A Tribute to The Honorable Faleomavaega Eni Faua‘a Hunkin
Former Congressman of American Samoa, Pacific Statesman, Humanitarian Warrior
Ua tagi le fatu ma le ele‘ele
The rocks and the earth weep
Amuia e fa‘anoanoa
Aua ‘e fa‘amafanafanaina i latou
Blessed are they who mourn
For they shall be comforted
The moon has fallen. The sun has turned crimson. The light that once covered the sea and the land and the skies and illuminated our days that seemed so multitudinous is there no more. And the world has suddenly become dark and cold as we shiver under the shadow of the stars who weep with us in the distance. Who will wipe these tears from our grieving eyes? Who will comfort us now in our hour of need? The clouds have abandoned the sky. The riverbeds lay barren. And we find ourselves here once more under the ancient Ifilele tree. Facing the loud sounds of silence at twilight that have fallen on our wounded hearts as we drown in our individual and collective sorrow. Where have you gone, Eni? Why have you left us?
For twenty-six years, the world knew him as the Honorable Congressman of American Samoa, Faleomavaega Eni Faua’a Hunkin. Pacific Statesman. Humanitarian Warrior. But to anyone who knew him and met him in person, he immediately became Brother Eni or Uncle Eni. And today we remember him with love, aloha and alofa. Because he was Our Eni. And because he belonged to us. And now he is gone.
While Hina and the children and grandchildren and aiga potopoto mourn and lament in Provo, Utah, the salt that stream down their faces has been tasted over and over in the last 72 hours not only by the residents of the islands of Tutuila and Manu’a and Tumua ma Pule, but in Washington D.C. Throughout the halls of the United States Congress, the international community of leaders, ambassadors and statesmen, the clergy, Samoan soldiers and their families serving in the US military, NFL players, sumo wrestlers, opera singers, poets, writers, artists and movie stars of Pacific ancestry, but by hundreds if not thousands across the Moana, whose lives he touched since the news first broke a few days ago of his passing.
Those of us who had the privilege of working with him were captivated if not baffled by his work ethic which extended itself into the wee hours of dawn, and often at times left him with but a few hours of sleep. He was a paragon of hard work. And whether he was traveling between varying time zones, D.C to Pago Pago or Korea, Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Samoa or Fiji, his energy was boundless and he knew not of fatigue or jet-lag. And if he did, he rarely showed it. At least not publicly.
What he did show in public was a smile. A smile that expressed warmth and his large-heart magnanimity which was welcoming of all he met who were drawn to him by a force that was almost magnetic. Samoans call it “loto alofa” while Hawaiians call it the spirit of aloha. One that fueled his modus operandi and characterized the relationships he forged and the tireless work he was engaged in throughout his 50 years of service to the people of American Samoa. It was also a smile that expressed tremendous grace under pressure. A sign of an inner strength that was generously given to all who needed it. Whether it was to congratulate doting parents he met at graduations for their children’s accomplishments, or to meet and greet NFL players like Troy Polamalu, Sumo wrestlers like Saleva’a Fuauli Atisano’e Konishiki, or movie stars like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson—each of them awestruck by him just as much as he was of them and their successes. He counted among his old friends the late Head of State of Samoa, Malietoa Tanumafili II who became a cultural mentor to Eni, and the late King of Tonga, His Majesty King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, whom he respected for his grace and dignity. and new friends he visited and met at state functions or at airports while in transit at some God-forsaken hour.
Most notably, he was there to send off Samoan soldiers deployed in the service of the United States Armed Forces and was also there to comfort their mothers and fathers and wives and husbands and children after losing loved ones in the ultimate sacrifice of our tumultuous times — which continually rank American Samoan casualties of war higher, per capita, than any other state or territory in the union.
Indeed, Eni’s smile was layered with depth and meaning—one we all relied on as a constant affirmation that things were going to be alright. That we were going to get through this. And most importantly, that we were not alone.
Besides his trademark smile Eni’s use of self deprecation and humor was perhaps his most endearing quality. Not only did he use it to tell a good story, but because he genuinely derived pleasure from the rapport he had with an audience, whoever it happened to be. Whether it be members of the US House of Representatives, the floor at the United Nations, or his Veteran buddies and childhood friends along with his own family who never tired at hearing the same jokes told over and over with variation of expression and emotion which had the potential of lasting hours and hours until time ceased to exist altogether. Accompanied by the ukulele and the songs of su’ifefiloi he so dearly loved to sing.
