Human rights groups protest over 500 arrests of Papuan demonstrators
Independence protesters march in Wamena, West Papua, on Monday. Image: Free West Papua/TeleSur
Independence protesters march in Wamena, West Papua, on Monday. Image: Free West Papua/TeleSur

Jakarta-based based human rights watchdog Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) and its local partner in Papua, Elsham Papua, have condemned intimidation and violence by police officers against activist Whens Tebay during mass arrests in West Papua  this week, reports the Jakarta Post.

The two groups said Whens went to monitor the rally, which was held to promote West Papuan independence, before the police forcibly dispersed it.

More than 500 people were arrested during the self-determination protests on the 55th anniversary of Indonesia’s military takeover of the region on Monday.

Thousands marched across the region to support West Papuan freedom and to condemn decades of brutal treatment of indigenous Melanesians by Indonesia, reports TeleSur.

A total of 528 people, including several children were arrested in the peaceful rallies across Indonesia’s most eastern province of Papua. A number had already been detained the night before the planned protests and activists reported that a number of people were beaten and badly injured before being arrested.

Activists also said that several who were detained were interrogated without a lawyer and at least one protester was tortured by Indonesian police.

Journalists were banned from several areas and the headquarters of the West Papua National Committee in Jayapura was vandalised.

 

15 locations

Demonstrations took place in at least 15 locations and several people were arrested after applying for demonstration permits with authorities, according to civil rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who is representing independence activist Filep Karma.

Karma has been detained since 2004 for peacefully protesting for his people’s independence.

“This year alone over 4800 people have been unlawfully arrested and many others killed and tortured by the Indonesian military and police,” said exiled West Papua independence leader Benny Wenda in a statement.

Monday’s protests coincided with the anniversary of “Operation TRIKORA,” which was carried out when the Indonesian government invaded West Papua on December 19, 1961, after Melanesian West Papuans first raised their Morning Star flag on December 1.

The region was then annexed by Indonesia in 1969 in a controversial referendum after winning independence from Dutch colonialism in 1963. Independence supporters say that the 1969 annexation is illegal and that Indonesian control has amounted to genocide.
Indigenous West Papua Sends Solidarity to Standing Rock

Throughout Indonesia’s hard rule of the mineral-rich area, around half a million Melanesian West Papuans are thought to have been killed by Indonesian authorities and pro-independence supporters face restrictions of movement and assembly, media blackouts, and many also have been held as political prisoners.

Protesters were also throwing their support behind the full membership of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, ULMWP, to the Melanesian Spearhead Group, MSG. The group includes other Melanesian nations, Vanuatu, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

A meeting is due to be held this month in Vanuatu to discuss membership, which would give West Papua an international platform to push for independence.

A number of nations from the MSG have already publicly backed West Papua’s struggle for self-determination and condemned Indonesian human rights abuses in the area.

MSG foreign ministers discuss membership

Melanesian Spearhead Group foreign ministers are this evening meeting in Vanuatu’s capital to discuss guidelines which relate to a West Papuan bid for membership in the group.

Vanuatu prime minister Charlot Salwai accepts traditional head dress from the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
Vanuatu prime minister Charlot Salwai accepts traditional head dress from the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. Photo: Len Garae

MSG senior officials met yesterday in Port Vila and, as with today’s foreign ministers meeting, the findings of a constitutional committee review of MSG rules on membership are the main agenda item.

This comes as the MSG considers a full membership application by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

The foreign minister of Solomon Islands, Milner Tozaka, said the MSG leaders in July requested legal clarification on guidelines for membership.

“So that request has been attended to appropriately by the legal people and they have made a recommendation to be used for the foreign ministers to look at and then we will recommend it to the leaders for endorsement,” he explained.

Milner Tozaka confirms there won’t be a decision this week on the full membership application by the Liberation Movement, which already has observer status.

The leaders of the MSG member states are not expected to have their summit until early in the new year.

The Movement’s leaders are present at this week’s MSG meetings in Port Vila, along with leaders of all the main pro-independence groups.

Vanuatu’s prime minister Charlot Salwai has reiterated his country’s support for the Liberation Movement to be give full membership, as well as for West Papua to be independent.

