Dutch Journalist Rohan Radheya photographs senior West Papuan OPM commanders at their headquarters inside the jungles of West Papua. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Dutch Journalist Rohan Radheya photographs senior West Papuan OPM commanders at their headquarters inside the jungles of West Papua. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Dutch journalist and filmmaker Rohan Radheya spent five months undercover to document West Papua’s ongoing struggle for independence from Indonesia’s brutal rule.

During Radheya’s time there, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, lifted a ban on foreign journalists in the province. That occurred in May, but Radheya says it won’t change anything because the press still has strict conditions, most notably that foreign journalists are not allowed to report critically on the Indonesian government.

Because of press restrictions — past and present — any reporting on West Papua’s struggle for independence is rare.

From his time working undercover, Radheya has compiled an hour-long documentary, Melanesian Dreams, which has its first screening at the European Parliament in Brussels under guidance of the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and People Organization) at a member meeting in December.

See the trailer to Melanesian Dreams here:

The following is a Q&A that Radheya did with Vision Times:

Would you explain the plight of the Papuans in Indonesia’s Papua region?

“In 1945, Indonesia got independence from the Dutch after Japan was defeated. The Japanese had then returned all power into the hands of previous colonialists. Indonesia’s agreed borders were from Sabang to Maluku, which is the last archipelago before reaching West Papuan borders to the east. Maluku also has an independence struggle. The first Indonesian vice president had then acknowledged that West Papuans should get their own state, because West Papua is Melanesian and not Asian.

“West Papua was a Dutch colony, as was Indonesia, and the Dutch had promised West Papuans an independent state. Just before their departure, the Dutch gathered tribal leaders and representatives from all corners of West Papua, and created a committee which would be in charge for a transition of power back to West Papuans. This committee was called “The Nieuw Guinea Raad.” In collaboration with the Dutch, the West Papuans proclaimed a constitution, national anthem, a national flag, and a plan for transition of power.

“At that time, the Americans had discovered huge deposits of gold and copper reserves in Timika, West Papua. They realized that these were probably the largest and finest gold and copper reserves in the world. Around that time, Indonesia changed presidents. President Suharto came to power and made a secret agreement with the then American president Nixon. The U.S. had already threatened the Dutch with war if they would oppose an Indonesian invasion. The Dutch were not capable of fighting both sides, so they were silenced.

“At that time, Indonesia invaded West Papua, and the U.S. started their mining operations. The Indonesian government promised the representatives of “The Nieuw Guinea Raad” that they would help develop their land, and not stay permanently. They would leave within five years. The Indonesian government then launched secret crackdowns on their leaders, and the Papuan independence movement was systematically targeted. Assassinations and mass killings began on a large scale.

“In 1969, the now Indonesian Papua province was officially ousted from the Dutch in the so-called act of free choice under the New York Agreement. There were 1,025 handpicked tribal leaders, out of a population of around a million Papuan natives, who were forced to vote on behalf of Indonesia, while back home the Indonesian army held entire villages at gunpoint, and thus Indonesia won that referendum, and West Papua became a part of Indonesia.

“Ironically, President Suharto was later trialed on high profiled corruption, and even accused of committing war crimes and other offenses throughout Indonesia. Despite this, the replacing of the Indonesian government still did not acknowledge West Papua as an independent state, despite the fact that Suharto was a key figure and mastermind behind the colonization of the area. So West Papua remains part of Indonesia till today.”

Could you explain who the Papuan people are (in contrast to the Indonesians, i.e., religion, society, etc.)

“West Papuans are Melanesians, and everything about Papuans are different to that of an Indonesian or an Asian. Their languages, culture, religion, customs, traditions, etc., etc. The Indonesian colonization has drastically influenced the way of life in Papua in ways of dress, language, and traditions.

“Many Papuan leaders, including Papua’s governor, Lukas Enembe, have warned that the cultural identity of the Papuan may disappear within 20 to 50 years due to the transmigration program from rural Indonesia. West Papuans are already no longer the majority on their own land. West Papua had 275 different languages, and as much tribes. This has changed now, and almost everything is critically on the brink of extinction now through Indonesian colonization.”

Dutch Journalist Rohan Radheya with West Papuas most senior militant commander Richard Joweni. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Dutch Journalist Rohan Radheya with West Papua’s most senior militant commander, Richard Joweni. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

What is the general feeling of the Papuans toward being ruled by Jakarta?

Today, many Papuans are on the payroll of the Indonesian government. For instance, the highest police commissioner and the governor inside West Papua are native Papuans. The Indonesian army has also recruited many natives as senior commanders inside their ranks. Of course, they all report back to Jakarta, but there is no choice today. It’s very hard to make a good and honest living in Papua as a Papuan nationalist opposing Indonesian colonization. It doesn’t matter if you are a journalist, a soldier, a politician, or a community leader, and so on. At the end of the day, every Papuan wants freedom.

“When I was in Papua, I had talked to some very high-profiled Papuan politicians and church leaders who all preached Papua as a legal part of Indonesia. At the end of the day, they always ended up telling me that they wanted independence, but they couldn’t say so openly because it is very dangerous for them to speak out. During my time in Papua, I never met a single Papuan who openly cheered for Indonesian colonization.”

Do they [the Papuans] get much support from the international community?