Eni was a fantastic storyteller, and I heard him recount the story of his early life’s journey to captivated audiences of high school and college students throughout American Samoa, who never ceased to be mesmerized by his tales of himself as a ‘fob’, a fresh off the boat kid whose family moved to Hawaii after his father Faua’a Eni Hunkin Sr., joined the Fitafita Guard, a special unit of Samoan soldiers in the US military. He recounted often stories of the early days in Hawaii, and eventually attending Kahuku High School—home of the Red Raiders— of which he was so proud.
Eni’s first encounter of lunch in school always provoked a booming uproar. “The palagi kids would show up with sandwiches packed in lunch boxes. My brothers and sisters and I would show up with greasy brown paper bags, filled with pagikeke lapokopoko, salafalafa, and any kine our mother, Taualai, who spoke no English could make.” This story never failed to bring the house down but loudest of all would be Eni’s own laugh which hovered above the audience and hugged everyone in the room.
He would then tell students the story of how he became American Samoa’s delegate to Washington D.C. And the long and treacherous path he took to acquire the education he needed that prepared him, somewhat, he would add, for the task. It started at the Church College of Hawaii, known today as Brigham Young University, Hawaii where he graduated with an associate’s degree, continuing on to BYU Provo for his Bachelor’s degree and eventually to the University of Houston Law Center and University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall),earning his Juris Doctor and Master of Law degrees. A few years later, in 1985, after returning home to Samoa, he was elected Lieutenant Governor under the governorship of Aifili P. Lutali and then eventually as the delegate to Washington, a position he held securely with large majorities for 26 years until he was unseated at the last 2 years of his life, a welcome blessing to Hina and his family who needed to spend time with him.
As a young boy who once ran shoeless like the wind in the village of Vailoatai, American Samoa, Eni was unaware of his destiny as a future leader, a giant in the tradition of men who had gone before him. Men like the Mau leader, Tupua Tamasese Lealofi III and the first Samoan Governor of American Samoa, Peter Tali Coleman and the late President Ratu Kamisese Mara of the Republic of Fiji who redefined the idea of Pacific statesmanship in the new millennium.
Like them, Eni was propelled into politics not for self-aggrandizement but by a profound sense of responsibility and a deep conviction of service and sacrifice to his people and to the land and ocean he respected and loved and called home.
Eni’s early exposure to the multi-cultural diversity of Hawaii, planted the seeds of an expanded world view that fostered an appreciation and love of the other, which allowed him to naturally perform humanitarian advocacy on the Pacific and international stage on behalf of many who could not speak for themselves, which drew much applause and respect abroad while it produced the complete opposite effect at home, from the fono and constituents who questioned his involvement in matters outside of his role as a delegate from American Samoa sent to Washington DC to secure its interests.
But as an inclusive and visionary leader, Eni was uninterested in what was popular and more interested in what was right. And he was determined to redefine his role as a congressman so that he could navigaate the future of American Samoa in compelling ways that have cleared the path for current and future leaders.
As the delegate of American Samoa to the US Congress, he repeatedly questioned its political status and affiliation as an unincorporated and unorganized territory and in 2012, advocated, along with former Governor Togiola Talalelei Tulafono, for a move towards self-determination in spite of the unique relationship between the two countries that has lasted a little over a century, which at times found him testifying before the United Nations Decolonization Committee regarding its very foundation.
Time and time again, in countless conversations with the fono and open public forums, Eni firmly reiterated that American Samoans should take the initiative in furthering their political progress or risk having that power taken away from them, by outsiders.
While he strongly believed education to be the salvation of our Samoan people, he was also very practical and sagacious about his advice to students. ‘Whatever vocation you choose, whether it be a doctor, a soldier, or a janitor, be the best at it. And you would never have to work a day in your life.”
Although he dined with kings and queens and heads of states, Eni was not an extravagant man. He was generous but frugal. His frugality was an expression of his humble upbringing that made him shy away from the austentatious expectations associated with his position and became most visible in the choice of car he drove and his limited wardrobe, consisting of his favorite aloha shirts, preferring a local laid back style that expressed his persona as a humble island boy who never forgot where he came from. He was proud of his humble roots and encouraged young Samoans and Pacific peoples he met, to do the same.
For years in DC, he wore a bolo tie, which elicited criticism from those who felt he needed to look more ‘island’ or ‘Samoan’. But the bolo tie was gifted to him by a Native American chief, and it became his ‘trademark’ as a symbol of his stand in solidarity with ‘our First Nation brothers and sisters whose struggle was an extension of our own.’
A charismatic and engaging speaker, Eni was able to move audiences in both Samoan and English. And while his training as a legal counsel gave him a window into the English language that allowed him to argue and debate and discuss matters of state, anyone who knew Eni, knew that his heart was to be found in his mother tongue, the Samoan language he loved along with an appreciation of Hawaiian, Fijian, Maori and Tongan which endeared him further throughout the Pacific.
