Last Saturday, a local man, Ben Didiomea, was questioned by police after holding the West Papuan Morning Star Flag as a protest outside Indonesia's festival stall.
Mr Didiomea said he was standing in solidarity with fellow Melanesian people of Indonesia's Papua region, where the Morning Star is banned.
The Royal Solomon Islands Police Force's Supervising Assistant Commissioner National Capital and Crime Preventio, Solomon Sisimia, said police advised Mr Didiomea and his fellow demonstrators that the flag was being removed because the festival was not a political event.
"In fact before that incident, police had confronted a group of young people the other day who had come in and threatened to burn down the same stall, and said that they were from the West Papuan freedom movement," he explained.
"And so the flag was taken away from that location to stop any further provocation against the Indonesian delegation that day."
Mr Sisimia denied that Solomons police had provided special service to the Indonesian delegation.
There was no special arrangement for the visiting Indonesian arrangement. The (overall Festival) police operation was for everyone taking part in this festival," he said.
Over the past ten days Honiara hosted thousands of performers from various Melanesian countries for the four-yearly event.
Mr Sisimia said the force had limited manpower with which to patrol the event, but that the Festival largely ran smoothly.
According to him, police deployed extra officers to monitor last night's closing ceremony.
2) PNG PM delivers public lecture on Pacific Regionalism
Tuesday, 10 July 2018, 4:25 pm
Press Release: University Of South Pacific
The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus hosted a public lecture on Pacific Regionalism by Honourable Peter Paire O’Neill, Prime Minister of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG) at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre on 9 July 2018.
More than 300 people attended the lecture including H.E. Mr Esala Teleni, Fiji’s High Commissioner to PNG; H.E. Ratu Tui Cavuilati, Fiji’s Roving Ambassador for the Pacific, H.E. Mr John Feakes, Australia’s High Commissioner to Fiji, H.E. Mr Jonathan Curr, New Zealand's High Commissioner to Fiji, H.E. Mr Sujiro Seam, Ambassador of France to Fiji; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Heads of Regional and International Organisations, Private Sector; NGOs, the media and staff and students of USP.
In welcoming the Honorable Prime Minister, Mr Winston Thompson, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of USP Council noted that this was the second time for the University to host a leader from PNG, the first of whom was Sir Michael Somare who attended the 25th Anniversary of the Melanesian Spearhead Group in March 2013. Mr Thompson said it was an honour for the University to host Hon. O’Neill especially on USP’s 50th Anniversary year.
“Having you visit the University has made this year even more special for us as a regional University of higher education, research and regional integration,” Mr Thompson stated.
“USP and PNG have enjoyed a longstanding relationship since USP’s inception in 1968 especially through the various student exchange programmes between University of PNG and USP in the early days of our establishment.
“We currently have forty (40) students from PNG studying with us, thirty-two (32) of them right here at the Laucala Campus and the remaining from our campuses in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands,” he added.
Mr Thompson added that the University looked forward to continued talks with the Government of PNG to joining its twelve (12) neighbours as a USP member country and the synergy from this development would have far-reaching benefits for higher education in the region.
In her remarks, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) said, “if we are to ever realise the full potential of Pacific regionalism, then now is the time.”
“The current moment calls upon the region to be steadfast in our solidarity in order to secure the integrity of our ocean sovereignty, cultures and resources,” she said.
Dame Taylor mentioned that realising the potential of Pacific regionalism in today’s context will require a range of focused political conversations in order to establish the foundations for the future of the region.
In his address, Hon. O’Neill said he was very appreciative of the opportunity to speak on regionalism.
“This is a very important topic because it certainly changes the way we look at managing issues that affect every man, woman and child both here in Fiji and the Pacific generally,” he stated.
Regionalism he said, is an important driving force for collective action as we develop our countries and especially as one voice – the Pacific voice.
