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March 18, 2017

Washington, DC

Website: WPAN

World-wide protest demanding that Indonesia end military colonization of West Papua and free all West Papuan political prisoners.
Saturday, March 18, 1 p.m– 2:30 p.m.
Indonesian Embassy, Washington, D.C.
On Saturday, March 18, from 1:00 p.m to 2:30 p.m., the Free West Papua Political Prisoners Campaign Team in Washington DC will rise in solidarity with activist groups around the world in protesting Indonesia’s brutal colonization of West Papua, and demanding the immediate, unconditional release of all Papuan political prisoners.

The Free West Papua Political Prisoners Campaign Team is a group of academics and human rights activists who are willing to stand up for what is right and work toward a free West Papua that is independent from Military and corporate colonization.

We work to raise awareness about the issue because we believe that knowledge can change the countries fate!

Human Rights Watch reports that Indonesia has incarcerated nearly 200 activists from Maluku and West Papua for peacefully voicing their patriotism and political views. One of those refugees, Herman Wainggai, here at GMU as a visiting scholar, leader of nonviolent struggle in West Papua, was imprisoned for more than two years after daring to raise the West Papuan flag, and his uncle died in prison for the same reason.

Please share this event and invite your friends to help spread the word. We hope to see many of you outside of the Indonesian Embassy in D.C

Thank you!
Free West Papua Political Prisoners Campaign Team- DC.
Stand up for West Papua.
Stand with West Papuans against genocide and torture.

By Pacific Media Watch editor Kendall Hutt, March 15, 2017

Bookstore owners, writers, authors, family, friends and a group hopeful of West Papuan independence squeezed into the Women’s Bookshop in Ponsonby last night to celebrate the work of young New Zealand author Bonnie Etherington and her novel The Earth Cries Out.

Not only is the novel being celebrated and praised for Etherington’s mastery of the written word, but because of its ability to make the public more aware of life in West Papua, a region controversially ruled by Indonesia since the 1960s.

Pacific Media Watch editor Kendall Hutt (left) with author Bonnie Etherington. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Pacific Media Watch editor Kendall Hutt (left) with author Bonnie Etherington. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Pacific Media Watch editor Kendall Hutt (left) with author Bonnie Etherington. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Plagued by media freedom and human rights violations, many media freedom and human rights organisations and several Pacific nations have condemned the widespread arrests and imprisonment of West Papuans for non-violent expression of their political views.

These are issues Etherington herself acknowledged speaking with Asia Pacific Report earlier this week, saying she wanted to show readers West Papua’s rich and diverse history, not only its complex political situation.

“I really wanted to show multiple sides of West Papua because it is so often forgotten or stereotyped by the rest of the world.”

This is something those who have already read The Earth Cries Out praise.

Harriet Allan, fiction publisher for Penguin Books New Zealand, commended Etherington in a speech on her ability to provide insight into West Papua through the eyes of a child, that of female protagonist Ruth.

“As Ruth bears witness to what she sees, we too start to hear the voices that have been silenced by politics, sickness, violence and poverty.”

Like Ruth, we come away with a greater understanding of this country and its diverse people and also of ourselves and the bonds of love and friendship.”

 

‘Shed some light’

Although she has not had the chance to read her sister’s entire novel, Etherington’s younger sister, Aimee, says what she has read is very similar to how she and her sister experienced West Papua.

“With the descriptions, I felt like I was back there. She’s done a really good job of capturing how it feels, I guess.”

Aimee Etherington says she hopes her sister’s novel spreads awareness of West Papua.

“Most people that I’ve spoken to don’t really know that it exists, so it will be good to shed some light as to what’s going on there and, I guess, giving a bit of insight on how as New Zealanders and Australians we can actually do something about it.”

 

‘Almost experiencing it’

Like Harriet Allan, Women’s Bookshop owner Carol Beu loved Ruth’s voice.

“I think becoming aware of the situation in Papua through the eyes of this child, Ruth, is really quite special”, Beu told the audience.