“Many foreign countries have huge investments in West Papua, especially the U.S., Australia, and Japan. For instance, the U.S. mining giant Freeport-McMoRan owns much of the world’s largest gold-copper mine, Grassberg, in Papua. After the closure of the Panguna mine in Bougainville, Grassberg is officially the biggest gold-copper mine in the world on daily production and estimated reserves alongside the Lihir mine in neighboring Papua New Guinea.

“Freeport-McMoRan commissions the Indonesian army a heck of security money for protection of the mine, including the area around it, which is a hotspot for human rights violations inside West Papua. For the generals and elites in Papua, it’s a big business. The Indonesian army has repeatedly been accused of even staging incidents to extract more protection money from foreign mining companies in the name of unrest created by West Papuan freedom fighters from the Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka [OPM]).

“The Indonesian army is the major reason for the human rights violations in West Papua. Furthermore, the lack of interest from foreign media outlets to engage in West Papua has also led to the demise of West Papuan identity and its history today. But if foreign outlets are truly sincere in covering West Papua, they can collaborate with local journalists, which can also be a milestone for local social development, and shed light on the human rights situation inside West Papua.

“Today, there remain only two or three foreign news outlets regularly publishing about West Papua. It’s a total lack of willingness that stops foreign editors in engaging in West Papua. The foreign media restriction is an ultimate excuse. It’s certainly possible to cover West Papua if they truly want to.”

Rohan Radheya posing with former political prisoner and nobel peace prize nominee Filep Karma at the Abepura prison in Jayapura.Filep Karma was one of the estimated 100 political prisoners inside West Papua.He was jailed and tortured for raising the West Papua independence flag.Filep Karma has reasonedly been released after spending more then 10 years in prison. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Rohan Radheya posing with former political prisoner and Nobel peace prize nominee Filep Karma at the Abepura prison in Jayapura. Filep Karma was one of the estimated 100 political prisoners in West Papua. He was jailed and tortured for raising the West Papua independence flag. Filep Karma has recently been released after spending more than 10 years in prison. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Jakarta says it is opening up the region — is this true?

“The Indonesian government claims it has relaxed some policies for foreign journalists in West Papua, but it’s not the first time they have said that, and I don’t believe it. There have been some foreign outlets who were granted access to West Papua, but with a lot of restrictions. I was still in Papua at that time. The journalists were forbidden to visit militant independence movements, such as the TPN-OPM, who are the biggest opposition of the Indonesian government inside West Papua.”

How much of a presence does the Indonesian military have in Papua?

“I tried to do detailed research about this during my time in West Papua, and I was shocked to learn that nobody knew the exact answer on the basis of credible paperwork. Even local journalists or political representatives within the government didn’t know how big the military’s presence is. I think the real figures are carefully guarded by the elites in Jakarta, but I estimate that the Indonesians have around 45,000 armed personnel there. This number may drastically increase with the construction of new bases in Manokwari and Biak in the coming years. Not to forget that there are numerous separate groups of volunteers and nationalists.

“They are very feared by locals, and they are very extreme in their approaches. They often intimidate, stalk, and even use violence in the name of Indonesian nationalism. They are often government-backed groups with own agendas, and often participate in riots. They are in the thousands, and are ruthless even against Indonesian human rights activists in Papua. This issue is very similar to the situation back in the days of Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor.”

Musician Arnold Clemens, is one of West Papua's most prominent independence icons. He was assasinated by The Indonesian army for his participation in the West Papuan independence struggle. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Musician Arnold Clemens is one of West Papua’s most prominent independence icons. Radheya said Clemens was assassinated by the Indonesian army for his participation in the West Papuan independence struggle. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Are any forms of peaceful protest or dissent allowed by the Indonesian authorities?

“Conflict is lucrative in West Papua. It may be the only place in the world where conflict is profitable on a day-to-day basis. When there are demonstrations, these are allowed and welcomed by security officials except on critical political momentums. These allowances come with a huge security presence, with up to 100 heavily guarded military police per demo, and of course with a lot of restrictions. If the conditions are breached, the circumstances are often exaggerated and exploited, and thus more security money is hooked in. I feel that these things are chronicles of a very successful colonization.”

Is there much of an armed resistance against Indonesian rule?

“As said, conflict is lucrative in West Papua. The Indonesian army is paid a lot of security money from foreign mining companies and from Jakarta for separate, escalating incidents such as the recent Tolikara incident. It’s totally to the advantage for the Indonesian army to create an image of panic, chaos, and danger in the eyes of local and foreign audience, and by even creating incidents.

“There are three major armed OPM factions inside West Papua. They have factions and men in all corners of West Papua, but two of the biggest factions in 2011 signed a secret ceasefire with the Indonesian government, which still stands. The factions were very afraid that fighting could displace local villagers and create another exodus to Papua New Guinea, such as in 1984. Papua New Guinea already has around 10,000 West Papuan refugees.

“There is currently only one fighting OPM faction in West Papua, Puncak Jaya, that still offers armed resistance against the Indonesian army. Indonesia also has one of the most sophisticated air force capabilities in the entire region. If the rebels would pose a true problem, they could easily use this capability and end it in no time. Furthermore, the Indonesian government has created numerous fake OPM rebel factions to impose an image of fear and intimidation, often through censored media. It’s very complex, and not easily understandable.”

The West Papuan OPM has not been visited by foreign or local journalists for more then six years. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

The West Papuan OPM has not been visited by foreign or local journalists for more than six years. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

What is the human rights situation like in Papua and how will/can it improve?

