Indonesia working with UN rights chief on Papua visit

Indonesia’s government says it’s working with the office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to arrange access to West Papua.

The Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, last week indicated her office had been unable to secure permission from Jakarta to visit Papua region.

In January, Indonesia agreed in principle to allow a visit by the rights chief but this has not yet eventuated, despite strong international backing for it.

Andreano Erwin from Indonesia’s Permanent Mission at the UN addressed the matter at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

He said Jakarta last year invited the previous UN rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, to visit Papua.

Due to his tight schedule, the High Commissioner delegated the planned visit to the regional (UN Human Rights Commission) office in Bangkok,” Mr Erwin said during the council’s 42nd regular session.

“We are currently working with the regional office to prepare this planned visit, designed to showcase the development in the province in Papua and West Papua (provinces).”

He was exercising Indonesia’s right of response to an an earlier joint statement of concern about the human rights situation in Papua by Vanuatu and Solomon islands.

It followed weeks of protests and related unrest in Papua which left at least ten people dead and dozens of Papuans arrested.

Mr Erwin characterised the unrest as “unfortunate” and “isolated”, saying the security in Papua was now “conducive”, after Indonesia deployed 6000 extra military and police personnel to the remote region which remains restricted to outside access.

The Melanesian countries told the UN council in Geneva of their deep concern about ongoing rights violations against the freedoms of expression and assembly, as well as racial discrimination towards Papuans in the Indonesian-administered provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Their statement was delivered by Sumbue Antas from Vanuatu’s Permanent Mission to the UN.

“Related to this agenda item, we are concerned about the Indonesian Government’s delay in confirming a time and date for the Human Rights Commissioner to conduct its visit to West Papua,” Mr Antas said.

Vanuatu diplomat Sumbue Antas speaks about human rights concerns in West Papua at the UN Human rights Council in Geneva, September 2019.
Vanuatu diplomat Sumbue Antas speaks about human rights concerns in West Papua at the UN Human rights Council in Geneva, September 2019. Photo: WEBTV.UN.ORG

At the recent annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Tuvalu, regional countries called on both Indonesia and the UN Commissioner to finalise the timing of a visit to West Papua, and to submit an evidence-based report on the situation before the next summit in 2020.

Mr Erwin also addressed widely reported cases of racist harassment of Papuan university students in Javanese cities which sparked the recent wave of protests in Papua.

“The Indonesian government deeply regrets the (aforementioned) incident, and has consequently brought the perpetrators to justice,” he told the session.

“The government and the people of Indonesia… will continue to take action to combat racism and discrimination, not only through a law enforcement approach but also through education and effective public dissemination efforts.”

He also confirmed that a block on the internet in Papua, implemented by the government last month, started being lifted two weeks ago.

New High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is seen on a TV screen delivering her speech during the opening day of the 39th UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva on September 10, 2018.
New High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet is seen on a TV screen delivering her speech during the opening day of the 39th UN Council of Human Rights in Geneva on September 10, 2018. Photo: AFP or licensors

Ms Bachelet last week raised issue with the blocking of the internet in Papua, issuing a statement with her concerns about human rights in the Melanesian region.

“The temporary restriction was based on the interests to prevent the spread the contents of false and inciteful information that provokes disunity among Indonesians, and guarantee the rights of citizens to enjoy their freedoms insofar as it does not contravene the rights of others and public interests,”

Mr Erwin said.

Source: RNZ

Nation marks the funeral of Tongan PM

The funeral of the late Tongan prime minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva is taking place this morning in Nuku’alofa.

Mr Pohiva died in Auckland last Thursday but has been lying-in-state at the St George Government Building over the past two nights.

There is a national day of mourning and public holiday in Tonga today to mark Mr Pohiva’s funeral.

The Prime Minister’s cortege has made its way from the St George building to the Free Wesleyan Centenary Church with the service to be conducted by the church president and royal chaplain, Reverend Dr ‘Ahio.

Mr Pohiva will be buried at Telekava cemetery in Kolomotu’a.

Dignitaries and politicians from all over the region have travelled to Tonga to pay their respects.

no caption
Photo: Twitter / @jennymarcroft

Source: RNZ

Kausea Natano new PM of Tuvalu; Sopoaga ousted

uvalu’s Parliament has elected a new prime minister, ending the six-year premiership of Enele Sopoaga.

Kausea Natano was this morning voted in by 10 of the country’s 16 MPs to form a new government.