Eni’s fascination with Samoan metaphor and proverbs continued throughout his life and manifested itself in the black marks of the centipede, the earthworm, the flying-fox, the canoe, the jellyfish, the seabird; symbols of nature: wisdom, accomplishments, bloodlines, genealogies and the fa’aSamoa, written on his body when he received the pe’a, the traditional Samoan male tattoo, along with his soa and brother and lifetime friend, Papali’itele Dr. Failautusi Avegalio. At the time, their decision to be tattooed was historic since it was rare for American Samoan men to be seen with pe’a as the pe’a had been prohibited by the U.S Naval Administration in 1930.
Along with the strong influence of the church, the pe’a had become seen as a pagan practice, a reminder of the time of pouliuli, darkness, before the arrival of Christianity and had lost its value. Eni had first met Tusi in Washington D.C in 1970 when he was the administrative assistant to American Samoan’s first delegate at large, A.U. Fuimaono. As two of the brightest young American Samoan men of their generation, educated in the American university system, Eni and Tusi became acutely aware of the dramatic changes that swept across the islands as a result of its political affiliation with the United States. They saw Western materialism as the leading factor that contributed to the slow deterioration of Samoan material cultural practices and became determined and invested in reviving and continuing these practices as their life mission.
The painful journey of the tattoo lasted weeks and began sometimes at 3 a.m so that they could return to the office by 9 to begin their workday as their request for time-off was denied by the government. They then continued after work from 5 to 9 p.m for the second sitting, The tatau was a communal event that involved not merely the tattooists and the tattooed, but their wives and children and extended family and aiga, and gave Eni a deeper sense of his duty and responsibility not only to his family but to his culture. The pe’a upon completion was a new set of clothing which perhaps also explains why Eni wasn’t as interested in fashion since he had already received what he considered to be the ultimate clothes and proudly showed them off during family and cultural festivities and celebrations or whenever there was a taualuga and he was asked to dance, an activity he delighted in. As it was through dance that he truly felt connected to his raison d’etre and all the values and people he held dear who guided his every step.
After receiving the pe’a Eni was determined to dive deeper into the Samoan language and took every step to ensure this was so. He surrounded himself with tulafale, talking chiefs and listened intently to their counsel. He valued words and wordsmiths. He enjoyed every opportunity to speak the language of his ancestors and employed Samoan poet Eti Sa’aga as his main Samoan speech writer. A move that led to many intense and lively discussions of which I had the privilege to be a part of.
Eni encouraged youth to value Samoan as he saw it as a gift from God that connected one to one’s roots and to the land. The Samoan proverb that epitomizes Eni’s life’s work is: O le ala i le pule o le tautua. The path to authority is paved by service. And for the last 50 years, Eni has faithfully served the people of American Samoa in varying capacities, as a local, national and global leader known for his firm resolve, tenacity and humility. Despite his numerous accolades and solid reputation earned through decades of work and experience, Eni always felt there was something new to learn. From others. Young and old.
One of the most influential people in Eni’s life as a politician was Representative Phil Burton of California who became his mentor and friend. Eni considered Burton the “greatest and most brilliant legislator in modern times.” He worked for Burton as a staffer and it was from him, that he learned a lesson that he carried with him and influenced everything he did. Burton had told Eni, “The only thing that matters and is worth anything, is your word.” Eni treasured Burton’s pearls of wisdom that radiated whenever he spoke and became the building blocks that defined him as a politician and as a man of character and integrity.
Raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Eni’s faith was deep. He held prayer meetings with his staff on weekends whenever he was ‘on-island’ and never took a day for granted. Eni prayed always for the blessing of leadership. Grateful he was for the opportunity he felt God had given him and he made sure the people he worked with understood it whenever they faced constituents, in or outside of the District Office.
Eni’s faith grew deeper with each challenge he faced, each obstacle he had to overcome and each mistake he made. He was the first to admit to his weaknesses. Such was his character. He was hard on others. But he was harder on himself. And like Nelson Mandela, who once said, “I’m not a saint. Unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” With bowed head, Eni would have said the same of himself
He found criticism from those who argued that he should have retired. That he was too ill.
But Eni was a fighter. With a lion’s heart for service. And those of us who worked with him knew that he was going to fight and serve till the very end. And he did.
One of the most beautiful images I saw this morning as I was scrolling through the facebook newsfeed and read the hundreds and hundreds of heartfelt messages of condolences, is a picture of Eni with Congresswoman Aumua Amata whom he always called ‘Sis.’ Both with jubilant smiles. Amata because of her hard earned victory. And Eni, acknowledging with a deep respect the long, long path of perseverance that produced the joy they both felt for each other that day as they stood hand in hand on the sidewalk in Pago Pago waving at cars passing by, who all honked their horns and called out, Malo Eni! A stranger would have never known that he had just been unseated by the very woman he hugged with true affection after a 26 year run as congressman of the territory. But for those of us who knew him, such a gesture came naturally and shows Eni at his most authentic. He basked in the joy of others. Rarely of his own. And took defeat with a smile on his face. Like a true champ.