“The way it’s revealed, it’s fascinating.”

Beu admits this was also “quite shocking”, due to Etherington’s ability to place the reader in the moment.

“You’re almost experiencing it.”

Penguin fiction publisher Harriet Allan (left) with author Bonnie Etherington. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Penguin fiction publisher Harriet Allan (left) with author Bonnie Etherington. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Bea also acknowledged those in the audience who were supporting the book on more of a political level, such as West Papua Action Auckland spokesperson Maire Leadbeater.

Bea told those gathered she found the politics of The Earth Cries Out “quite astonishing and wonderful”.

“It’s a book that makes you angry in many ways on a political level.”

Leadbeater herself, however, says she is looking forward to reading the novel.

 

Mister Pip comparisons

“I think looking at countries through a literary perspective can be very helpful at times. I can’t help thinking of the book Mister Pip, about Bougainville and how amazingly helpful that was I think in terms of people understanding the conflict.

“It’s done in a fictionalised way but it’s true to the situation, so I’m picking from what I’ve heard about the book it may achieve that as well.”

Leadbeater is not the only one to draw comparisons with Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip, however.

Tony Moores, owner of bookstore Poppies in Remuera, reached a similar conclusion.

“This is not Mister Pip, but the issues it deals with are quite similar, from a different perspective.”

 

Powerful, shocking

The Creative Hub founder, John Cranna, who also noted ties with Mister Pip, praised Etherington on her talent after listening to several excerpts read by Allan and Etherington herself.

“For such a young writer to be writing about such dramatic and shocking events, and to be pulling it off, is quite an achievement.

To write about violent death is … very hard in a reserved, powerful way, but she certainly did that very well.

Author praised for opening readers’ eyes to West Papua’s repression was originally published on PAPUAPost.com

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Start Building your web presence at Rp 41,400.00/mo, Melanesia.Website as offers affordable domain registration and web-hosting packages. According to the Director of CV BANANA Leaf Cafe, Jhon Yonathan Kwano, this web-hosting has been set up as a Start-Up company, part of the PAPUAmart.com Group Business companies, in order to promote entrepreneurship across the Melanesian Archipelago, starting from The Four Kings (Raja Ampat) Islands to Fiji Islands.

Melanesia.website Hosting Services
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Besides, Jhon Kwano also stated that there are several web hosting and domain registration services being provided by CV BANANALeaf.cafe in order to assist all Melanesian peoples and everyone in the world to register their domain names, and host their websites here:

  1. www.melanesia.website
  2. www.cheaphosts.website
  3. www.cheaphosts.us
  4. www.webpapua.com
  5. www.papuaweb.net

Jhon Yonathan Kwano says there are various steps taken and policies delivered by the governments in MSG Countries that clearly useful for all Melanesians to begin their cooperation in business activities. The website services is a service that being delivered under Web Hosting Cafe section of the BANANA Leaf Cafe.

Mr. Kwano is fully aware the many of his own Melanesian tribes-peoples do not have access to bank accounts and also to credit cards and Online Payment Accounts, therefore, CV BANANA Leaf Cafe also offers offline payment at PAPUAmart.com offline stores and KKLingkar.com kiosks across Melanesia.

 

Kava industry in Vanuatu ... dramatic post-cyclone recovery. Image: Vanuatu Digest
Kava industry in Vanuatu … dramatic post-cyclone recovery. Image: Vanuatu Digest

By Jonas Cullwick in Port Vila

Kava export returns in 2015 after Tropical Cyclone Pam devastated parts of Vanuatu as it trekked through the country on March 12-14 reached Vt180 million (NZ$2.4 million).

One year later — in 2016 — the figure jumped to Vt800 million (NZ$10.4 million), according to the Director of Biosecurity Vanuatu, Timothy Tumukon.

Responding to questions from Kizzy Kalsakau host of 96 BuzzFM’s Vanuatu Nightly News programme if government was helping farmers grow more kava after Cyclone Pam, Tumukon responded: “Most definitely.”