Mr Natano, a long-time MP from Funafuti, had been put forward as a candidate by a bloc of MPs who had moved against Mr Sopoaga earlier this year.

The country of 11,000 people went to the polls last week to vote for a new 16-member Parliament.

Seven of the members are first-timers.

The MP for Niutao Samuelu Teo, son of the country’s first governor-general Sir Fiatau Teo, has been nominated as the new Speaker of Parliament. That appointment will be made tomorrow.

Enele Sopoaga
Enele Sopoaga Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Jamie Tahana

WPRA Congratulates New Tuvalu Prime Minister

In a statement issued today, Secretary-General of West Papua Revolutionary Army (WPRA), one of the tree affiliate commands of West Papua Army (WPA), congratulates

Kausea Natano as new PM of Tuvalu .

The Secretary-General of WPRA, Amunggut Tabi, Gen. WPRA expresses thanks for the support from Tuvalu for the protection and promotion of human rights in West Papua, including the rights to self-termination.

Vanuatu and Solomons raise Papua at UN rights council

Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have raised the issue of human rights abuses against West Papuans at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The two governments made a statement which also noted that Indonesia had not yet given access to Papua for the UN Human Rights Commissioner.

The statement was delivered at the council’s latest session by Sumbue Antas from Vanuatu’s Permanent Mission to the UN.

It followed weeks of protests and related unrest in Papua which left at least ten people dead and dozens of Papuans arrested.

The Melanesian countries told the council of their deep concern about ongoing rights violations against the freedoms of expression and assembly, as well as racial discrimination towards Papuans in the Indonesian-administered provinces of Papua and West Papua.

They echoed last week’s call from the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, for Indonesia to protect the fundamental human rights of Papuans.

“Related to this agenda item, we are concerned about the Indonesian Government’s delay in confirming a time and date for the Human Rights Commissioner to conduct its visit to West Papua,” Mr Antas said.

For years, the UN Human Rights Commissioner’s office has been trying to secure permission from Jakarta to visit Papua region.

Indonesia’s government has indicated that, for the time being, access to Papua would remain restricted because of the security situation created by the recent unrest, which was triggered by racist harassment of Papuan students in Java last month.

Six thousand extra Indonesian military and police personnel were deployed to Papua to respond to the widespread protests. The government also implemented restrictions on internet coverage in Papua, although this was gradually being eased as of last week.

Indonesian police vehicles attend to mass mobilisations in Jayapura, Papua province, August 2019
Indonesian police vehicles attend to mass mobilisations in Jayapura, Papua province, August 2019 Photo: Whens Tebay

However, even before the current surge in unrest, Pacific Islands countries voiced frustration that Jakarta had not responded sufficiently to repeated requests by the UN Commissioner for access to Papua.

At the recent 2019 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Tuvalu, regional countries called on both Indonesia and the UN Commissioner to finalise the timing of a visit to West Papua, and to submit an evidence-based report on the situation before the next summit in 2020.

“We call on the High Commissioner and the Government of Indonesia to expedite this arrangement so an assessment on the current situation is made, and a report can be submitted to the Human Rights Council for its consideration,”

Mr Antas said.

Source: RNZ

Pacific leaders pay tribute to ‘Akilisi Pohiva

Pacific leaders are paying tribute to the late Tongan prime minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who died on Thursday.

The 78-year-old died in an Auckland hospital having been evacuated from Tonga on Wednesday with pneumonia.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Mr Pohiva would be remembered for his lifelong commitment to championing democracy.

He was also a powerful advocate for Pacific regionalism, she said.

The secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, said Mr Pohiva was a kind and principled man and a compelling advocate for freedom.

On social media other Pacific leaders also paid tribute including Australia’s prime minister.

Scott Morrison tweeted that Mr Pohiva was a passionate advocate for his people and the Pacific family.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, said he was always impressed with the depth of experience and the passion with which Mr Pohiva spoke on issues dear to the “Blue Pacific continent”, such as climate change, regional security, sustainable development and human rights.

Mr Sogavare described Mr Pohiva as a dear friend, a colleague, a great Pacific leader and an icon for Pacific democracy.

He also paid tribute to Mr Pohiva’s stance on human rights issues in West Papua.

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, said Mr Pohiva was a man who pioneered change and led the movement for democracy in Tonga, with his legacy being that of a champion for change for over 30 years.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has also conveyed condolences to the people of Tonga on the passing of Mr Pohiva.