“There was a dialogue program between Papuan leaders and the Indonesian government almost 15 years back, at the initiation of the Special autonomy law for West Papua. Many prominent Papuan church leaders and other Papuans are participating in this program today. Many general Papuans, however, have lost all hope in this. The program has costs millions and millions of dollars.

“Now, 15 years later, the Papua governor, who was part of the dialogue program, came out complaining, and sent out a press release about how another transmigration program from rural Indonesia is going on, and how these people will overwhelm Papuans. Dialogue has completely failed in West Papua, and it became something that further disadvantaged Papuans even more than before. At the same time, the human rights situation is becoming worse by the day, and so West Papuans are asking: ‘What’s next?’”

How difficult was it for you to film there?

“West Papua is as good as off limits to foreign journalists. Many shelters of activists and independence movements in West Papua are tightly monitored. These areas are surrounded by plain clothes intelligence informants who could be a betel nut seller or a cabdriver. I requested my subjects to come up with a plan of approach. I was often smuggled in at night when the informants already left, or during local holidays when everyone was on leave.

“I improved my Bahasa, and that helped tremendously. It was only myself, so I did not have access to a team. So I had to take care of the interview, camera, video, sound, light, and still photographs myself. I also had to watch my back at the same time. It was also very hot! I used very small DSLR cameras, GoPROs, and minimal equipment. Papuans knew who I was, and they were very eager to speak to me. They watched over me, and this was the main reason why I could stick around for so long.

”

Are any of the people you interviewed and/or filmed in your documentary now in a risky situation because they have helped you?

“I was terrified to death that the people around me could face arrest and punishment. The Indonesian government systematically targets the friends and sympathizers of undercover journalists.
 An example is Areki Wanimbo, a West Papuan tribal leader from Wamena, who volunteered to be the fixer of the two French journos. The Indonesians sentenced him to 20 years jail time on treason charges. The thought that my friends would be in trouble because of me was constant torture for me, and still is now.

“I worked a lot with the local people. They always insisted that it was the right thing to do to help me. They were very eager to get the news out for the sake of their country and people no matter what the consequences. They never asked me anything in return for this. I felt very little by their kindness, and without them I couldn’t achieve this film. There were also many times I wanted to give up and leave, but their commitment to me, and the thought of letting them down, is what kept me going.

“I had simply asked all Papuans and Indonesians appearing in the documentary whether they wanted to feature in this film. All of them said yes, but I still cut most of them out if I found that their circumstances were too sensitive to exposure. They were willingly filmed, and they knew I was an undercover journo.”

Do you have any hope that things could change for the better?

“Of course, West Papua should be free and independent! Merdeka!”

Dutch Journalist Rohan Radheya photographs West Papuan OPM rebels at their headquarters inside the jungles of West Papua. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

Dutch Journalist Rohan Radheya photographs West Papuan OPM rebels at their headquarters inside the jungles of West Papua. (Image: Supplied by Rohan Radheya)

LIKE us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.

Young ni-Vanuatu graduates with PhD in Linguistics
A young Ni-Vanuatu female scholar has graduated with a PhD in Linguistics
A young Ni-Vanuatu female scholar has graduated with a PhD in Linguistics

A young Ni-Vanuatu female scholar has graduated with a PhD in Linguistics after completing four years study at the University of Newcastle in Australia.

Lana Takau pursued a Bachelor in Linguistics at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 2001.

She was granted with an NZAID scholarship through the Ministry of Education.

She embarked on a Master Degree in Linguistics, which she completed in 2010.

She was then offered an international postgraduate research scholarship by New Castle University to commence a PhD in Linguistics, which she completed last year.

Her PhD thesis was a grammatical description of the highly endangered ‘Nese’ language spoken by less than 20 people on the island of Malekula. After completion of her studies, Ms Takau co-founded the Nonda Avoana Charitable Organization whose main goal is to assist indigenous speakers of Vanuatu languages preserve their languages.

The organization’s first project funded by the Christensen Fund involves assisting the Nese speaking language community in Matanvat village, North West of Malekula, preserve their dying language through the teaching of Nese as a subject in the Sandak Primary School.

Literacy materials were developed to be used in the primary school.

With Vanuatu being the second most linguistically diverse country in the world, the prediction that half of the six thousand plus languages in the world will disappear by the end of the century calls for a more concerted effort in maintaining the country’s rich linguistic heritage.

Nonda Avoana hopes to expand its programs to other indigenous communities in Vanuatu.

Source: http://dailypost.vu/news/young-ni-vanuatu-graduates-with-phd-in-linguistics/article_19fba3b5-3eab-5c54-8a4e-f8a32996cf54.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share

THE Pacific Island nations of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Palau and the Marshall Islands delivered a hard-hitting joint statement today condemning Indonesia’s human rights violations, including crimes against humanity, at the Council of Ministers of the 79-member Africa Caribbean Pacific Group of States (ACP) and called for an eventual resolution that includes support of the right of West Papuan political self-determination.

The statement, made by Johnny Koanapo, a high-ranking member of the Republic of Vanuatu parliament and Parliamentary Secretary for the Office of the Vanuatu Prime Minister, transfixed the packed council room as he graphically described Indonesia’s violations and West Papuans’ ‘slow-motion genocide’.

