HEFA President Chief Atavimarata hands over signed docement of support to Benny Wenda
The President of the new Shefa Provincial Government, Chief Atavimarata, and his councillors yesterday, affirmed their support towards West Papuan political freedom, not only by words of mouth.
The Shefa Provincial Government committed itself in a signed agreement and publicly made the symbolic announcement that Shefa Province is a home to the West Papuans.
In a prepared statement, Atavimarata said in his speech that the issue has been dragging on for many years but the support of the Shefa Province’s to the West Papuan course is clear and that West Papua must become an independent state one day to come- even if it takes time.
He made the remarks during a briefing by West Papua campaigner, Benny Wenda, who called on the Shefa Province to support the West Papuan struggle for self-political freedom.
The signed statement which the Shefa President presented to Benny Wenda contained five main points.
It stated that Shefa Province recognizes the struggle of the West Papuan Melanesians and therefore reaffirm its support; to see West Papuan political freedom is achieved, understands that the Vanuatu government also addresses the issue of the West Papuan struggle, that as of today (Thursday) Shefa Province along with the councillors and customary chiefs will begin to embark with support for the West Papuan course, will come up later with another suitable agreement that will better facilitate the interest of the two countries and the people, for the two groups of Melanesians (Vanuatu and West Papua)to better recognized one another as Melanesian brothers.
The Shefa Provincial President presented a custom mat and the signed document of support to Benny Wenda and sealed their agreement with a kava ceremony.
Three siblings were found dead and another individual sustained injuries after being buried in a house in the Immanuel APO church complex in Jayapura Utara, Jayapura, Papua, following a landslide caused by heavy rain on Saturday.
The three siblings are Agustina Soisa, a 17-year-old female student from senior high school SMU Mandala Jayapura; Ardelia Saimina, a 23-year-old female teacher; and Jean Melinda, a 26-year-old female teacher. Hans Loen, a 40-year-old male teacher, also sustained injuries. Some of the house’s occupants were still sleeping when the landslide destroyed the house.
Maradona, 32, the elder brother of the three siblings, said that he was sitting on the terrace of the house when he saw the retaining wall, which surrounded their house, begin to crack. He ran outside of the house shortly before the landslide began, burying the house with his younger sisters still sleeping inside.
Maradona then sought assistance from neighbors as he tried to save his sisters, but found difficulties evacuating the victims due to uninterrupted heavy rain.
Around 12:00 p.m. local time, police officers from Jayapura City Police arrived at the location and started to evacuate the victims. Only one victim had survived by the time the police had succeeded in evacuating four victims from the house’s ruins at 1:35 a.m. local time on Sunday.
“The victims were brought to the Dok II Jayapura Hospital for an examination and at around 3:00 a.m. local time, early on Sunday, they were returned to their family’s house at the APO Jayapura for a burial procession,” said the Papua Police spokesperson Sr.Comr.I Gede Sumerta Jaya.
Flooding has cut road access connecting Jayapura City and Abepura. Flood waters inundated roads in the Papua Trade Centre (PTC) complex in Entrop, with vehicles unable to pass through the area.
“We had to stay overnight in Jayapura because our vehicle could not pass through PTC Entrop due to flooding,” said Hesty, a local resident of Abepura.
Flooding also inundated Youtefa, the biggest traditional market in Jayapura City. As a result, vendors had to move their trade activities to areas along the roads.
Previously, four-year-old Kotje Hitjaubessi was killed after being buried in her home in Dok IX Jayapura Utara, Jayapura City, following a landslide on Jan.24. (ebf)
Benny Wenda plinks away at the strings of his ukulele, painted in muted colours not unlike an Obama poster. Soft, early evening light filters through the wooden blinds as Wenda continues tuning his instrument, taking a breath from an endless tour by now two decade old.
Wenda is in Auckland, New Zealand, where news has just come through that the Speaker of Parliament is banning him from speaking about West Papua.
Banning Wenda had the opposite effect to that intended—limiting exposure for his message as a “freedom fighter” towards independence of West Papua, from Indonesia.
Across the room, his lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, greets early arrivals. Later, she tells Radio New Zealand International: “Unfortunately for Indonesia, it’s counter-productive for them to cut off information.”
Instead of silence, local media pounced on the drama du jour, eagerly highlighting the fact that the new speaker had yet to have his first day on the job.
Notoriously parochial, the New Zealand media had until last month largely ignored the plight of West Papua, despite estimates of as many as half a million Melanesians, mainly Christians, killed by security forces from Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation.
Protestors outside the Pacific Islands Forum in 2011, for example, barely got a glimpse on national television news.
“This is an issue which basically is the dirty secret of the Pacific, that no one wants to talk about,” said Green MP Catherine Delahunty.
In Parliament, during Thursday question time, Delahunty challenged Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to outline what advice he got and gave over the Wenda visit.
Said McCully: “What I was asked about was whether I thought it was a good fit with the policies of this government for National members to co-sponsor a meeting at which Wenda would be the guest speaker, and I expressed the view that it would not.”
McCully said he had been advised of Wenda’s visit by the New Zealand embassy in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia. He went on to claim that “good progress” had been made on human rights issues in Indonesia, including West Papua.
Delahunty questioned what “confidence can the public have that he as Minister of Foreign Affairs will raise human rights issues in his dealings with Indonesia when he is willing to suppress the right of Papuans to speak in our Parliament?”
Probably not much.
West Papua is a deeply sensitive and murky issue for western powers, including Australia and New Zealand, who nervous about their northern neighbour.
Indonesia has vast reserves for its military, planning to spend US$1.5 billion to upgrade its weaponry, including US$280 million for new tanks, possibly Leopards from Germany.
Western powers originally embraced Indonesia as an Asian bulwark against the spread of communism from China.
Now the role appears ready for reprisal with announcements from the US of a “pivot” back towards the Pacific in response to an increasingly influential presence by China across the Pacific Islands region.
Against this geopolitical background, Wenda recounts his early memories as a child, including the rape of an aunt by a member of the Indonesian military forces and the torture of an uncle, hanging him from his wrists and beating him.
“They told him that since he was a Christian, he would be hung up like a Christian,” says Wenda.
Arrested, tried and convicted in 2001 for a crime committed while he was out of the country, Wenda managed to escape from Indonesian forces.
Lawyer Robinson was in West Papua at the time of the trial as an exchange student and witnessed the legal team for Wenda walk out in protest at the rigged proceedings. Over a decade later, Robinson is still by his side, including helping him have an Interpol “red” alert lifted after Indonesia called for his arrest as a terrorist.
“Frankly it’s…”, she pauses to consider the right words …“outrageous that the ban has been put in place in a country with freely and democratically elected representatives.”
New Zealand, however, is not alone in shutting out the people of West Papua.
Vanuatu says it is one of the sponsors of the resolution, seeking to re-inscribe French Polynsia on the UN decolonisation list.
A government public relations officer, Jeff Patunvanu, made the statement after Vanuatu’s representative to the Pacific Council of Churches, Bishop James Ligo, said only Tuvalu and Nauru supported the resolution by the Solomon Islands prime minister.
Mr Patunvanu says Vanuatu is well respected in the region for its traditional stand to see all remaining territories gain self-determination.
A vote on revised resolution is expected in the UN General Assembly this month.
France removed the territory from the list in 1947 but is opposed to return it.