At last month’s Pacific Forum leaders summit in Tuvalu, Mr Pohiva urged the region to stand in solidarity with West Papuans in their bid for independence.

The Liberation Movement chair, Benny Wenda, said the Tongan leader would be remembered as one of the Pacific’s great statesmen.

Mr Wenda said West Papuans expressed their deepest and most heartfelt respect for the Tongan leader’s “brave words and his firm conviction”.

American Samoa’s governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga expressed sorrow at the passing of ‘Akilisi Pohiva,

Lolo said Mr Pohiva’s passing had sent a shock wave through the Blue Pacific.

While expressing condolences to the King and people of Tonga, Lolo noted the loss of one of the Pacific’s great leaders had resonated vociferously throughout the Pacific triggering a sense of loss.

“Although our political ideologies are different, we are all people of the Pacific, rich in cultural traditions, bound by similar needs, challenged by analogous impediments, embraced by the Pacific Ocean, and contiguous by our sense of community, tragic events involving the loss of one of our great leaders resonate vociferously throughout our Pacific Region and triggering a sense of loss,” the governor said.

Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama tweeted that Mr Pohiva inspired the world with raw emotion at last month’s Forum summit in Tuvalu.

Mr Bainimarama said despite poor health, Mr Pohiva attended the summit in recognition of the urgent need for climate action.

He said continuing this fight would honour Mr Pohiva’s legacy.

Frank Bainimarama@FijiPM

I mourn the passing of Tongan PM ʻAkilisi Pōhiva, who inspired the world with raw emotion at last month’s Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu (which, despite his health, he attended in recognition of the urgency of climate action). We must honour his legacy by continuing this fight.

View image on Twitter

Indonesia arrests another Papuan activist
Burning of Government Regent Office in Wamena, West Papua Highlands
Burning of Government Regent Office in Wamena, West Papua Highlands

Police in Indonesia say they have arrested the Papuan activist Steven Itlay and uncovered a plot to stage more riots.
Massive protests flared across the Indonesian occupied Papua and West Papua provinces last month, in reaction to racist treatment of Papuan students.

Demonstrators called for indepence from Indonesia and some protests turned violent.

The Jakarta Globe reported the police revealed the plot after arresting Mr Itlay, the head of the Mimika branch of the West Papua National Committee.

The police said they were investigating Mr Itlay’s alleged involvement in riots last month, especially in Jayapura.

Mr Itlay is suspected of working with Benny Wenda, the chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, to organize the riots, the police said.

Mr Wenda has denied orchestrating riots, and has blamed Indonesia for fostering conflict by arming settlers and directing militias.

Indonesia is ignoring the need for a peaceful transition to independence in the region through a legitimate self-determination referendum, he said.

Source: RNZ

Spikes of Violence: Protest in West Papua

SEPTEMBER 12, 2019, Source: https://www.counterpunch.org/

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Like Timor-Leste, West Papua, commonly subsuming both Papua and West Papua, remains a separate ethnic entity, acknowledged as such by previous colonial powers. Its Dutch colonial masters, in preparing to leave the region in the 1950s, left the ground fertile for a declaration of independence in 1961. Such a move did not sit well with the Indonesian desire to claim control over all Dutch Asia Pacific colonies on departure. There were resources to be had, economic gains to be made. The military duly moved in.

The New York Agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands, brokered in 1962 with the assistance of the United States, saw West Papua fall under United Nations control for the duration of one year. Once passing into Indonesian control, Jakarta would govern the territory “consistent with the rights and freedoms guaranteed to the inhabitants under the terms of the present agreement.” Education would be a priority; illiteracy would be targeted, and efforts made “to accelerate participation of the people in local government through periodic elections.”

One article stood out: “Indonesia will make arrangements, with the assistance and participation of the United Nation Representative and his staff, to give the people of the territory the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice.” In 1969, a ballot was conducted in line with the provision, though hardly in any true, representative sense. In the rich traditions of doctored representation and selective enfranchisement, 1,026 individuals were selected by Indonesian authorities to participate. Indonesia’s military kept an intimidating watch: the vote could not be left to chance. The result for Indonesian control was unanimous; the UN signed off.

