West Papua: up to 15 dead as rebels and Indonesian soldiers clash

Deaths reported on both sides in firefight during work on trans-Papua highway 

As many as 15 people are believed to have been killed in a firefight between Indonesian soldiers and Papuan independence fighters, adding to more than two dozen deaths in the simmering conflict since November.

Indonesia’s military said three of its soldiers, and seven to 10 independence fighters, died on Thursday when a force of 50 to 70 rebels carrying firearms as well as spears and arrows attacked a group of 25 soldiers in a battle lasting several hours.

Sebby Sambom, a spokesman for the West Papua National Liberation Army, said five soldiers were killed and admitted no deaths for the Papuans. Both sides claimed to have captured weapons.

Muhammad Aidi, the military spokesman for Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region, said the soldiers had arrived in the area to guard work on the trans Papua highway and the attack was unprovoked. According to Sambom, the soldiers had burned traditional dwellings and interrogated villagers.

Two helicopters sent to take the bodies of the three killed soldiers to the mining town of Timika were shot at but eventually landed after Indonesian forces returned fire, Aidi said.

The highlands district was the location of a December attack by Papuan fighters on workers at a construction site for the trans Papua highway that killed 19. Large numbers of people have been displaced by military and police security operations since the attack.

At least 31 people have died since early November in an apparent escalation of attacks by the West Papua National Liberation Army. The figure doesn’t include unconfirmed civilian deaths that Papuan activists say resulted from security operations.

An insurgency has simmered in Papua, which makes up the western half of the island of New Guinea, since the early 1960s when Indonesia annexed the Dutch-controlled territory.

Discrimination against indigenous Papuans and abuses by Indonesian police and military have drawn renewed attention globally as Indonesia campaigns for membership in the UN’s human rights watchdog.

The exiled leader of the Papuan independence movement, Benny Wenda, in January presented a 1.8m-signature petition calling for self-determination to the UN human rights chief in Geneva.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

UK petition calls for West Papua chemical weapons investigation

West Papuan independence campaigners are supporting a British parliamentary petition calling for investigations into Indonesia’s alleged chemical weapon use in Papua.

Labour MP Alex Sobel last month filed a motion demanding the British government and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigate.

Since then, 22 other MPs have added their names to the petition, which claims there is “sufficient documentary evidence” of chemical weapon use by Indonesia’s military in Papua.

The motion said there was witness testimony and journalistic reporting showing Indonesia’s military has used “burn-causing chemicals, potentially including white phosphorous”.

Indonesia’s military and government have described the claims as baseless.

The motion also noted increased Indonesian military and police activity in Papua’s Nduga regency, where the security forces are pursuing members of the West Papua Liberation Army.

The Free West Papua Campaign said supporters in the UK can contact their local MP to register support for the motion.

Source: RadioNZ

Department of Climate Change sets foundation

A workshop underway in Port Vila aims to develop the vision, mission and objectives to guide the new Department of Climate Change.

Organised by the Department of Climate Change, the three-day workshop which ends tomorrow (Friday) brought stakeholders in both government and private sector together to discuss what the department exist to achieve and how it will fulfill its purpose.

It is the first time that the Department of Climate Change is facilitating a workshop, following the appointment of its new director.

Director Mike Sam Waiwai said the workshop will set the foundation for the young department.

The establishment of a separate Department of Climate Change under the Ministry of Climate Change was approved by the Council of Ministers (COM).

”The government recognizes that climate change is the most complex and urgent issue affecting us today,” Director Waiwai said.

”Vanuatu like any other small developing countries contribute less to global warming but is suffering enormously.

”Climate change is putting Ni-vans and their livelihoods at risk.

”The new department will serve the needs of communities affected by climate change.

”It will also support the government to achieve its national and international climate change commitments.”

Director Waiwai said one of the first activity the department plans to do is educate people, mostly in the rural areas about climate change. He believes they lack knowledge on the issue.

According to Director Waiwai, the new Department of Climate Change staff are individuals who specialise in climate change issues.

Source: Vanuatu Daily Post

UN welcomes setting of Bougainville referendum date

The United Nations in Papua New Guinea has congratulated the governments of PNG and Bougainville for confirming a date for the independence referendum.

In a statement the UN said the referendum will give the people of Bougainville the opportunity to express their opinion on the future political status of the autonomous Region of Bougainville, as guaranteed in the 2001 Peace Agreement.

A meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body last week set the poll to start from 12th October this year.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Gianluca Rampolla, said the decision highlighted again the strong commitment of the two governments to work together to continue to support peace in Bougainville.

He has also welcomed the supervisory body engaging with the Post-Referendum Planning Taskforce.

