1) Pacific Predictions: what will 2017 hold for the Pacific?
By Tess Newton Cain
Pacific politics will continue to be a source of fascination and concern in 2017. There will be general elections in Papua New Guinea (polling will take place between June 24th and July 8th).
In addition to the ever-present concerns about money politics, logistics, cost and security, the economic crisis that country is currently experiencing will also contribute to the prevailing environment. It is always a matter of concern if governments cannot pay their bills and these concerns are exacerbated in election years.
Jitteriness was increased recently, when the O’Neill government ‘delayed’ release of the IMF Article IV assessment, which has yet to appear. Another potential flashpoint is the failure (in both Waigani and Canberra) to appropriately resolve the situation in relation to the closure of the Manus refugee-processing centre. Recent violence should be seen as a serious warning as should the increasing frustration (seen most evidently on Twitter: @pontuna2run) of Ron Knight, the current MP for Manus province.
Fiji is scheduled to hold elections during 2018 but the pre-positioning that took place last year will continue during 2017. The major opposition party SODELPA has a ‘back to the future’ leader in former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka and he has called for opposition parties to work together in coalition to unseat the Fiji First government. The electoral system in Fiji militates against independents and, in an attempt to counter this, Roshika Deo [SH1] (who contested unsuccessfully in 2014) is expected to form a new party to contest.
Further afield, there will be presidential elections in France. The results may have a ripple effect in our region in relation to the finalisation of the Noumea Accords process in New Caledonia and the participation of France in the Pacific Islands Forum, the details of which are yet to become clear.
Constitutional reform is a hot topic in several Pacific island countries. Vanuatu’s attempts to progress a whole raft of measures (largely designed to engender greater political stability) faltered in late 2016. This was because the Salwai government failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to progress legislation further to constitutional reform committee process. Whilst there are certainly elements within the government who will want to progress this if the opportunity arises, it is possible that other issues will become and remain more pressing. Chief among them is Vanuatu’s impending relegation to the Financial Action Task Force’s ‘black list’. The referendum on constitutional reform scheduled to take place concurrently with provincial elections in March is on indefinite hold.
To our north, the Republic of the Marshall Islands will hold its first Constitutional Convention once the 45-person membership has been established. The most significant item for consideration is a proposal to move from a parliamentary to a presidential system of government. Meanwhile, in Samoa, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi is seeking to have the Constitution amended to make the Samoan state Christian, a proposal that has caused concern within the wider society.
During 2016, I suggested that the new logo for the Melanesian Spearhead Group should be the Gordian knot. As we enter a new year, the internal tussles are becoming ever more entrenched. There are several strands to this knot with the issue of membership being the one that is proving the most stubborn to shift. Despite the fact that there was no leaders’ meeting in December, the foreign ministers met in Port Vila to consider the text of membership regulations and guidelines prepared by the group’s Subcommittee on Legal and Institutional Issues. In town at the same time was a large delegation of West Papuans including Benny Wenda and other key members of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua leadership. The MSG leaders’ meeting is now pencilled in for January, to be held in Port Moresby, prompting declarations of disappointment from within the ULMWP. It is hard to see the disappointment lifting any time soon given the proposal to hold the meeting in Papua New Guinea (the ULMWP would prefer that the meeting be held in Port Vila, where they have the most support from government and civil society) [SH2] and the continuing non-appearance of Fiji’s prime minister at these gatherings – last month in Port Vila he was represented by Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, the former Foreign Minister and current Minister for Defence.
There are some indications that the current chair (Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands) is looking to use the current impasse over membership as an opportunity to expand the grouping. In relation to activism around the West Papua issue, this is likely to be taken forward at global levels by the Pacific Coalition on West Papua, with Sogavare as its head. Australia has had two indications recently that its ‘nothing to do with us’ stance is wearing thin in Jakarta: the ‘request’ made to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne to caution the leadership of Pacific island countries to stop interference in relation to the West Papua issue and, more recently, the rupture in defence relationships.
More generally, Australia will prepare and publish its first white paper on foreign policy in 14 years, which will complement a new ‘Pacific strategy’ promised by the Prime Minister. We hope to see a detailed and nuanced approach to relationships with the Pacific island region feature prominently in this document. It presents an important opportunity to rectify previous missteps, build on what is working well and send important messages about where our region features in Australian policy thinking on diplomacy, trade, development assistance and, critically for the Pacific, labour mobility.
‘This item was first published on Devpolicy (www.devpolicy.org). Dr Tess Newton Cain is the Principal of TNC Pacific Consulting and a Visiting Fellow to the Development Policy Centre.
2) Freeport, Amman Hope Status Change Would Not Disturb Operations
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - PT Freeport Indonesia and PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara hope that the change in the companies status from contract of work (CoW) to a special mining business license (IUPK) would not impact their operations.