Mr Salwai said his country’s foreign policy remained firm that Vanuatu is not completely free of colonial bondage until all of Melanesia is free.

It’s understood that Solomon Islands and New Caledonia’s FLNKS Kanaks movement are also in support on the matter of the MSG membership.

However the other two full members of the MSG, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, have tended to side with Indonesia on this issue.

Indonesia, which has associate member status at the MSG, is firmly opposed to West Papuans being granted full membership in the group.

Jakarta says Papuans are already covered by the Indonesian republic in terms of representation in the MSG.

Australia should go to Papua and see the human rights situation for itself

, Support of Indonesian sovereignty over Papua does not mean shying away from scrutiny of abuses

At least 37 Papuans remain behind bars for peaceful acts of free expression or expressing solidarity with the independence movement. Photograph: freewestpapua.org
At least 37 Papuans remain behind bars for peaceful acts of free expression or expressing solidarity with the independence movement. Photograph: freewestpapua.org

As Indonesia’s president, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, touches down in Australia for the first time since assuming the presidency, will human rights feature at all in the talks? Indonesian officials are already working overtime to control the agenda, with the defence minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu, warning Australia against “interfering in the West Papua issue” and asking Australia to send a message to Pacific Island nations that support autonomy for Papuans.

Ryamizard told an Australian journalist, with no apparent irony: “Those countries better keep their mouths shut and mind their own business. It is better that Australia speaks to them gently. If it was left up to me, I would twist their ears.”

Although Australia has consistently supported Indonesian sovereignty over Papua, the issue remains one of various sensitivities in the Australia–Indonesia relationship. But that discomfort does not give Indonesia a free pass to commit human rights abuses in the province, nor should Australia shy away from discussing such matters at the highest levels.

At least 37 Papuans remain behind bars for peaceful acts of free expression or expressing solidarity with the independence movement. All of this impunity is aided by reduced scrutiny of abuses as foreign journalists and human rights organisations face a half century-long restriction on visiting the province.

Perhaps Indonesia feels especially confident in rallying Australian support, since it scored something of a coup in August with the Papua visit by the attorney general, George Brandis. He was the first Australian cabinet minister to visitPapua, and human rights were glaringly absent from all public statements he made about that visit. His choice of travelling companion was also troubling – he was accompanied by Wiranto, Indonesia’s poster child for impunity for serious abuses.

Wiranto, the co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, was Indonesia’s armed forces chief in 1999 when the military and government-backed militias carried out atrocities against the East Timorese after they voted for independence.

In fact, given that background, it’s even more important for the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and foreign minister, Julie Bishop, to ask some hard questions about what Indonesia is doing to address human rights violations in Papua and how Australia can help.

Australian acceptance of Indonesian sovereignty over Papua does not mean discussion of human rights concerns in Papua should be taken off the table. Let’s remember that Jokowi himself has previously called for greater respect for human rights in Papua and for the Indonesian government to stop blocking foreign journalists and observers from visiting Papua.

Here’s one suggestion that Turnbull could broach with Jokowi: if Indonesian officials are so keen to gain Australia’s support on Papua, then why not allow a multi-party parliamentary delegation from Australia, accompanied by journalists, free access to visit the province?

Australia’s parliament has long had an interest in the region, with a Parliamentary Friends of West Papua group co-chaired by Jane Prentice MP and Senator Richard Di Natale. Such a visit, not a junket, should include a range of Australian politicians armed with expertise in trade, tourism, economic and social portfolios and include meetings with Papuan leaders, civil society, imprisoned activists and ordinary Papuans.

In fact, when General Luhut Pandjaitan, then coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, visited Canberra in June he extended an invitation to the Australian government to visit Papua, saying,

I ask also any member of the cabinet to join us to go there. We have nothing to hide. It is not the time to hide something. Let us work together to make it transparent. If you want to criticise Indonesia we are happy to receive that criticism. But please, give that criticism based on data, not rumour.

A visit would help Australian politicians understand more about a region only a few hundred kilometres to our north that remains isolated and undeveloped. It would enable Australians to hear directly from Papuans about the issues affecting their lives – surely this is part of what Jokowi wants in trying to win the hearts and minds of Papuans.

Elaine Pearson is the Australia director at Human Rights Watch.