Tumukon added: “In 2015, when the cyclone struck us 2 years ago exactly [Monday] you’re exactly right, our export data was that Vanuatu then earned Vt180 million from its export after Cyclone Pam destroyed most of our kava.

“Last year’s figures stood at Vt800 million that was earned from kava.

“Now that gives us a lot of comfort that kava has recovered since Cyclone Pam,” he said.

Tumukon said that to maintain the momentum, the government right now was looking at strengthening its assistance to rural communities along with the PHAMA programme to establish testing facilities and also to establish kava nurseries so that it can distribute planting material to areas where you don’t have enough planting materials for farmers to plant.

Tumukon said government was discussing this with the Department of Agriculture for the Government to provide additional funding to establish nurseries on islands where farmers would like to increase their production of kava.

There were also awareness materials being sent out to farmers about what kava varieties they should be planting, and also how they should be preparing their products for their market.

Jonas Cullwick, former general manager of the Vanuatu Broadcasting and Television Corporation (VBTC), is now a senior journalist with the Daily Post.

The MSG Chair, Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare and the PNG Prime Minister, Hon Peter O’Neill.
The MSG Chair, Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare and the PNG Prime Minister, Hon Peter O’Neill.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Chair, Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands has described his dialogue with the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister, Hon Peter O’Neill as ‘very fruitful.’

The MSG Chair met with Hon O’Neill in the PNG Capital, Port Moresby yesterday, concluding his second and final round of consultations with MSG leaders since taking up the chairmanship of the Melanesian sub-regional grouping in June 2015.

The key issues of discussion included the following:

  • MSG Special Leaders’ Summit;
  • Outcome of the Meeting of the MSG sub-committee on Legal and Institutional Issues {SCLII) in Port Vila in December 2016. SCLII is the MSG sub-committee that makes recommendations to the MSG Governing Bodies- Senior Officials Meeting, Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Leaders’ Summit;
  • West Papua;
  • MSG Free Trade Agreement;
  • MSG Labour Mobility, Independent Review of the MSG Secretariat; and
  • MSG Chairmanship Handover from Solomon Islands to Papua New Guinea.

Speaking after his meeting with Prime Minister O’Neill, the MSG Chair said “I had a very fruitful meeting with the PNG Prime Minister on the agendas of discussion as I also had with Prime Minister Charlot Salwai of Vanuatu, Victor Tutugoro of the FLNKS and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji earlier on in February.”

On the issue of Special Leaders’ Summit, the MSG Chair said he expressed regret over his inability to convene any Special Leaders’ Summit in December 2016 due to the non-availability of colleague leaders.

He said a Special Leaders’ Summit was supposed to be held to approve the recommendations from various bodies of MSG including SCLII.

However, the MSG Chair said the various bodies of the MSG- SCLII and Senior Officials Meeting (SOM)- did meet and made a number of recommendations to the Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) for submission to the Leaders’ Summit for final approval.

He said the MSG Capitals’ visit was therefore important to consult with colleague leaders on various recommendations from the various MSG Bodies for final approval

“I have met with both Prime Minister Charlot Salwai of Vanuatu and Victor Tutugoro of the FLNKS in Port Vila and Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji in Suva as part of this second and final round of consultations earlier in February this year. I was supposed to travel on to Port Moresby to meet with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill but had to postpone the Port Moresby leg of the trip because the PNG Parliament was in session.

“I am now pleased that I finally met with Prime Minister O’Neill yesterday and my meeting with the PNG Prime Minister like my previous meetings with my other colleague leaders was very fruitful.”

On the Outcome of the Meeting of SCLII in Port Vila in September last year, the MSG Chair said he informed Prime Minister O’Neill that the meeting endorsed the proposed Revised MSG Membership Guidelines and was brought to the attention of the SOM and FMM in their meeting which immediately followed the SCLII meeting and were endorsed by the Governing Bodies in December 2016.