Mining companies operating under the CoW are now required to change their status to a special mining business (IUPK) after the issuance of Government Regulation (PP) No. 1 of 2017.
The regulation, PP No.1/2017 allows IUPK companies to export mineral ores. Mining companies currently having CoW must obtain the IUPK to continue exporting concentrates.
"We do not want it to disturb the companys operations. All this will depend on our talks with the government. It seems it would have many different kinds of impact on us," Freeport Indonesia Spokesman Riza Pratama said at the office of the Directorate General of Mineral and Coal of the Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) in Jakarta on Friday (Jan 13).
Representatives of PT Freeport Indonesia, PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara (PT AMNT) and the Director General of Mineral and Coal, Bambang Gatot Ariyono, discussed the new policy. The policy has been signed by President Joko Widodo (Jokowi).
Pratama noted that with the issuance of the new regulation, the company is no longer allowed to export concentrates. Yet, Freeport remains committed to developing a mineral smelter.
"We are committed to developing a smelter but we are still waiting for the contract. Developing a smelter needs a certainty of contract," Pratama explained.
On the same occasion, President Director of PT Amman Mineral Nusa Tenggara Rachmat Makkasau clarified that his company was still studying the new regulation, particularly with regard to the companys obligations towards the government.
Makkasau pointed out that his companys operations were still running. "Our operations are running at normal pace. Our focus is to ensure that the operations keep running well," he added.
From January 28, 2017 the Project Room in the exhibition The Collection Now will be dedicated to FRAGMENTS [of a desire for revolution], a new work by Lidwien van de Ven, commissioned by the Van Abbemuseum. In 2014 the Van Abbemuseum invited Van de Ven to carry out research into the colonial history of the Netherlands in Indonesia. The result is an ambitious installation comprising Van de Ven’s large format photographic works, alongside video and documentary material.
During an exploratory visit in 2015 Van de Ven attended the 60th commemoration of the Konferensi Asia Afrika in Bandung, a meeting that in 1955 brought together 29 African-Asiatic countries to seek economic and cultural collaboration and to fight against colonial domination. One of the highlights in 1955 was President Sukarno’s opening speech. He raised questions, still relevant today, about identity and how we want to live together in a globalizing world. Also in 2015 the International People’s Tribunal took place in The Hague to examine the military coup in 1965 and the following mass murder of an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 communists, ethnic Chinese citizens and supporters of left-wing parties. This history remains sensitive and contested today.
Van de Ven explored the Dutch role in the history of communism in Indonesia and came across the inspirational role played by the Dutchman Henk Sneevliet who in 1914, founded the Indische Sociaal-Democratische Vereeniging, which later became the communist party in Indonesia, PKI. It was opposed by the Dutch colonial powers, which suppressed the development of communism and its aim for independence. When the communist uprisings of 1926/1927 against the colonial oppressors failed, the Netherlands responded by expelling the rebels to Boven Digoel (Upper Digul), a remote area, 500 kilometre up the Digul-river in Papua New-Guinea, where the Dutch founded the internment camps, Tanah Merah and Tanah Tinggi. Van de Ven’s presentation builds around this location.
In present-day Tanah Merah she looked for traces of the former internment camp, whose history for many has been virtually forgotten. She mapped its history with the help of different sources, like the publications by I.F.M. Salim, an exile who was interned in the camp from 1928 to 1943, and by L.J.A. Schoonheyt, who worked in the camp as a doctor from 1932 to 1934. Further archival research in the Netherlands and Jakarta provided additional perspectives. The first exiles were expelled using the so-called Exorbitant Rights of the Governor General to circumvent the judiciary, which also implied that appeal was not possible. Papua was infamous for the many diseases as malaria and black water fever, which were rampant, and for the presence of cannibals. Surviving there was a struggle. Although stories about the terrible living conditions in the camp reached the Netherlands in the late 1920s, the camp was not abolished. Only in 1943 were exiles evacuated to Australia, following the threat of the Japanese occupation and the fear of the Dutch authorities that the exiles might collude with the Japanese. A few of the remaining buildings were in the 90s designated as a historical monument to commemorate the struggle for independence.
Lidwien van de Ven Lidwien van de Ven is known above all as a photographer. She is interested in parts of the world where important social and political changes are taking place. These are also places in which often the complex reality is shunned and reduced to stereotypes. Van de Ven is curious to look into this process. She digs around for the meaning of traces of the past and the present, rather like an archaeologist. She looks for the almost invisible and intangible moment at which contemporary reality unfolds and tears appear in the fabric, which allow for new interpretations and perspectives. She translates this process into photographic works and installations with an extremely detailed composition. Lidwien van de Ven lives and works in Rotterdam and Berlin.
Curator: Christiane Berndes.
Subsidisers: The research, the presentation and the purchase of this work were made possible by the Mondriaan Fund and the BankGiro Loterij.