West Papua's Aikwa river
West Papua‘s Aikwa river

In 1936, Dutch geologist Jean Jacques Dozy climbed the world’s highest island peak: the forbidding Mount Carstensz, a snow-covered silver crag on what was then known as Dutch New Guinea. During the 4,800-metre ascent, Dozy noticed an unusual rock outcrop veined with green streaks. Samples he brought back confirmed exceptionally rich gold and copper deposits.

Today, these remote, sharp-edged mountains are part of West Papua, Indonesia, and home to the Grasberg mine, one of the biggest gold mines – and third largest copper mine – in the world. Majority-owned by the American mining firm Freeport McMoRan, Grasberg is now Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, with reserves worth an estimated $100bn (£80bn).

But a recent fact-finding mission (by the Brisbane Archdiocese’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission) described a “slow-motion genocide” (pdf) taking place in West Papua, warning that its indigenous population is at risk of becoming “an anthropological museum exhibit of a bygone culture”.

PNG-Indonesia Maritime Border Security in need of boats
PNG-Indonesia Maritime Border Security in need of boats
PNG-Indonesia Maritime Border Security in need of boats

Defence officers have caught an Indonesian boat carrying illegal firearms into Vanimo, West Sepik Province.

Pictures of the weapons supplied by a MiRpota in Vanimo showed what appeared to be a homemade weapon. They were found in the possession of two crew members on the vessel.

Instances of illegal arms smuggling along the PNG-Indonesia border are common with the PNGDF unable to adequately contain the problem.

Executive Chairman of the Papua New Guinea Border Development Authority, Fred Konga told EMTV MiRipot that one of their biggest challenge is stemming the flow of illegal crossings along the maritime border.

He said , that illegal crossings are usually at night by boat.

The Government under a K100 million funding from the Asian Development Bank will open a processing facility in December. The building will house the Papua New Guinea Customs Agency and the National Agriculture and Quarantine Inspection Authority officers.

He also said that Defence officers will have on-site accommodation at the Wutung Border. The camp site will cater for 20 soldiers.

Source: http://www.emtv.com.pg

Isu Papua Ke Majelis Umum PBB: Saatnya Indonesia Refleksi
Ketua Sinode Kingmi di Tanah Papua, Pdt Benny Giay – JUBI
Ketua Sinode Kingmi di Tanah Papua, Pdt Benny Giay – JUBI

Jayapura, Jubi – Masuknya isu HAM dan politik Papua ke sidang Majelis Umum PBB yang sedang berlangsung hingga 25 September, adalah kenyataan sejarah yang tidak bisa dihindari dan seharusnya membuat pemerintah Indonesia merefleksikan diri.

Hal itu dikemukakan Pendeta Benny Giay, Ketua Sinode Gereja Kemah Injil (Kingmi) di Tanah Papua, kepada Jubi Minggu (18/9/2016) menanggapi meluasnya isu Papua di Pasifik dan dorongan pemimpin negara-negara di Pasifik membawa isu West Papua ke Majelis Umum PBB.

“Bagi saya, ketika masalah Papua sampai ke Majelis Umum PBB oleh para pemimpin negara-negara Pasifik, itu membenarkan pandangan bahwa sejarah sudah saatnya berubah,” ujar Benny Giay yang menyampaikan bahwa setelah 50 tahun Papua di Indonesiakan, inilah saatnya sejarah akan berubah.

“Saya kira suara-suara perjuangan Papua Merdeka akhirnya sampai ke Sidang Umum PBB adalah hal yang wajar saja. Sudah seharusnya. Karena kami di gereja percaya setiap 50 tahun sejarah harus direfleksikan, demikian juga pihak Indonesia sudah saatnya melihat kembali kelakuan dan kemajuan peradaban mereka yang sudah 50 tahun ini tidak membawa kebaikan di Papua,” kata Giay.

Benny Giay merasa sangat optimis bahwa harapan masyarakat Papua, yang berjuang untuk penentuan nasib sendiri, sedang mengalami kebangkitan khususnya karena didorong oleh kebangkitan di Pasifik.