West Papua, the western half of New Guinea, the world’s second largest island, has been under Indonesian rule since the 1960s.

Koanapo said that the seven Pacific nations were ‘very concerned [that] the international community had neglected the voices of the Papuan people over the last 50 years’.

The ACP, he stated, was the right place to seek further support for the plight of West Papua because African and Caribbean countries are ‘the oldest defenders of West Papua’s right to self-determination’ and consistently tried to defend the Melanesian West Papuans as they ‘were passed from one colonizer to another’ more than a half century ago. The ACP, which was founded in 1975, is comprised of almost all former colonies itself.

As some among the hundreds of country delegates and staff nodded in strong agreement, Koanapo called Indonesian governance and massive state-backed settlement an ‘Apartheid-like colonial rule’ that was ‘slowly but surely’ going to wipe out the West Papuans as a people ‘while… the world stood by’.

Estimates of indigenous West Papuans killed during Indonesia’s rule range from 10 to 25 per cent of the population, he said, or several hundred thousand people. He added that Indonesia’s own National Commission on Human Rights has described its country’s actions as crimes against humanity.

“According to numerous reports, those deaths and all the associated acts – the violent arrests of non-violent protestors, the beatings, the torture, rape, disappearances, extra-judicial executions, intimidation of the local Papuan media, the barring of foreign media from the territory – have continued through the 20 years of [Indonesian] democracy,” Koanapo said.

“However, this forgotten race [is] still fighting.”

Under a policy of state-supported population movement, more than two million Indonesians have also settled in the territory. They now outnumber the indigenous Papuans and dominate the economy and almost every arena of life in the cities, towns, coastal areas and growing zones of mining, logging, gas and oil production and plantation agriculture.

After the meeting, Koanapo stated that the day’s discussion sets up the great likelihood of a resolution on the full range of West Papua issues at the next ACP ministerial council meeting, which is scheduled for this coming November. A number of ministers and ambassadors later approached Koanapo to thank him for his ‘extraordinarily powerful’ speech.

During the past several years, the coalition of Pacific Island nations, echoing the West Papuans, has argued in regional and international venues that Indonesian violations will not be ended by focusing just on human rights. There needs to be a proper act of self-determination or the conflict, which damages Indonesia, as well as West Papua, will continue indefinitely. The ACP appears to be coming to the same conclusion.

This is the fourth round of ACP discussions and sharing of information on West Papua. ACP meetings at the subcommittee and ambassadorial level during the past two months have elicited almost universal affirmations of strong support for West Papuan self-determination among delegates from Africa and the Caribbean.

At today’s Council of Ministers, the Papua New Guinea ambassador Joshua Kalinoe, whose country shares a 760km-long border with its powerful Indonesian neighbour, was the only delegate to speak against ACP moving forward on such a resolution in the months ahead.

The PNG ambassador conceded that no one is denying that the human rights violations are going on. He suggested that a fact-finding mission to West Papua might be necessary for the ACP to get a clearer picture of the situation.

Ambassador Alfredo Lopez Cabral from Guinea-Bissau spoke directly after the PNG ambassador, comparing the plight of West Papua to East Timor, which Indonesia violently invaded and occupied for 24 years. More than one quarter of East Timor’s population reportedly died as a direct result of Indonesian rule.

Guinea-Bissau and other former Portuguese African colonies were leaders in the long campaign on behalf of East Timor, which had earlier been a colony of Portugal, and is now the independent country of Timor Leste.

Ambassador Cabral said that there was no reason why the ACP shouldn’t take up the issue and help West Papua gain a similar referendum on independence to what East Timor finally received after the fall of Indonesia’s Suharto dictatorship in 1998 and mounting international pressure.

West Papuans have long argued that they are geographically, racially and culturally part of the Melanesian Pacific, not Asian Indoneisa. During the 1940s and 1950s, even leaders of the Indonesian independence movement, such as Mohammed Hatta, his country’s first vice-president, stated that Papua had not been part of the Indonesian struggle and needed to become a separate nation. At the time, observers expected West Papua to become the first independent Pacific Island nation.

– ACP Vanuatu Independent

The French Election in the Pacific
While the two-candidate runoff for France’s presidency this coming Sunday poses a potential existential threat for Europe, the result will also be of great significant for France’s overseas territories in the Pacific. Although the territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia have some levels of autonomy and their own elected assemblies, they legally remain part of France, and are therefore afforded the right to participate in France’s legislative and presidential elections. And they are, of course, also greatly affected by France’s election outcomes.

However, despite this right and the potential for a dramatic shift in the French state’s agenda should the National Front’s Marine Le Pen win the presidency, there seems to be general voter apathy, or a disconnect, within France’s Pacific territories. In the first round of voting for the presidential election, voter abstention was at record highs in with 61 percent of the eligible public in French Polynesia failing to vote, and 51 percent of those in New Caledonia doing likewise.

In New Caledonia, this voter apathy raises concerns about enthusiasm for the forthcoming referendum on independence that is scheduled to be held no later than November 2018. Similar voter apathy for the referendum would bring its legitimacy into question.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

The Nouméa Accord of 1998 devolved a number of powers from France to New Caledonia, allowing the territory some autonomy of its own affairs; however Paris maintained control over the military, foreign policy, immigration, police, and currency within the territory. The accord also provided a provision for the referendum on independence.