The UN said it will continue to partner with both governments, recognising that the referendum is a very important step in the process, to be followed by a consultation phase between the two governments before the National Parliament exercises its final decision-making authority.

Dangerous highway: Soldiers to finish Papua road after workers killed

JAKARTA: Six hundred Indonesian soldiers will finish building a highway in the province of Papua, a military spokesman said on Tuesday (Mar 5), after 16 construction workers were killed by separatists in the restive area last year.

The soldiers working on the Trans-Papua highway and 21 bridges will continue security operations in the area home to a simmering separatist conflict since Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969.

“They will build the road because conditions in the field are difficult and there are disruptions from armed criminal groups,” military spokesman Brigadier General Sisriadi said via text message.

Construction on parts of the 4,300km highway has been stalled for months after the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) claimed responsibility for killing at least 16 workers and a soldier in Nduga district in December.

Fighting between rebels and the Indonesian military caused hundreds of villagers to flee the resource-rich area in western New Guinea island.

President Joko Widodo, who faces an election in April, vowed to finish the highway project as part of his promise to develop Papua, Indonesia’s poorest region.Advertisement

But he faces criticism from rights activists for not doing enough to investigate accusations of rights abuses by security forces there.

United Nations rights experts last month urged Indonesia to investigate accusations of violence by police and military in Papua after a video showed officers using a live snake to intimidate a suspect during questioning.Source: Reuters/jt
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Indonesia deploys 600 soldiers to Papua for road project

Indonesia has deployed 600 military personnel to Papua, to safeguard the construction of a controversial road project.

The security build-up around the project, which was promised in January, threatens to deepen escalating violence in the Highlands regions.

The Antara state news agency reported that the soldiers, which include 150 combat engineers, will be supervising work on the 4,600-kilometre Trans-Papua Highway.

In December, at least 17 Indonesian construction workers working on the project were massacred by the West Papua Liberation Army.

Before their deployment, the Chief of the Hasanuddin Regional Military Command XIV, Major General Surawahadi, addressed the soldiers in the city of Makassar.

“You have heavy tasks and responsibilities to safeguard the construction of the Trans Papua road, including dealing with security disturbance from the armed separatist group,” he said.

Source: RadioNZ

Bougainville referendum vote delay not a surprise – MP

Bougainville South MP Tim Masiu says a four month delay to the Bougainville referendum was not unexpected.

[audio_playhttps://www.radionz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/2018685034/bougainville-s-referendum-on-independence-delayed Listen to more on Dateline Pacific

Bougainville is due to hold a vote on whether to become fully independent of Papua New Guinea.

It was tentatively set for June 15th this year but has now been moved, with voting to start on 12 October.

Mr Masiu, who is also PNG’s deputy opposition leader, was at Friday’s Joint Supervisory Body meeting in Port Moresby when the decision was made.

He said the chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, told the meeting the update on the common roll was not going well.

“And there are still a lot of Bougainvilleans living outside of Bougainville and also in Bougainville who had not been registered. So in order for a majority of people to vote they needed to update the common roll. So that was one of the sticking issues.”

Tim Masiu said other factors include hold-ups in efforts to ensure the region is free of weapons, as well as issues with funding from the national government.

Meanwhile, the Post Courier reports that PNG’s government has committed to pay about 8.7 million US dollars to help Bougainville prepare for its independence referendum.

Friday’s meeting was told by Mr Ahern, that it needed 15.7 million US dollars to prepare for the vote.

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that the government has now sent $US2.9 million with the same amount due to released next week and a further instalment later this year.

Source: RadioNZ

West Papua Liberation Army destroys digger in renewed violence

Indonesia’s military says the West Papua Liberation Army set fire to a digger owned by a state-owned construction company on Tuesday.

The attack on Istaka Karya’s operations in Nduga regency follows the killing of at least 16 of its employees there by the Liberation Army in December. The Liberation Army has claimed the staff were actually Indonesian military in disguise.

In the aftermath of the massacre, hundreds of Indonesian military and police forces deployed to the area in a hunt for the armed group.

Military spokesman Colonel Muhammad Aidi said Liberation Army fighters burned an already-broken excavator in Yigi district and fired shots in the area.

He said when military soldiers arrived, the rebels fled without a gunfire exchange.

Indonesian security forces searching villages in Puncak Jaya regency for members of the West Papua Liberation Army, October 2018.

Indonesian security forces searching villages in Puncak Jaya regency for members of the West Papua Liberation Army, October 2018. Photo: Supplied

A spokesperson for the Liberation Army, Sebby Sambon, disputed this account, saying an unknown number of military and police were injured in a shootout which took place on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

However, he said he had only received an initial and unverified report from Liberation Army officials.