“Yang terjadi di Pasifik itu adalah kebangkitan kesadaran kemanusian. Di batin saya, kalau solidaritas untuk hak politik (kemerdekaan) maka itu bisa dilakukan profesional saja. Tetapi kebangkitan di pasifik ini melebihi itu,” ujar Giay yang melanjutkan bahwa kebangkitan itu dilandasai oleh satu kekhawatiran besar bahwa bangsa Papua akan punah.

“Kesadaran akan kepunahan suatu bangsa manusia dan peradaban inilah yang melandasi solidaritas mendalam untuk kemanusiaan di pasifik. Kami pihak gereja mendukung itu,” ujarnya.

Papua Jadi Isu Negara

Sementara itu Ferry Marisan, Direktur ElsHAM Papua, memandang bahwa kemajuan advokasi isu Papua saat ini hingga ke Majelis Umum PBB terletak pada pihak yang mengadvokasi, yaitu negara.

“Kalau dulu advokasi dilakukan di Jenewa-Swiss, oleh masyarakat sipil untuk isu-isu HAM Papua, maka kini, melalui Vanuatu dan Solomon bahkan Tonga, advokasi sudah meningkat ke New York oleh tangan negara,” ujar Ferry.

Ketika isu Papua masuk ke Majelis Umum PBB di New York maka artinya, lanjut Ferry, hal itu akan menjadi pembicaraan di tingkat negara-negara lain yang tidak saja Pasifik.

“Memang ini bukan pertama kali, di sidang sebelumnya Vanuatu sempat membicarakan isu Papua. Tetapi yang berbeda tahun ini adalah  wakil Fiji akan menjadi salah satu pimpinan sidang dalam sidang tersebut. Sehingga kita berharap  akan bisa memberi pengaruh pada negara-negara lain di Afrika, Eropa, dan Amerika Latin.”

Peter Thomson, Duta Besar Fiji untuk PBB baru saja dilantik sebagai presiden sidang Majelis Umum. Thomson disumpah Selasa lalu, (12/9), membuka sesi ke-71 sidang Majelis Umum yang terdiri dari 193 negara itu.

“Kita tunggu hasilnya, negara-negara mana yang akan menambah dukungan, tidak saja untuk isu HAM tetapi juga referendum Papua dan agenda pendaftaran Papua ke Komite 24 Dekolonisasi,” ujarnya.

Terpisah Victor Yeimo, Ketua Umum KNPB dan Tim Kerja ULMWP, menilai sudah saatnya PBB mengambil tanggung jawab terkait hak politik Papua. “PBB harus ambil tanggung jawab untuk selesaikan status politik West Papua. Karena itu kekuatan rakyat dalam ULMWP, bersama negara  Pasifik dalam Koalisi Pasifik untuk West Papua  akan mendorong masalah ini ke Komite Dekolonisasi PBB untuk dapat memfasilitasi referendum,” ujarnya.

Dia juga menambahkan melalui proses itu, Indonesia juga akan didesak untuk menghentikan kejahatan kemanusiaan yang terus berlanjut di West Papua.

Tetapi Ferry Marisan juga mengingatkan bahwa proses ini panjang dan bisa bertahun-tahun untuk meyakinkan negara-negara lain terus mendukung Papua. “Sekalipun demikian, capaian saat ini sudah membuka jalan ke sana,” ujarnya.

Baik Ferry maupun Pendeta Benny Giay tidak khawatir akan proses yang memakan waktu tersebut. Menurut Giay, justru saat inilah di era globalisasi peluang lebih besar karena mata banyak manusia bisa melihat apa yang terjadi.

“Kebangkitan solidaritas saat ini adalah tanda kebangkitan kesadaran kemanusiaan, dan itu terjadi di era globalisasi yang bisa diketahui oleh semua orang melalui media sosial. Saya menyambutnya dengan optmis,” ujar Giay.(*)

Charlot Salwai: Pemimpin Pasifik Sepakat Bawa Isu Papua Ke PBB

Jayapura, Jubi – Vanuatu menegaskan bahwa para pemimpin Forum Kepulauan Pasific (PIF) telah bersepakat membawa isu West Papua ke Perserikatan Bangsa-Bangsa, sebagai wujud keprihatinan kawasan tersebut pada persoalan Papua.