Support for independence generally falls along ethnic lines, with the indigenous Melanesian Kanaks, who comprise around 40 percent of the population, desiring independence from France, and ethnic Europeans, who comprise around 35 percent, opposed. The remainder of the population are either mixed ethnicity, other Pacific Islanders, Indonesians, and Chinese. Ethnic lines also generally delineate socio-economic status within the territory.

The pro-independence parties that form the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) bloc fear that a victory by Le Pen may prevent the referendum from taking place. The bloc suspects that Le Pen’s radical nationalist agenda would lend itself to a strong opposition to the independence movement, and the referendum process itself.  In the first round of voting, FLNKS supported Socialist Party candidate Benoît Hamon, but has since given support to Emmanuel Macron in the run-off election.

While pro-France parties that are in favor of New Caledonia’s current level of autonomy are suspicious of what may come from a Le Pen presidency, the territory remains unenthused by Macron, who is seen as unfamiliar with the territory. This was reflected in the presidential election’s first round of voting, where Macron only received 12.75 percent of the vote, compared to François Fillion’s 31.13 percent, and Le Pen’s 29.09 percent.

A Le Pen presidency would not just have a potential impact on France’s Pacific territories themselves, but would also pose a wider problem for the Pacific’s regional governance, with a radical administration being able to exert considerable influence in the region’s multilateral institutions.

At the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) in September last year, both New Caledonia and French Polynesia were accepted into the forum as full members. Previously the forum has only accepted sovereign states as full members. This was a result of the circumstances of the forum’s foundation. The Pacific Island Forum was created in 1971 without these French territories in part due to France blocking any discussion of issues such as nuclear testing or island self-determination within the South Pacific Commission.

The ascension of France’s overseas territories in the PIF would give a potential Le Pen administration influence in the PIF’s agenda. Although these territories have some autonomy to interact and negotiate with sovereign states, the constitutional power to sign international treaties remains with France, effectively giving Paris the final word on matters of greatest significance.

This rapprochement with France within the Pacific’s premier multilateral forum is of great concern for FLNKS, which gains significant support from the PIF, in particular its Melanesian states — Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu (with whom FLNKS form the Melanesian Spearhead Group). Any attempts by these states to lobby on FLNKS’ behalf may bring them into conflict with the leadership of the French overseas territories — particularly if Le Pen decided to tear up the Nouméa Accord.

A Macron victory in Sunday’s presidential runoff should maintain the current norms within France’s overseas territories in the Pacific and their relationship with France. New Caledonia’s path toward an independence referendum would likely be maintained. A Marcon victory would also be a relief to other Pacific Island states seeking stability and continuity within their neighborhood.

Letkol Pio Tikoduadua/RNZI
Letkol Pio Tikoduadua/RNZI

Suva, Jubi – Mantan menteri sekaligus orang kepercayaan Perdana Menteri Frank Bainimarama, Letnan Kolonel Pio Tikoduadua makin buka-bukaan soal ketidaksetujuannya terhadap konstitusi di bawah rezim militer Bainimarama. Selama ia masih menjadi orang pemerintahan, Pio mengaku kerap mengangkat permasalahan ini, termasuk ide kontroversi untuk mengubah draf konstitusi 2013.

Pekan lalu, Pio mengumumkan bahwa dirinya bergabung ke partai oposisi, yaitu Partai Federasi Nasional (NFP) setelah sempat cuti selama dua tahun sejak mengundurkan diri dari pemerintahan. “Pemerintahan Bainimarama telah berbelok arah ke jalan yang salah dan NFP kini lebih mewakili pikiran saya,” ujar Pio.

Pio dikenal sebagai petinggi militer yang setia kepada Bainimaram sejak pemerintahan militer berkuasa dari tahun 2008. Oleh karena, tak heran jika Bainimarama kemudian mengangkat Pio sebagai menteri di kabinetnya. Tahun 2014, ia mengundurkan diri dari jabatannya dengan alasan kesehatan dan ingin menghabiskan waktu bersama keluarganya.

Hingga pekan lalu, Pio kembali muncul dan mengumumkan bahwa dirinya beralih ke NFP sembari menyatakan bahwa pemerintahan yang kini berkuasa sudah makin tidak toleran terhadap perbedaan.

Ia menegaskan kepindahannya ke NFP bukan hal yang tiba-tiba. Sejak tahun 2013, ia sering berseberangan pendirian dengan pemerintahan. Saat pembatalan konstitusi tahun 1997, Pio menjabat sebagai sekretaris negara dan ia terlibat banyak dalam proses tersebut. “Saat itu saya sedang ada di pemerintahan, jadi tidak dapat diragukan lagi keterlibatan saya dalam proses pembatalan konstitusi tersebut,” tuturnya.

Namun, ia merasa menyesal dengan pembatalan konstitusi 1997 karena ternyata penggantinya adalah rezim militer yang seperti sekarang. “Tentu saja banyak yang menjadi lebih buruk. Konstitusi 1997 adalah konstitusi yang di mana rakyat dilibatkan. Namun, konstitusi ini dibatalkan dan konstitusi penggantinya adalah konstitusi yang sekarang ini,” ujarnya.

Komunikasi antara Pio dengan pimpinan NFP, yaitu Biman Prasad sebenarnya sudah dimulai sejak tahun 2014. Saat itu, mereka mendiskusikan tentang prinsip-prinsip dan ide pembangunan bangsa menjelang pemilu 2014. Pio merasa banyak kecocokan dengan ide Biman Prasad.