Unlike Timor-Leste, the historically Melanesian territories of Papua and West Papua remains under thumb and screw, an entity that continues to exist under periodic acts of violence and habitual repression from the Indonesian central authorities. A policy of transmigration has been practiced, a point argued by scholars to be tantamount to genocide. This has entailed moving residents from Java and Sulawesi to West Papua, assisted by Jakarta’s hearty sponsorship.

The Indonesian argument here has been ethnic and political: to confect a national identity through assimilation. Under President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”)), one keen to push the idea of “Indonesia Maju” (“Advanced Indonesia”), renewed stress is being placed on infrastructure investment, economic growth and natural resources, of which Papua features heavily.

The indigenous populace has had to, in turn, surrender land to those transmigrants and appropriating authorities. “The rights of traditional law communities,” notes Clause 17 of Indonesia’s Basic Forestry Act of 1967, “may not be allowed to stand in the way of transmigration sites.”

Appropriations of land, the relocation of residents, and the odd massacre by Indonesian security forces, tend to fly low on the international radar of human rights abuses. West Papua lacks the cinematic appeal or political heft that would encourage around the clock coverage from media networks. Bureaucratic plodders in the various foreign ministries of the world prefer to render such matters benign and of little interest. Geopolitics and natural resources tend to do most of the talking.

In late 2015, for instance, Scott Busby, US deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and James Carouso, acting deputy assistant secretary for Maritime and Mainland Southeast Asian affairs, ducked and evaded anything too compromising in their testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy. The consequences of demographic policies directed by Jakarta were assiduously ignored. Massacres and institutional accountability in the territory were bypassed, as were Indonesian efforts to prevent scrutiny on the part of human rights monitors, the UN Special rapporteur and journalists.

This year, more instances of violence have managed to leach out and gurgle in media circles. It took a few ugly incidents in the Javanese city of Surabaya to engender a new wave of protests which have had a rattling effect on the security forces. Last month, pro-Indonesian nationalist groups, with reported encouragement from security forces, taunted Papuan students with an array of crude insults in East Java. (“Dogs”, “monkeys” and “pigs” were part of the bitter mix.) The fuse was lit, notably as arrests were made of the Papuans themselves. “Papuans are not monkeys”, proclaimed banners being held at a rally in Central Jakarta on August 22.

Government buildings have been torched in Jayapura. Additional forces have been deployed, and internet access cut. There are claims that white phosphorous has been used on civilians; prisons are being filled. There have even been protests in Indonesia’s capital, with the banned Morning Star flag being flown defiantly in front of the state palace. (Doing so is no mild matter: activist Filep Karma spent over a decade of his life in prison for doing so.)

The struggle for independence, at least in the international eye, has been left to such figures as Benny Wenda, who lobbies governments and groups to back the “Free Papua” campaign. He is particularly keen to take the matter of the Free Choice vote of 1969, that nasty instrument that formalised Indonesian control, to the United Nations General Assembly. Last month, he had to settle for taking the matter to the Pacific Islands Forum as a representative of Vanuatu’s delegation. In January, he gifted the UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet a petition with 1.8 million signatures seeking a new referendum for the territory.

The response from an Indonesian government spokesman was emphatic, curt, and conventional. “Developments in Papua and West Papua province are purely Indonesia’s internal affairs. No other country, organisation or individual has the right to interfere in them. We firmly oppose the intervention of Indonesia’s internal affairs in whatever form.”

The hope for Jokowi and the Indonesian authorities will be simple: ride out the storm, conduct a low-level suppression of protests, and place any talks of secession on the backburner. In this, they can count on regional, if hypocritical support. In the words of a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Australia recognises Indonesia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over the Papua provinces. Our position is clearly defined by the Lombok Treaty between Indonesia and Australia.”Join the debate on FacebookMore articles by:BINOY KAMPMARK

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email:bkampmark@gmail.com

West Papuan leader taken into custody in dramatic arrest

Activists say Buchtar Tabuni, seen as a mastermind of recent protests, was forcibly taken into custody by armed troops

A West Papuan independence group has accused the Indonesian police of “abducting” a leading West Papuan activist in a dramatic arrest on Monday.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, whose exiled leader is Benny Wenda, said in a statement that a joint strike force of Indonesian police and military surrounded the home of the high-profile activist Buchtar Tabuni early on Monday morning.

The group claims several shots were fired and four armed troops surrounded Tabuni before he was taken into custody, with no prior notice or summons.