He said he informed the PNG Prime Minister that Prime Minister Salwai, FLNKS Spokesman, Mr Tutugoro and Prime Minister Bainimarama have all agreed in principle to the Revised MSG Membership Guidelines and during his consultations with them.

The revised guidelines provide a very transparent process for Leaders to deliberate on an application for membership whereby they enhance and protect the decision-making process and respect the reporting structure of the MSG at the Summit level as stipulated under Articles 7 (1) and (2) of the MSG Agreement.

The MSG Chair said Prime Minister O’Neill in turn expressed support for the Revised MSG Membership Guidelines and as such, Leaders will meet and formally approve them at the next MSG Leaders’ Summit.

On the issue of West Papua, the MSG Chair said he told Prime Minister O’Neill that the United Liberation Movement of West Papua’s (ULMWP’s) application for membership of the MSG will be dealt with under the Revised MSG Membership Criteria.

He said Prime Minister O’Neill expressed the ULMWP’s membership of the MSG is not an issue to PNG but rather the ULMWP proving that it is a united body that represents the collective views of the people of West Papua just as the FLNKS is evidently a united body representing the collective views of the Kanaks of New Caledonia.

The MSG Chair said the PNG Prime Minister further stated that any discussion on the issue of sovereignty should be taken up appropriately with the United Nations Decolonisation Committee (C24) in New York and the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

On the issue of MSG Free Trade Agreement, the MSG Chair said Prime Minister O’Neill stated that PNG will be signing up the agreement after sorting out some issues of concern with Fiji.

On the issue of MSG Labour Mobility, the MSG Chair said Prime Minister O’Neill has expressed desire to see this opened up so that Melanesians from other Melanesian countries do not have to apply for work permit to work in PNG and vice versa.

On the issue of Independent Review of the MSG Secretariat, the MSG Chair told Prime Minister O’Neill that the purpose of the review, which started since January pursuant to the Governing Body decision in December for the review to be undertaken. Its bold objective is to ensure a wholly functional, resilient and robust secretariat that delivers on the mandates of leaders.

He said the PNG Prime Minister conveyed PNG’s firm support for the review and offered assistance to the secretariat to ensure the reform is undertaken smoothly and swiftly.

On the issue of MSG Chairmanship Handover, the MSG Chair said he had sought the view of Prime Minister O’Neill as to when should Solomon Islands hand over the chairmanship to PNG this year and the PNG Prime Minister said Solomon Islands should hold on to the position until after the PNG General Elections in June.

The MSG Chair and his delegation will return to Honiara tomorrow, Friday 17th March.

Fiji Times – TALEBULA KATE, Thursday, March 16, 2017

Update: 3:32PM THE Ministry of iTaukei Affairs will be having the village bylaw consultations in Lau next week.

The consultations will be held at the Tubou Village hall, Lakeba, Lau on Tuesday March 21 .

This will be concurrent to the hosting of the iTaukei Affairs roadshow at the Tubou Village ground.

The confirmed agencies for the roadshow are:

– Ministry of Youth and Sports;

– Bank of the South Pacific;

– Ministry of Justice – Birth, Death and Marriage;

– Fijian Holdings;

– ITaukei Affairs Board;

– Ministry of Fisheries;

– Ministry of ITaukei Affairs; ITaukei Lands and Fisheries Commission (Veitarogivanua) and Institute of Language and Culture.

The ministry will also be conducting village bylaw consultations at the Serua Provincial Council on Tuesday March 28, and at the Namosi Provincial Council on Thursday, March 30.

Prime Minister Sogavare, right and Premier Ramohia giving three happy cheers for Malaita Province on its 33rd Second Appointed Day Anniversary celebration in Auki.
Prime Minister Sogavare, right and Premier Ramohia giving three happy cheers for Malaita Province on its 33rd Second Appointed Day Anniversary celebration in Auki.