Pictured also in the frame is a man named Nu’u, who walks the streets of Pago at odd hours of the day and would eventually end up at Eni’s office, asking, “Is my brother Eni on-island? Tell him it’s me. Nu’u. I need bus-fare.” Eni’s ability to befriend people of all walks of life, was a gift and a testament to his character as a true leader of the people. From distinguished heads of states and government, to soldiers, to white and blue collared workers, and to simple men like Nu’u who wandered the streets, uttering his name as a chant of hope.
Besides the legal and congressional language of his profession, Eni was a poet who was enchanted by the enigmatic and complex nature of Samoan metaphor and symbolism. He shared a collection of poetry with me he had penned 40 years ago that chronicled his experiences aboard the first Hokule’a voyage from Hawaii to Tahiti, his wife Hina’s ancestral home. The poems show remarkable insight into the psyche of a man who had tremendous respect for the Ocean and the environment and for our history as seafarers who read the stars, winds, and currents to navigate the largest body of water on the planet. It also shows tender moments of vulnerability that became transformative in shaping the public leader we’ve come to know. One who was calm in the eye of the storm.
The hat Eni wore as a humanitarian warrior who championed the cause of human rights not only at home but throughout the Pacific Islands and beyond, made news headlines and drew international attention to each cause, too numerous to mention. Whether it was his fierce advocacy for the US Congress to acknowledge the human rights of West Papuans and to hold accountable the Indonesian military for grave abuses and tyranny in that Pacific nation, or his relentless insistence on unilateral nuclear disarmament and compensation by the US Government of Marshall Islanders for their relocation as a consequent of nuclear testings performed on their ancestral homelands during WWII. The scope of Eni’s diplomacy showed a leader who was not only invested in improving access to justice through dispute resolution, but in reconciliation, empowerment and ultimately, peace.
Eni continued to champion the cause of peace even after he was unseated. As recent as May of 2015, Eni issued a press release commending the Republic of Vietnam and how the US government would benefit by a closer relationship with that country who has seen the violent face of war, a war he once took part in as a soldier some 50 years earlier where he first came in contact with Agent Orange which had been the origin of much of the health problems that plagued him and ultimately contributed to his untimely death.
The deluge of sympathies and condolences for Eni since the world first heard of his passing continue to pour through social media and are not merely confined to those of his people; American Samoans who elected him 13 times to represent them in the US Congress. They come from neighboring Samoa, the Pacific, Capitol Hill and the global community at large who acknowledge his tremendous service and dedication not only to their causes but to the cause of humanity.
Indeed, we have lost a unique individual. A humble and colorful and extraordinary man. A loving and caring husband. A father, a brother, a cousin, a grandfather, an uncle. A dear friend. A mighty leader with an indomitable spirit whose life was lived to the fullest with the simplest of tenants. That he lived to serve. With love, aloha and alofa.
The sting of death is still among us and won’t leave us for sometime yet. But we shall not grieve for too long. For that is not what he would want of us. Instead, we should remember the ways Eni used to comfort us so that we too could do the same for each other and for ourselves.
What better way for us to continue his legacy?
What better way for us to continue?
Eni met Elvis sometime in the early 60’s when he was a student at Brigham Young University, Hawaii, working at the then newly opened Polynesian Cultural Center in La’ie. A picture of them hung in his DC office for decades. It is this image I wish to leave you with. Eni and Elvis. Both with ukulele. Singing and laughing and hugging each other. And just as they do, his brother Tau calls out. “Eh, befoa you get da kine carry away, da ol’ man like see you.”
It’s going to be one big party up there. And if there’s food in heaven it will definitely be a Chinese-style buffet. With kalua pork. Taro. Lu-sipi. Poisson-cru au lait de coco. And kopai for dessert. Made of course from gluten-free organic wheat flour. Right?
And that’s just how he’d like us to remember him.
Manuia lau malaga, Boss.
Enjoy the reunion.
Sia Figiel served as a PR aide, Speechwriter and Educational Liaison Staffer to former Congressman Faleomavaega Faua’a “Eni” Hunkin 2006-2012.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Elaine Pearson, Support of Indonesian sovereignty over Papua does not mean shying away from scrutiny of abuses
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.
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”.
Red More in The Guardian
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.
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.(*)
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.(*)
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.”
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.”