Pertemuan PIF minggu lalu di Negara Federasi Mikronesia (FSM) telah mencapai konsensus terhadap laporan kejahatan hak azasi manusia yang dilakukan oleh Pemerintah Indonesia di Papua, demikian dinyatakan Perdana Menteri Vanuatu, Charlot Salwai, seperti dilansir Radio New Zealand International/RNZI, Kamis (15/9/2016).

Konsensus ini termasuk membicarakan tuduhan pelanggaran HAM tersebut dengan Indonesia, sekaligus membawanya ke Komite HAM PBB.

Hal ini merupakan tindak lanjut atas gagalnya rencana Forum tahun lalu mengirimkan misi pencari fakta ke wilayah Papua karena penolakan Jakarta.

Oleh karena itu, menurut Salwai, respon kawasan terkait Papua justru semakin mengarah ke PBB, “walaupun Forum (PIF) masih sedikit yang mendukung seruan penentuan nasib sendiri West Papua,” ujar Salwai dengan nada menyesal.

Dia menyatakan, lima negara Forum (PIF) yang mendukung hak penentuan nasib sendiri West Papua meyakini bahwa pelanggaran HAM yang terjadi di Papua justru disebabkan oleh aspirasi politik rakyat Papua. Oleh karena itu Forum bersepakat agar negara-negara (5 negara) tersebut membawa kasus West Papua ke Komite Dekolonisasi PBB, tegas Salwai.

Sementara dirinya sendiri akan menyuarakan isu pelanggaran HAM di West Papua pada pertemuan Majelis Umum PBB bulan ini di New York.

Sebelumnya, seperti diberitakan, komunike PIF ke-47 terkait West Papua dirasa kurang memiliki substansi, padahal isu pelanggaran HAM dan hak penentuan nasib sendiri sudah masuk menjadi agenda pembicaraan para pemimpim Forum.

“Para pemimpin mengakui sensitifitas isu West Papua (Papua) dan sepakat isu tuduhan pelanggaran HAM di West Papua (Papua) harus tetap ada dalam agenda,” demikian hasil komunike yang juga menegaskan kesepakatan para pemimpin atas pentingnya dialog terbuka dan konstruktif dengan Indonesia terkait isu itu.(*)

A reframed Pacific regionalism: rise of the foreign ministers

September 13, 2016, by Matthew Dornan, Tess Newton Cain , DevPolicy

In a post last September, we examined the first year of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism in the aftermath of the Port Moresby Pacific Island Forum leaders’ meeting. This year the action was in the Federated States of Micronesia, where for the first time, non-independent territories (New Caledonia and French Polynesia) were granted full Forum membership status.

Another first which went largely unnoticed was the inaugural standing meeting of the Forum Foreign Ministers in August (the meeting last year was a one-off affair; as of this year it becomes an annual occurrence). The foreign ministers’ meeting now serves as an additional filter on proposals submitted as part of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. Whereas previously proposals were assessed by the Specialist Subcommittee on Regionalism (SSCR) tasked with reviewing regional public policy submissions and vetted by the Forum Officials Committee, they are now also considered (and vetted) by foreign ministers.

The prior meeting of foreign ministers appears to have influenced what was discussed (and not discussed) in the Forum leaders’ meeting. It may also have bolstered the influence of Australia and New Zealand given their foreign ministers’ interest in regional affairs.

Australia and New Zealand were vocal supporters of admitting New Caledonia and French Polynesia into the Forum, a move agreed by leaders despite the subject not having been raised through the SSCR process, opposition from pro-independence groups within those territories, and reports of unease among some Forum member states. Of course, the inclusion of the French territories also sits at odds with the original impetus for establishing the South Pacific Forum (as it was then known) in 1971. France at the time had prevented discussion of decolonisation and French nuclear testing in meetings of the South Pacific Commission. The Forum Communiqué announced this important development in one factual line — “Leaders accepted French Polynesia and New Caledonia as full Members of the Pacific Islands Forum” – in a possible indication of disagreement among some Forum members.

The decision to include the territories, although considered inevitable by some, in the immediate term looks a lot like a response to Bainimarama’s continued criticism of Australian and New Zealand membership of the Forum. The move provides an entry for another OECD country (beyond Australia and New Zealand) to influence Forum activities. It may not have been complete coincidence that events in Fiji overshadowed those of Forum over the weekend, with the removal of Fiji’s Foreign Minister from his position by Bainimarama mid-meeting (via email) followed by the concerning arrest of opposition and trade union leaders. Bainimarama will now take up the position of Foreign Minister himself.