 

Prime Minister Sogavare and his delegation welcome on arrival by at the Gwaunaru'u Airport for the Malaita Day Celebration.
Prime Minister Sogavare and his delegation welcome on arrival by at the Gwaunaru’u Airport for the Malaita Day Celebration.

The Democratic Coalition for Change Government (DCCG) is taking a bold step towards designing a policy framework that will see traditional governance an integral part of the government system, Prime Minister Sogavare announced this in the Malaita Provincial capital this morning.

The Prime Minister made the announcement in his keynote address at Malaita Province’s 33rd Second Appointed Day Anniversary celebration at the Auki Primary School field where a huge crowd braved the scotching sun and later a sudden downpour, to witness.

“The DCC Government is taking a bold step towards designing a policy framework that will eventually see traditional governance forming an important part of the design of our government system.”

Prime Minister Sogavare delivers his keynote address.
Prime Minister Sogavare delivers his keynote address.

Prime Minister Sogavare said this policy would be developed through the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation and Peace and may see the ministry taking on a different name to deal with policies designed to consolidate the national peace process, especially the good work that the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands has done.

He said the theme of Malaita’s 33rd Second Appointed Day Anniversary, “Engaging Malaitans in Peace-building and Indigenous Governance for Community Resilience’ is a challenging and thought-provoking theme because it acknowledges amongst other things that Malaita existed long before the introduction of the modern governance system and that peace –building is part and parcel of it.

The Prime Minister said the pursuance of this theme is not without challenges in the setting of a Solomon Islands in the 21st Century.

The Chairman of Government Caucus, and MP for Central Kwara'ae, Hon Jackson Fiulaua and the Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources, West Are Are MP, Hon John Maneniaru.
Members of the Prime Minister’s delegation to the 33rd Malaita Province Second Appointed Day Anniversary.
“Peace-making in its narrow view for example, has now become one of the most expensive thing pursued in the name of custom and tradition and we therefore need to strike an appropriate balance between what is acceptable in custom and its equivalent in its modern day Solomon Islands, in the way we address issues of peace-building which peace-making is an integral part.

“The theme captures an issue that sparks an ongoing debate on the role of traditional governance in our government system. Our National Constitution vaguely recognizes custom in the judicial processes and that is where the recognition of custom and traditional governance come close to be entertained in our governance processes.”

Prime Minister Sogavare said there is a development angle to he role of traditional governance in the government system, especially when it comes to dealings in land for development.

Some of the Malaitan Traditional dancers who provided entertainment at the occasion.
Some of the Malaitan Traditional dancers who provided entertainment at the occasion.

He said in the case of Malaita, the Malaita Think Tank Group has made that clear to the Government that the active involvement of the people themselves and the recognition and respect for the traditional Land Tenure system in the discussion on land for development is key to making land available for development and failing that Malaita will only be going around and round the circles.

The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to congratulate the Malaita Provincial Government on Malaita Province’s qualification to access the Provincial Capacity Development Fund (PCDF) for 2015.

“Congratulations for your great effort, Mr Premier and Congratulations to your Executive Government and Administrative staff for ensuring that Malaita has fully implemented financial discipline and control in its operations.

The Royal Solomon Islands Police band also participated in the Malaita Day celebration.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police band also participated in the Malaita Day celebration.

“This is very encouraging and good news for your Province and its people. We will work together in ensuring that this financial discipline is maintained and improved on.”

On that note, Prime Minister Sogavare also announced the National Government’s Commitment for this year’s PCDF Budget.

“I am happy to announce here that the national Government’s commitment for this year’s PCDF Budget is $50-Million Solomon Islands dollars. The benefits from this will be enormous.

“The PCDF provides a lot of funding opportunities for small scale infrastructure development projects, including classrooms and dormitories, office buildings, sports facilities, markets, women and youth centres, rural health clinics, staff houses and so forth.”