A national police spokesperson, Dedi Prasetyo, confirmed Tabuni’s arrest for suspected treason, telling the Guardian the Papuan regional police had handled the arrest in the context of “ensuring security and order in Jayapura and Papua in general”.

Tabuni, who is a key member of the West Papuan leadership along with Wenda, is seen as a mastermind of protests that have spread across West Papua and other provinces in recent weeks.

The exiled leader Benny Wenda told the Guardian the deteriorating situation in West Papua required United Nations intervention.

“Indonesia is sending 6,000 troops on military exercises to West Papua. There is no war going on, this is peaceful demonstrators against a huge military. My people are in danger. We need to act now before it is too late.”

In a show of force, and perhaps an indication of a willingness to escalate military action if protests continue, the Indonesian military conducted exercises at Sentani and Wamena airfields in Papua. Footage from Jayapura showed dozens of paratroopers parachuting from the back of an airforce plane, part of a Quick Reaction Strike Force exercise.

Indonesia’s defence force chief, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, said the exercises were held annually at different locations across Indonesia, and this year was organised for Papua. “The jump drills ran smoothly and safely,” he said.

Indonesia’s ministry of public works and public housing has dedicated IDR100bn (US$7m) for rebuilding state offices destroyed by protesters during protests in Jayapura in Papua on 29 August.

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

Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva dies aged 78

Pacific Beat By Pacific affairs reporter Liam Fox and Michael Walsh

Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva has died at the age of 78.

Key points:

  • Mr Pohiva had been suffering from pneumonia and liver problems
  • He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the country’s politics
  • In 2014 he became the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister

Mr Pohiva was medically evacuated from the capital, Nuku’alofa, yesterday afternoon to a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.

He died at 10:00am (Tongan time) at the Auckland City Hospital, an adviser to the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Mr Pohiva had been suffering from pneumonia for two weeks and had received treatment for liver problems earlier this year, a statement from Tonga’s Government said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted he was saddened to hear of Mr Pohiva’s passing, who he described as a “passionate advocate for his people”.

Also writing on Twitter, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Mr Pohiva was “a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia”.

Mr Pohiva had served as Tonga’s Prime Minister since 2014, and was Tonga’s longest serving member of Parliament, coming into office in 1987.

He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the island kingdom’s politics, and in 2014 became the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister by Tonga’s Parliament.

Local media are reporting Tonga’s Parliament will be deferred indefinitely

Mr Pohiva last month attended the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu, where he was reportedly moved to tears by a presentation from climate change activists.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the “raw emotion” Mr Pohiva expressed during the summit was inspiring.