Namun, saat pemilu 2014, Pio tetap maju sebagai kandidat dari partai Fiji First pimpinan Bainimarama. “Karena kami sedang mendukung pemerintahan yang sedang melakukan transisi dari militer ke demokrasi parlementer. Proses ini perlu pengawalan dari saya,” ujarnya.

Signifikan

Pimpinan NFP, Biman Prasad menerima Pio Tikoduadua untuk bergabungnya dengan partainya. Meski Pio masih harus mengikuti tahap seleksi pencalonan sebagai kandidat dari partainya, namun Biman yakin jika Pio berhasil lolos akan memiliki peran signifikan dalam meningkatkan raihan suara partai.

Biman bahkan menempatkan Pio pada posisi terhormat di partainya kendati banyak pula protes dan kritik dari internal partai atas tindakannya itu. “NFP tidak pernah mendukung kudeta, tidak akan pernah. Namun NFP menyambut orang-orang yang berbagi prinsip yang sama dan memegang teguh nilai-nilai demokrasi, kebebasan, keadilan, dan hak asasi manusia,” ujarnya.

Biman menambahkan, bahwa Pio tengah berada di Australia saat kudeta terjadi. Oleh karena itu, Biman menganggap Pio sebagai warga negara sipil biasa dan baru memasuki pemerintahan setelah terpilih pada pemilu 2014.

Ia menggambarkan Pio sebagai sosok yang progresif ketika keduanya terlibat dalam diskusi menjelang pemilu 2014. “Saya tahu ia tidak suka dengan dibatalkannya konstitusi Ghai tahun 1997,” ujarnya.

Pio dan Biman juga memiliki pandangan yang sama tentang pemerintahan Bainimarama yang menghambat demokrasi. Salah satunya, yaitu tentang kebebasan pers. “Harus ada jaminan bahwa media benar-benar bebas. Saat ini banyak media yang tidak bisa menyebarluaskan kabar yang ingin mereka sebarluaskan karena dilarang pemerintah,” ujar Pio.

Menanggapi kritik dari internal NFP, Pio meyakinkan bahwa kepindahannya bukan untuk menyelamatkan diri. Berkali-kali ia menyatakan bahwa kepindahannya itu tak lain karena pemerintah sudah berjalan di luar arah yang seharusnya. Meski semua orang tahu bahwa ia adalah tangan kanan Bainimarama, namun Pio mengaku ia sudah tidak bicara dengan Bainimarama sejak dua tahun lalu ketika ia mundur dari pemerintahan.

“Anda tahu bahwa saya selalu ada dan berjuang untuk mengawal proses demokrasi. Saya masih percaya itu sekarang dan saya yakin pemerintahan sekarang telah berbelok arah dari seharusnya, Anda juga tahu akan berat untuk mengubah cara pandang pemerintah saat ini agar mereka kembali ke arah demokrasi,”

ujarnya.

Kemunculan kembali Pio telah menyita perhatian rakyat Fiji. Terlebih, karena Pio langsung mengumumkan kepindahannya ke NFP dalam kemunculan perdananya di muka publik. Sejak itu, Pio kerap mengungkapkan kritiknya kepada pemerintah melalui media.**

Eastern Highlands, Jubi Empat orang tewas dan empat orang lainnya menderita luka parah akibat pertikaian yang dipicu isu sihir di provinsi Eastern Highlands, Papua Nugini. Kejadian mengerikan itu terjadi pada perayaan Paskah, akhir pekan lalu.

Keempat korban tewas ditemukan dalam keadaan termutilasi di areal perkebunan kopi. Sementara empat lainnya menderita luka parah akibat tembakan dan kini tengah dirawat secara intensif di Rumah Sakit Goroka.

Kasus itu diduga adalah aksi balas dendam pelaku yang pernah dituduh berbuat sihir oleh kedelapan korban, dua tahun lalu. Pelaku muncul kembali ke desa tersebut untuk menuntut balas dendam dan langsung membunuh serta melukai kedelapan orang korban.

Penduduk desa menyatakan bahwa pelaku telah melarikan diri selama dua tahun terakhir. Untuk membantunya balas dendam, pelaku menyewa sekelompok orang dari distrik lain di provinsi tersebut. Mereka kemudian bersama-sama melakukan eksekusi terhadap korban.

Awalnya, kedelapan orang tersebut ditembaki secara membabi buta oleh kawanan pelaku pada pagi hari. Lalu, empat orang di antaranya digusur dan dibunuh dengan cara dimutilasi. Kemudian, mayatnya dibuang ke perkebunan kopi yang berada dekat dengan desa.

Kepolisian Eastern Highlands menyatakan bahwa aksi kekerasan dan pembunuhan yang dipicu oleh isu sihir masih terus terjadi di wilayah tersebut. Bahkan, hal ini dianggap sebagai hal paling sulit dihentikan karena dapat berbuntut pada dendam berkepanjangan dan turun temurun.

Masyarakat Eastern Highlands sulit diajak bekerjasama dengan kepolisian untuk memberantas kekerasan yang dipicu isu sihir di wilayah tersebut. Dalam kasus ini saja, kepolisian kesulitan menangkap pelaku karena masyarakat melindungi para pelaku.