Students from schools in the Malaita Provincial Capital also participated in the parade marking the 33rd Second Appointed Day Anniversary.
Students from schools in the Malaita Provincial Capital also participated in the parade marking the 33rd Second Appointed Day Anniversary.
Within that context, he appealed to the Malaita Provincial Government for its commitment to continue providing support in terms of planning with sound policy decisions and to help Malaita move forward in terms of its PCDF qualification and financial performances.

Further to the PCDF Support, Prime Minister Sogavare said the National Government through the Ministry of Provincial Government Institutional Strengthening also provides support for the construction of the new Malaita Provincial Assembly Chamber and on that note urged the Malaita Premier to work closely with Ministries concerned to ensure the project is implemented.

APReport – By Hele Ikimotu

A threatened tradition will get fresh focus when a female Melanesian tattoo collective takes up a Spanish invitation.

The group, Mage’au: Melanesian Marks, is made up of three women – Julia Mage’au Grey, Aisa Pokarop and Toria Maladina.

They will soon attend the Traditional Tattoo and World Culture Festival in Santa Ponsa, Spain.

Grey said the trip was important for the group as it gave them an opportunity to promote the significance of the Melanesian marks movement and revive it.

“Since 2012, we’ve been pushing awareness to bring back our marks for our women and our men, and basically the festival picked up on it,” she said.

Grey said the practice holds historic significance to her as a Papua New Guinean.

“Men in our communities see women for their worth, and in the past we used our marks as statements and reminders for our men to treat us with respect.”

But because the practice is nearing extinction, men do not have that reminder, she added.

“It’s negligent if we let that part of our culture go. That’s why we feel this trip to Spain is very important.”

‘Real privilege’
Ema Lavola, who had work done on her by Grey, said it was a “real privilege” to be wearing the traditional marks.

“When we mark our bodies, we are creating an interface between how the world perceives us and how we want the world to see us,” she said.

“For me, the tattoo is a way to remind me every day where I come from and what makes me different.”

Lavola said Mage’au and her team were “advocates and protectors of the integrity of these marks, making sure that the people who wear them are wearing them for the right reason”.

Reina Sutton – a friend of Grey and gallery co-ordinator at Fresh Gallery Otara – said artists like Grey help people reconnect with their culture.

“I think it’s a great thing that Julia and her team are doing with their work, getting those marks back before they’re lost.”

She said the opportunity for artists to showcase their work internationally is rewarding as it creates conversation about Pacific art being used as a platform of change.

“I’m a huge supporter of what my friends and creative family are doing and I’m super-proud.”

APReport – By Kendall Hutt –  March 14, 2017

Ahead of the launch of her debut novel The Earth Cries Out, author Bonnie Etherington talks with Pacific Media Watch contributing editor Kendall Hutt about the grief and loss intertwined with growing up in West Papua, against a backdrop of the wider political and humanitarian issues of the controversial Indonesian-ruled region.

 By Kendall Hutt

Speaking to Asia Pacific Report in transit from the United States, author Bonnie Etherington says her early life in West Papua motivated her to write the novel The Earth Cries Out, but more importantly a desire to make the public more aware of the repressed Indonesian-ruled region.

“I really wanted to show multiple sides of West Papua because it is so often forgotten or stereotyped by the rest of the world,” she says.

Controversy has surrounded West Papua since its incorporation into Indonesia through a controversial Act of Free Choice — dubbed by critics as an “Act of no choice”–  in 1969.

Such controversy is compounded by the fact that the region is plagued by media freedom and human rights violations.

Despite President Joko Widodo’s lifting of restrictions on foreign journalists in 2015, harassment and assaults against journalists have continued, a Freedom House report shows.

“Access is not automatic, unimpeded, or granted quickly”, the report states.

Papuan independence silenced

The situation for West Papuans themselves is also dark, with Human Rights Watch World Report 2017 revealing dozens of Papuans remain imprisoned for non-violent expression of their political views.

More than 1700 Papuan independence supporters were detained in early May last year while showing solidarity with the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) protest in London.