Mr Sambon said the battle took place after an ultimatum the Liberation Army gave to the military and police, which included demands that all non-Papuans leave Nduga and that Indonesia’s flag be lowered across the regency.

In a statement, Liberation Army Commander Ekianus Kogeya said if the ultimatum was not complied with, there would be another attack.

Source: RadioNZ

Bougainville independence referendum postponed

A meeting today in Port Moresby between the Papua New Guinea national government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government resolved to defer the referendum to 12 October.

The Bougainville Referendum Commission had requested the referendum be postponed due to a lack of funding for preparations for the plebiscite and incomplete voter registration.

Under the terms of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum must be held by June 2020.

Source: RadioNZ

SIPRA looks to prioritise strengthening good governance and arresting corruption

By Gary Hatigeva

Now going into its campaign platform, the Solomon Islands Party for Rural Advancement (SIPRA) is looking to set a high priority on fighting corruption head on, and strengthen good governance.

SIPRA President and former Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo revealed this when launching his party’s manifesto on Wednesday, with six pillars being the key baselines for their campaigning.

“In that regard, it is now my pleasure to present and highlight to you the main pillars of our 2019 General Election Platform. Our 2019 campaign is based only on 6 main pillars. Clearly setting out these pillars is important for all of us,” Lilo stressed.

The former Gizo-Kolombangara MP explained that these pillars help his team focus, and that sometimes when there are so many agenda to pursue, one loses his way.

“But when there is only a handful of goals to chase, resources and attention are directed and better results are achieved. SIPRA’s number 1 pillar for 2019 National General Elections is “arresting corruption and strengthening good governance,” he said.

Lilo said SIPRA sees good governance, not just by the Solomon Islands Government (SIG), but by the provincial governments, State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOS), village leadership structures and church leadership structures as fundamental to moving forward from 2019 to 2023.

“Corruption in my view is one of the greatest plagues of the 21st century. It is as terrible as aids which ravaged humanity some years back, or climate change which continues to threaten human existence today.

“Corruption is one of the greatest modern epidemics. It must be exposed, punished and constantly kept in check,” he added.

He said the statistics has borne out the fact that countries that have transparent and clear rules regulating government behaviour and also clear enforcement regimes tend to perform better than countries that have unclear rules of government and where corruption is swept under the carpet.

“In the world of instant social media we see that happening right in front of our eyes. Today we see the once rich country of Venezuela starving for basic food.

“We have also seen similarly well to do countries in Africa gone down that pathway. Conversely, we see countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong who constantly perform high on the global good governance indices maintain very high standards of living.

“That is the nature of the beast we call government. Our country is no exception. If we work hard over the next four years to curb corruption and bring it under check we will see the country rise among the nations of the world,” the SIPRA President further stressed.

He said good government is an ideal desired my many leaders – past and present, and the question should be asked is what can be done about it.

He added that in more modern times we saw passage of legislation such as the Financial Management Act, Political Parties Integrity Act, Anti-Corruption Act, Whistle Blowers Act and similar legislation.

He further added that under this priority, SIPRA’s objective over the next four years is to strengthen the implementation of that legislation.

The former who will be re-contesting the Gizo-Kolombangara seat highlighted in line with what have been shared, at the top level of government, they are looking to review the MPs Tax Free status, the Constituency Development Act and regulations.

“We will also put a spotlight on government contracting at the level of the Permanent Secretaries, the various tender boards, and the level of directors and undersecretaries. 
“We will also put the spotlight on the State Owned Enterprises to ensure that they do not simply waste valuable resources but produce the deliverables they state in their foundational documents. National resources must be applied to produce national benefits, not just benefit for a few well connected individuals or businesses,” Lilo told a packed SINU pavilion.

He then noted that in order to achieve the good governance proposal, his team is also looking to bring into being the Anti-corruption commission and the relevant bodies set up under the Anti-corruption Act.

“The relevant bodies will be independent. They will not be subject to political pressure of the government of the day.
We will ensure that the bodies set up under the various anti-corruption legislation will keep a check on corruption by private individuals, companies and entities.

“All public sector dealings will be under scrutiny by these agencies and the community at large.

“When government is transparent and accountable, we believe the community at large will reap many blessings. In the next four years, under a SIPRA government, its highest priority is to tackle corruption head on and to bring to account anyone that violates our standards against corruption.

“We will monitor our performance on the global good governance indices to ensure that we improve our performance over the next four years.

“Along with that we will also look at making the public service more efficient in its operations. We will review the recommendations that are already available and look at ways to implement these recommendations.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we must be able to put our house in order first before we try and address external matters. That will be the Number 1 priority of our government,” the former PM shared during his launch speech.