Kini, kepolisian berusaha bekerjasama dengan para pemimpin adat di Yagaria agar bisa menangkap para pelaku dan memprosesnya ke jalur hukum. **

Tentara marinir Amerika Serikat sedang menggelar latihan/RNZI
Tentara marinir Amerika Serikat sedang menggelar latihan/RNZI

Port Moresby, Jubi Kurang lebih 100 tentara marinir Amerika Serikat diterjunkan untuk melatih tentara Papua Nugini (PNGDF) dalam persiapan mengamankan pemilu di negara itu. Selain pemilu, PNGDF sedang dipersiapkan untuk menghadapi pengamanan jalannya pertemuan tingkat tinggi Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) pada tahun 2018.

Surat kabar The National melaporkan bahwa kedua pasukan itu menggelar latihan bersama di Port Moresby selama akhir pekan lalu. Pelatihan berlangsung di barak militer, stasion Sir John Guise, hotel dan taman-taman.

Komandan Marinir AS, Bradley Coletti mengatakan bahwa pelatihan dan seluruh aktivitas itu untuk meningkatkan kerjasama antara Amerika Serikat dan Papua Nugini dalam menjaga keamanan di kawasan Asia-Pasifik yang maju dan stabil.

Selama pelatihan berlangsung, tentara Papua Nugini juga membuka pos pemeriksaan kendaraan, menghentikan pengendara mencurigakan, dan mencari kendaraan pengangkut barang selundupan.

Optimistis

Menjelang pemilu nasional Papua Nugini 2017, Bank Dunia memprediksi pertumbuhan ekonomi di negara itu masih relatif optimistis. Kendati demikian, Bank Dunia memberikan beberapa catatan risiko dan tantangan baik dalam jangka pendek, menengah maupun jangka panjang bagi pertumbuhan ekonomi Papua Nugini.

Bank Dunia berpesan agar Papua Nugini mampu menjaga stabilitas ekonomi makro selama dan setelah pemilu. Kemampuan pemerintah Papua Nugini untuk menjaga status fiskal dan memastikan pelayanan publik terpenuhi juga turut menjadi perhatian.

Nilai tukar Kina terhadap dollar AS akan terus melemah seiring dengan melemahnya harga komoditi dunia yang diperkirakan akan terus berlangsung selama 2017. Sementara, sektor ekstraktif menjadi primadona Papua Nugini untuk menarik minat investor asing. **

 

Loghman Sawari saat berada di Fiji/RNZI
Loghman Sawari saat berada di Fiji/RNZI

Port Moresby, Jubi – Pengadilan distrik Papua Nugini mengampuni seorang pengungsi asal Iran yang kabur dari kamp pengungsi di Pulau Manus ke Fiji. Pria bernama Loghman Sawari (21) itu dideportasi ke Port Moresby pada Februari lalu dan dituntut atas kasus pemalsuan paspor.

Tuntutan itu dibatalkan hakim dengan alasan kekurangan alat bukti. Namun, Sawari wajib lapor setiap hari Senin ke kantor pengadilan. Selain itu, jika ia hendak pergi ke luar kota harus mendapat izin pengadilan terlebih dahulu.

Selama menunggu hasil persidangan, Sawari mendekam dalam sel tahanan Waigani dengan tuduhan pelanggaran UU imigrasi. Di dalam sel, Sawari sempat mengalami gangguan kesehatan karena ia tidak mempunyai selera makan.

Pengacara Sawari, Loani Henao mengatakan bahwa Sawari harus mendekam dalam tahanan polisi selama satu minggu hingga akhirnya pengadilan memutuskan untuk membebaskan Sawari dari berbagai tuduhan yang dialamatkan kepadanya pada Kamis lalu.

Hakim yang mengadili, Hakim Mogish mengatakan bahwa tuntutan terhadap Sawari tidak memiliki dasar hukum sehingga pengadilan membatalkan segala tuntutan yang dialamatkan kepadanya. “Kita tidak bisa memenjarakan seseorang tanpa dasar hukum yang kuat,” ujarnya. **

Last week, on Tuesday (April 4), an agreement was signed between the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and the Ministry of Lands for the Government to take over responsibility for issuing leases to NHC clients already residing on about 172 unregistered plots in Freshwater area.

This follows a NHC Board resolution and a Council of Ministers decision to transfer all of the NHC’s remaining interest in this land back to the Government, and for the Government through the Department of Lands to then facilitate issuing of leases to those people living on the plots concerned who have made various levels of payments for the plots to the NHC but have not yet been given proper leases. The issuing of leases will necessarily involve the Department reviewing the outstanding debts of individual debtors and negotiating and restructuring the debt and converting the agreed debt into leases. The NHC will continue to assist the Department to regularise the legal status of those who may have occupied some or all of the 172 plots of land that are unregistered.

The agreement signed this week is the latest in a series of steps the current Minister of Lands and Board of Directors have taken to try and resolve the problems of the NHC. The NHC was established by an act of Parliament in 1986 for the purposes of promoting and providing low cost housing to the people of Vanuatu. On 6 July 1990, lease title number 11/OG31/007 (the Head Lease) in what is now known as Freshwater in Port Vila was registered between the Minister of Lands as lessor of state land and the National Housing Corporation as the lessee. On 16 January 1995, the Head Lease was surrendered and new lease titles 11/OG31/041 and 11/OH34/007 were created and registered in favour of the NHC as the proprietor. These lease titles were then subdivided and consequently derivative leases were created and registered also in favor of the NHC. The intention and objective of the NHC with respect to the subdivision was to sell the unregistered land plots and once paid, the NHC would then transfer and register the plots to the respective purchasers.