Many organisations and human rights groups condemned the arrests, whilst allegations of torture also emerged following the mass arrests.

Such events have prompted several Pacific nations to recently raise grave concerns regarding such human rights violations, at the 34th session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in March.

Calls by Pacific nations echo those of the Catholic Justice of Peace Commission back in May, whose report found no improvement in human rights violations, prompting the group to call on the UN to investigate human rights abuses.

These are all grave issues Etherington herself acknowledges.

“West Papua’s political situation is complex and its history is rich and diverse, and the novel shows just some parts of that,” she says.

“I really did not want to homogenise the region or its many peoples, but give a glimpse into its multiplicities.”

 

Loss, grief, pain

The Earth Cries Out does just that, following a Nelson family as they attempt to heal and atone through aid work after the accidental death of Julia, the sister of young female protagonist Ruth.

Dropping into a mountain village in West Papua (Irian Jaya, as it was known then) during a time of civil unrest and suppression, Ruth’s parents struggle with their grief.

Ruth, meanwhile, seeks redemption in bearing witness to and passing on the stories of others, of those who have been silenced.

Although never having lost a sibling, as Ruth does, Etherington says the main challenge she faced was gathering the courage to write the novel.

“In part, it was challenging because there are some experiences of grief that Ruth and I both share, and similar experiences of disorientation, witnessing, and survivor’s guilt”.

Etherington and her family moved to West Papua in the early 1990s, where her father partnered with a Papuan church to provide language, literacy and healthcare services.

She has spent roughly a total of 11 years in West Papua, between 1992 and 2007.

Despite four years living in Darwin, Australia, from 2000-2004, Etherington says she popped “back and forth quite a bit”, with the family also spending time in New Zealand.

 

Mass killings

It is therefore unsurprising Etherington’s experiences speak to the ongoing situation in West Papua, with the author declining to name the village where she grew up “in order to protect the people who still live there”.

With mass killings marring West Papua’s history under Indonesia, it is understandable why Etherington’s novel explores loss and grief.

“Death and illness were common parts of life in the village where I grew up.”

She explains this was largely due to high infant mortality rates and malaria.

Etherington’s first encounter with so much death came when she was just five years old.

“I was at the funeral of my best friend, a boy who had the same name as I did. He died from malaria … I remember how small his coffin was”.

 

Centrality of women

With young female protagonist Ruth at the heart of the novel, and West Papua seen through her eyes, women have a central place in The Earth Cries Out.

“To some extent, the novel is about relationships between women, especially mothers and their daughters, and the shades of loss and pain, as well as love that can colour those relationships,” Etherington says.

Harriet Allan, fiction publisher for Penguin Books New Zealand, agrees women have a central place in the novel.

“The novel gives voice to those who have been silenced, in particular, though not exclusively, to women.

The relationships between the young protagonist Ruth and her dead sister, her mother and her new friend Susumina are at the heart of the book.”

Allan, who first met Etherington at a creative writing workshop at Massey University five years ago, says the novel offers a window into life in West Papua – its people, harsh realities, vivid landscape, and the love and warmth of West Papua’s people.

“The novel is a compelling story and valuable insight into another country and into other people – but ultimately into ourselves”.

 

‘Home of my heart’

Reflecting on the “home of my heart” Etherington says she hopes she has drawn attention to the perseverance of West Papua’s people and that her readers are encouraged to listen more to others stories.

“I hope that the novel, on some scale, is about listening to those who have been marginalised on their own lands.”

However, when asked what she would like to see happen over the situation in West Papua, Etherington says it is not her place to say how the indigenous peoples of West Papua gain justice for themselves and their land.

“I support dignity and justice for the indigenous peoples of West Papua and their lands. How that should best come about is not my place to say.

“It is the place of indigenous Papuans to say, whether that takes the shape of full political autonomy from Indonesia or some other configuration of reconciliation and reparations.

I hope that their voices will be heard and respected.”