Australian and New Zealand influence was also evident in other areas. The leaders’ communiqué’s positive spin on PACER Plus was especially striking. It made no reference to Vanuatu’s concerns about the agreement, nor to Fiji’s decision four days ago not to join the agreement (the communiqué did describe Fiji as having reservations regarding the text). However, it did confirm previous comments by PNG’s Minister for Trade that PNG would not sign up – a stance confirmed by O’Neill at the Forum.

The relegation of West Papua as an issue was also notable. We might have expected to see West Papua given more prominence in the communiqué, given the fact that of the 48 regional policy public submissions that were received, 13 concerned West Papua. Instead, last year’s measured statement announcing the establishment of an independent fact-finding mission looks positively assertive when compared to this year’s communiqué, which simply states that leaders “recognised the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua (Papua) and agreed the issue of alleged human rights violations in West Papua (Papua) should remain on their agenda” (while also agreeing “on the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia”). The influence of the larger Forum members was likely at play here, including that of Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Fiji.

What of other issues discussed by leaders?

A positive development was the increased assertiveness of the Small Island States (SIS) group, which now also includes FSM. The leaders of the Small Island States (SIS) met earlier in the year in Palau and agreed upon a five-point Regional Strategy [pdf]– a significant component of which involves preparation of joint applications for funding from the Global Climate Fund (GCF). Not only will this be the first such joint application that the GCF will have received, but it has the potential to inform future activities by the Forum.

Fisheries management was again on the agenda, having been discussed at last year’s leaders’ meeting. Leaders endorsed the work of the Fisheries Taskforce in implementing the Fisheries Roadmap agreed in 2015. Importantly, leaders supported the view of the taskforce that there need be no change to the Vessel Day Scheme. This had previously been the source of some concern within the Parties to the Nauru Agreement Secretariat. The call by leaders for an expanded focus on coastal fisheries is a positive development.

As occurred last year, the communiqué discussed the importance of climate change for Forum island members. Although bold, there was not a great deal that was new here. An exception was leaders’ agreement on a Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific [pdf], which aims to integrate the region’s climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction frameworks into one. This followed bungled efforts last year to do the same, which saw leaders reject a draft given opposition by some member states to the detail of that text. The voluntary nature of the framework agreed this year was no doubt helpful in securing leaders’ agreement. The framework has nevertheless been criticised for not doing enough to integrate adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

Widely reported in Australia was the PM’s announcement of $80m over three years for disaster response, which adds to the $300m over 4 years already announced for climate adaptation in the region. Although that figure sounds impressive, $75m per year ($300m over 4 years) is below that provided in 2013, 2012 or 2011 (in that last year, Australia provided just under $170m). It does nevertheless mark an improvement on the dismal $40m provided in 2014 (as discussed previously on this blog).

The communiqué’s reference to cervical cancer and ICT – two initiatives canvassed by leaders last year as part of the SSCR process – is especially notable. We criticised the proposals at the time for being vague; it was unclear what their regional dimension was. Read between the lines of this year’s communiqué and it would appear that leaders agree – they pointed out that, “while important, these issues do not require their continued discussion to be progressed”.

How does the 2016 Forum leaders’ meeting measure up? There was less potential for controversy than in 2015, when tensions over climate change between Australia (in particular) and New Zealand and Forum island members were prominent. Fewer leaders attended this year’s meeting (five Forum island leaders instead sent delegates). Leaders did discuss issues of importance for the Pacific, but the outcomes of those discussion were limited, with much of the communiqué repeating previous statements (with some notable exceptions, including on fisheries management).

In many ways this year’s outcome reflects the Framework for Pacific Regionalism’s success in attracting high level political engagement. Having very clearly set a political agenda for last year’s leaders’ meeting, the interjection of the foreign ministers this year would appear to have had a diluting effect in some areas, with the influence of Julie Bishop and Murray McCully evident on issues such as West Papua. Australian and New Zealand influence appears to have driven other decisions as well, including the status of the French territories. Whether such political engagement has the unintended effect of undermining future engagement with civil society through the SSCR process remains to be seen.