However, since its inception, the NHC has experienced continuous difficulty in its operations. The principal reason for these difficulties has been ongoing chronic political interference resulting in mismanagement and large-scale misappropriation. The failure of the Government to properly fund the NHC has also been a factor.

In 2013, upon becoming Minister of Lands, Ralph Regenvanu requested the then-Prime Minister Moana Carcasses to transfer responsibility for the NHC from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (where it had always been) to the the Ministry of Lands. The Minister then appointed a new Board chaired by Mr John Salong. In 2015, the first independent financial audit of the NHC in over 15 years was completed, covering the period up to the end of 2012. The audit found that the NHC had liabilities in excess of 60 million vatu and was not only incapable of paying its debts but also incapable of simply meeting its day-to-day running costs. In the period from 2013 to 2015 a number of cost-cutting measures were implemented by the Board, including relocating the NHC office from the Olympic Building in downtown Port Vila to Matua Park in Freshwater. In 2016, the Government provided a supplementary budget of just over VT14 million to assist the NHC to retire all its staff, and by the end of 2016 the daily running costs of the NHC had been reduced to zero.

With this agreement signed last week, a significant portion of NHC debt relating to the remaining unregistered plots of land in Freshwater has now been transferred to the Government. There remain about 172 unregistered plots which are currently occupied where the occupants have either made no payments at all to the NHC, made some payments or made all required payments but the land is yet to be transferred and registered in their name. The Government is now establishing a framework for facilitating the acquisition, management, and regularisation of the 172 plots of land to be registered. Such a framework will probably include the Government waiving the current and accrued land rents from the 172 plots of land owed by the NHC. The Department of Lands hopes to have the majority of the leases issued by the middle of this year.

In related news, the World Bank is now assisting the Government to develop a National Housing Policy which will include an assessment of the how the Government can be an actor in the land and housing market and what role, if any, the NHC will play in this.

Last week, Minister Regenvanu made an official trip to New Caledonia in which he had discussions with the two principal agencies undertaking development of new suburbs and townships in the territory, SECAL (Société d’Equipement de la Nouvelle-Calédonie) and SIC (Société Immobilière Calédonienne).

Both organisations use public-private partnership models to build new towns and subdivisions, including the largest new township development in the whole of France, Dumbea Sur Mer, just outside Noumea. The Minister also held discussions with the President of the Government of New Caledonia, Philippe Germain, on how his government can assist Vanuatu to develop a similar agency in Vanuatu.

Such assistance is now possible through the inclusion of a section in the Cooperation Agreement signed between the governments of Vanuatu and New Caledonia last month in Port Vila which states that “the Government of New Caledonia will help the Government of Vanuatu to create a dedicated planning and housing entity, which would include related operations like water supply and sanitation, road infrastructure, and social housing”.

The Ministry of Lands is reportedly also finalizing amendments to a number of land laws to implement a new national subdivision policy, the purpose of which will be to regulate the provision of subdivision developments in Vanuatu and in particular to ensure that the creation of subdivisions results in environmentally and socially sustainable development and an improved quality of life for residents with suitable standards of amenity, access, health and safety.

The amendments are scheduled to go before Parliament in the June session and will be an important element in providing for the future development of subdivisions and townships throughout Vanuatu.

Dear Editor,

The Public have recently been informed by the Chairman of the Revenue Review Committee that Australia through their Governance for Growth Program, are the major Donor in the Revenue Review Process with the introduction of Australian style Taxes on the Citizens and Businesses of Vanuatu.

The following questions are directed to the Head of the Governance for Growth Program on behalf of all Vanuatu Citizens.

Mr Matthew Harding,

Program Director, Governance for Growth Unit, (GfG)

Dear Mr Harding,

With the potential introduction of two new and complicated tax systems on the people of Vanuatu, can you provide responses to the following questions, and relay your reply to the Editor of the Daily Post for Publishing in next week’s Saturday edition.

1. Does the GfG operate a transparent and open book policy in relation to the allocation and spending of the unallocated $8,700,000 flexible fund? If so, how does the Public access this information?

2. Explain the decision making process in deciding how the flexible funds are allocated and spent?

3. Knowing full well the devastation caused to the Countries economy by Cyclone Pam, the impact on the Agricultural industry caused by the recent El Nino conditions, the disastrous effect on the Tourism industry from the runway fiasco, with the subsequent and ongoing decline in tourist numbers, explain to Vanuatu Citizens, and all those involved in the Private Sector the rationale and thinking behind Australia’s decision to assist in the “bolt on” introduction of two new complicated and complex taxes as an addition to the much needed revenue administration review.

4. The GfG Program Design Document has numerous references to the importance of dialogue with the Private Sector. (Clauses 22, 45, 89, 93, 94, 99, 154). Outline in detail the Private Sector dialogue prior to the decision to proceed with the funding for the introduction of these additional complex and complicated taxes.

5. What is the progress with the Governance for Growth Program Design Document Phase lll, and are there any plans to involve the Private Sector in its development?

Yours Sincerely,

Ian G. Kerr.

Australian Tax Payer and Vanuatu Investor.

Member of the Vanuatu Public