leaders have embarked on a new drive to have West Papua added to the United Nations' list of colonies ahead of this week's Pacific Regional Seminar for the Eradication of Colonialism.

Radio New Zealand International reported today that the Pacific Conference of Churches says Pacific leaders must push for West Papua to be added to the list.

A Pacific Conference of Churches spokesman, Netani Rika, told RNZI "what we're calling for at the moment is for Pacific Island countries and their representatives to take initiatives which will see that the voices of the West Papuan people can be heard and that West Papua can be placed on this list also".

The seminar from May 21-23 is being held by a UN committee which is supposed to take charge of carrying out the UN declaration on liberating colonised nations.

The UN Committee on Decolonisation does not consider West Papua a colony, even though West Papua has long called on the UN to add it to the list of colonies in the Pacific, on the grounds that the 1969 "Act of Free Choice", in which West Papuans purportedly voted against independence and for integration into Indonesia, was a sham.

When this referendum was held in 1969, most West Papuan citizens were excluded - only 1025 people were were allowed to vote. The referendum took place amid political protests, but its outcome - a vote against independence - was acknowledged by the United Nations, even though by excluding most West Papuans from voting the referendum had breached international law.

Since then, the Indonesian military and police have been accused of killing about 500,000 West Papuans in their military occupation of the country, with the UN "turning a blind eye", according to human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

Police training
The New Zealand government has also been heavily criticised for spending $6.34 million of public funds on a "training programme" for Indonesian police which are involved in the military occupation and repression of the West Papua region.

But a UN press statement issued this week again did not include West Papua on the list of Pacific colonies.

The United States, meanwhile, is still asking for colonised American Samoa to be taken off the UN's list.  The US government maintains that American Samoa is not a colony, claiming that its indigenous citizens have decided of their own free will to be ruled by the United States as it benefits both parties.

However, American Samoa remains on the list together with Guam, the Northern Marianas, Tokelau, French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

Ecuador's Xavier Lasso Mendoza was elected two months ago as chairman of the Special Committee, but his position on freedom for West Papua is not known.

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Pacific Media Watch

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Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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