A complicated legacy

 Print  Email  Facebook  Twitter  More Tonga's Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva dies aged 78 Pacific Beat By Pacific affairs reporter Liam Fox and Michael Walsh Updated about 3 hours ago  Akilisi Pohiva and Scott Morrison PHOTO: Mr Pohiva attended the recent Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu last month. (AAP: Mick Tsikas) RELATED STORY: Australia shuts down climate deal after discussions reduce Tongan PM to tearsRELATED STORY: 'Exceedingly grateful': Tonga's sudden change of heart on Chinese loans Tonga's Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva has died at the age of 78.  Key points: Mr Pohiva had been suffering from pneumonia and liver problems He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the country's politics In 2014 he became the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister Mr Pohiva was medically evacuated from the capital, Nuku'alofa, yesterday afternoon to a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.  He died at 10:00am (Tongan time) at the Auckland City Hospital, an adviser to the Prime Minister said in a statement.  Mr Pohiva had been suffering from pneumonia for two weeks and had received treatment for liver problems earlier this year, a statement from Tonga's Government said.  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted he was saddened to hear of Mr Pohiva's passing, who he described as a "passionate advocate for his people".   Scott Morrison ✔ @ScottMorrisonMP Terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Tongan Prime Minister, the Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva. He was a passionate advocate for his people, for his beloved Tonga & our Pacific family. Jenny & I send our condolences to his family, as well as the Government and the people of Tonga.  178 12:17 PM - Sep 12, 2019 Twitter Ads info and privacy 98 people are talking about this Also writing on Twitter, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Mr Pohiva was "a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia".  Mr Pohiva had served as Tonga's Prime Minister since 2014, and was Tonga's longest serving member of Parliament, coming into office in 1987.  He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the island kingdom's politics, and in 2014 became the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister by Tonga's Parliament.  Local media are reporting Tonga's Parliament will be deferred indefinitely.  A group men wearing green shirts speak at the front of a building. PHOTO: Mr Pohiva, pictured with Australia's Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke and Fiji's leader Frank Bainimarama, attended last month's Pacific Islands Forum. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)
Print Email Facebook Twitter More Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva dies aged 78 Pacific Beat By Pacific affairs reporter Liam Fox and Michael Walsh Updated about 3 hours ago Akilisi Pohiva and Scott Morrison PHOTO: Mr Pohiva attended the recent Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu last month. (AAP: Mick Tsikas) RELATED STORY: Australia shuts down climate deal after discussions reduce Tongan PM to tearsRELATED STORY: ‘Exceedingly grateful’: Tonga’s sudden change of heart on Chinese loans Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva has died at the age of 78. Key points: Mr Pohiva had been suffering from pneumonia and liver problems He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the country’s politics In 2014 he became the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister Mr Pohiva was medically evacuated from the capital, Nuku’alofa, yesterday afternoon to a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. He died at 10:00am (Tongan time) at the Auckland City Hospital, an adviser to the Prime Minister said in a statement. Mr Pohiva had been suffering from pneumonia for two weeks and had received treatment for liver problems earlier this year, a statement from Tonga’s Government said. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted he was saddened to hear of Mr Pohiva’s passing, who he described as a “passionate advocate for his people”. Scott Morrison ✔ @ScottMorrisonMP Terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Tongan Prime Minister, the Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva. He was a passionate advocate for his people, for his beloved Tonga & our Pacific family. Jenny & I send our condolences to his family, as well as the Government and the people of Tonga. 178 12:17 PM – Sep 12, 2019 Twitter Ads info and privacy 98 people are talking about this Also writing on Twitter, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Mr Pohiva was “a respected leader in the Pacific, and a good friend to Australia”. Mr Pohiva had served as Tonga’s Prime Minister since 2014, and was Tonga’s longest serving member of Parliament, coming into office in 1987. He spent years campaigning against royal involvement in the island kingdom’s politics, and in 2014 became the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister by Tonga’s Parliament. Local media are reporting Tonga’s Parliament will be deferred indefinitely. A group men wearing green shirts speak at the front of a building. PHOTO: Mr Pohiva, pictured with Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke and Fiji’s leader Frank Bainimarama, attended last month’s Pacific Islands Forum. (ABC News: Melissa Clarke)

Once described as the Nelson Mandela of the Pacific, Mr Pohiva was jailed in 1996 for contempt of Parliament, and charged with sedition in the wake of the pro-democracy riots that left the capital Nuku’alofa badly damaged in 2006.

Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala knew Mr Pohiva since the 1980s when he spearheaded the pro-democracy movement in the Kingdom, and worked as his media adviser when he became Prime Minister.

“He played a key role in the political development of our nation,” Mr Moala told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program.

“He pioneered the questioning of those in authority … he raised questions that no-one had ever raised before.”

Mr Moala said Mr Pohiva was the best opposition leader the country had seen, but he was less effective as Prime Minister.

Akilisi Pohiva stands a lectern making an address at the United Nations.

PHOTO: Mr Pohiva’s leadership saw conflicts between his Government and the monarchy. (Reuters: Eduardo Munoz)

“He promised that there was going to be reform, he promised to be able to fight corruption, he promised that there would be good governance, that there would be transparency, the maintenance of a free press in Tonga,” he said.

“The complaint in Tonga is that very few, if any, of the promises he made came into being.”

Clashes with the monarchy

Tonga’s Parliament and Cabinet was once stacked with appointees of the King, a situation that persisted until constitutional reforms in 2010.

“Pohiva was really one of the leaders of the movement to give greater say to the public, and to the parliamentary and democratic process,” Jonathan Pryke, the director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program, told the ABC.

“It is a sad day for Tonga, and he was a real pillar and stalwart of the long-fought democratic movement in Tonga.”

After becoming Prime Minister in 2014, Mr Pohiva continued to have conflicts with the monarchy and noble lords who still make up a minority in the country’s 25-member Parliament.

King Tupou VI dissolved the Parliament in 2017, one year ahead of schedule, amid efforts from Mr Pohiva to further limit the power of the King and his advisers in the Privy Council.

Mr Pohiva’s party went on to win the subsequent elections, and he retained his position as Prime Minister.

Before becoming a member of parliament, Mr Pohiva taught history and sociology at the Tongan campus of the University of South Pacific

Links