Matthew Dornan is Deputy Director of the Development Policy Centre. Tess Newton Cain (@CainTess) is a Visiting Fellow at the Development Policy Centre.

Essential Energy to donate solar panels to Vanuatu

New South Wales Energy company Essential Energy will donate surplus solar panels to villages in Vanuatu to supply lighting to people who were affected by Cyclone Pam in 2015.

The 700 photo-voltaic (PV) modules from Essential Energy’s small-scale demonstration solar farm in Queanbeyan will be donated to the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) for use in its overseas volunteer aid work.

The 50 kilowatt Queanbeyan solar farm occupies a 1,872m² space next to Essential Energy’s Queanbeyan Depot and was established in 1998 as a small-scale demonstration of renewable energy generation.

However, the low system efficiency compared with current technology meant the equipment has reached the end of its serviceable life.

Essential Energy Chief Executive Officer John Cleland said the ageing solar farm had been identified as surplus to business requirements and recently decommissioned.

“We initially offered the solar farm components for disposal through a public tender process but when that was unsuccessful we explored other options for the equipment,” Mr Cleland said.

“One of our employees discovered the SEIA aid project that aims to improve the living conditions for Vanuatu’s poorest and most isolated people by providing solar power for their households.

“It was a natural fit and a wonderful example of recycling to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

Solar installation on a health clinic in Vanuatu similar to what Essential Energy's panels will be used for.
Solar installation on a health clinic in Vanuatu similar to what Essential Energy’s panels will be used for.

SEIA Project Manager Diana Pook said the panels will be installed on village school roofs and huts, and used in conjunction with 12-volt batteries to supply basic lighting for villages.

The project will deliver many benefits to the villages including enabling islander children to study and complete their homework in the evenings.

“SEIA is excited to partner with Essential Energy to help the people of Vanuatu,” Ms Pook said.

“We have already undertaken a number of projects and look forward to utilising the generous contribution from Essential Energy to complete many more.”

Accredited contractor Solar Maintenance And Renewable Technologies (SMART) has started dismantling the solar farm in preparation for the delicate operation of packaging the panels onto pallets and shipping them to SEIA in Sydney ready for export to the South Pacific in October 2016.

SMART Director Dave Galloway said the company is proud to be part of the project which has found a positive use of decommissioned PV modules.

“It’s fantastic to be able to work with Essential Energy and SEIA with their forward thinking attitude towards benefiting the PV industry, remote communities and, specifically, the correct handling of decommissioned PV modules,” Mr Galloway said.

“This is as great step forward and example that has been set.” 

Pro-Independence Kanaky group itself is a member of Melanesian Spearhead Group

Compiled by Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, July 14, 2016) – The Spokesperson of the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) in Kanaky, Victor Tutugoro, yesterday morning re-affirmed his strong support for West Papua to become full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) during the Honiara MSG Leaders’ Summit.

The FLNKS Spokesperson stated this when meeting the Chairman of Vanuatu Free West Papua Association, Pastor Alan Nafuki.

Nafuki assured the FLNKS of Vanuatu’s stand by the churches, the chiefs and the population for the political freedom of the Melanesian people of West Papua and said the Association has already sent its three representatives to Honiara to observe the MSG Leaders Summit.

Mr Tutugoro went in the same flight of Air Niugini yesterday morning with Vanuatu Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, to attend the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Leaders’ Summit in Honiara, Solomon Islands.

The Kanaky leader arrived in Port Vila last Sunday night from Noumea.

On Monday he met the Vanuatu Prime Minister and on Tuesday paid courtesy calls on State Ministers including Agriculture.

Mr. Tutugoro also took the opportunity to visit the Lycee Louis Antoine de Bouganville and Vanuatu Institute of Technology.

Both Vanuatu learning institutions receive funding assistance from the Northern Province of New Caledonia following Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015.

On Tuesday evening a special kava ceremony was organized, a gesture of appreciation to the FLNKS Spokesperson Victor Tutugoro, by the Vanuatu Institute of Technology.

The FLNKS did not sign the Communique following the visit of MSG Leaders in West Papua and Indonesia after the Summit that was held in Kanaky.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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