“The Pacific, particularly Melanesia is a place of great opportunity and the regionalism agenda must embrace; and it must also be embraced by our governments, our business communities and more importantly our students and citizens who are advancing many of these issues through universities and other institutions throughout the Pacific,” he said.
Hon. O’Neill mentioned that as global citizens, “our responsibility is to try and encourage trade and investment does not only lie in our respective countries but we must engage as a region and we must engage more meaningfully and globally as well.”
“We must also use our collective strengths in ensuring that the interests of our people are advanced in a manner that a lot of our Governments and global leaders are aware of the issues that are affecting the Pacific. Our desire is to create more opportunities particularly in employment, encourage small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and confront the challenges of climate change,” Hon. O’Neill noted.
“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of this earth and this is why we acknowledge the leadership that Fiji is providing in many of the discussions that is taking place in the global arena including COP23,” he added.
According to Hon. O’Neill, lives are being lost around the world to extreme weather conditions and the Pacific is no exception.
“We are at the forefront of many of these challenges. People’s lives are being destroyed and biodiversity undermined as weather patterns and environmental conditions continue to change,” he stated.
Hon. O’Neill emphasised the urgency in supporting Fiji’s leadership at COP23 but more importantly the agreements signed in Paris by all Pacific Island member countries which he said signified a greater need for collective action, to continue addressing the challenge of climate change and ensuring that our oceans are managed more sustainably.
“That is why regional cooperation is very much needed by all Pacific Island nations and more importantly, to mobilise resources and the development assistance required from international institutions like the Green Climate Fund. “At the United Nations and many other global forums Pacific Island countries are small but collectively our votes matter on global resolutions so that we can position ourselves in a strategic manner to draw attention from the international community,” he added.
During the interactive session, some of the issues raised were contemporary issues relating to the situation in West Papua and how PNG’s economic growth can be translated better to the region.
Furthermore, Hon O’Neill confirmed that PNG is having frank discussions with Indonesia on human rights violations in West Papua and they are encouraged by the progress that has been made, adding that the matter would eventually have to be taken up to the United Nations.
He compared the situation with that of Bougainville where because of its immense size and diversity, the crisis needs to be addressed in a sensible manner and one that does not compromise the stability of the country.
Following numerous postings on Social Media concerning an incident at the stall of the Melanesian Province of Indonesia at the Melanesia Village of the MSG Arts and Cultural Festival at Panatina yesterday, 7 July 2018, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) wish to make the following clarifications:
The Solomon Islands Government has invited the Government of Indonesia to participate in the 6th Melanesian Art and Cultural Festival being held at various venues in Honiara from 1 – 10 July 2018.
With the mandate to protect law and order and provide security in Solomon Islands, the RSIPF put in place an operational order to provide security during the MSG Leaders’ Meeting, the MACFest and the 40th anniversary of independence.
The Order included:
• Providing security presence at all MACFest venues and other locations based on a risk assessment; • Conduct traffic management during the events; • Detect and investigate offences during the course of the events; • Respond appropriately to any escalating security issues; and • The Operation will adopt a “zero tolerance” stance to any criminal activities.
As a result, the RSIPF put in place measures to ensure the safety of both members of the local community and visitor’s from other participating countries.
Based on daily reports including some drunken youth getting into the Indonesian stall and threatening to burn it down and some unknown people climbing the flag poles at the Panatina venue and removed the Indonesian Flag (still missing at the moment) the Police Post at the venue decided to deploy some of its officers to the Indonesian stall.
Yesterday, 7 July 2018 at about 4 pm, some local supporters of the West Papua Freedom Movement arrived at the Indonesian Stall at the Melanesian Village and pulled up the Movement’s flag in front of the stall. This drew a large crowd to the Indonesian stall.
The RSIPF officers at the Indonesian Stall took the flag away from the West Papua Supporters and led them to the Police Post at the venue to tell them that the MACFest is not a political event but an arts festival where people should go and enjoy in a safe environment. The officers took and led the leader of the local supporters of the West Papua Freedom movement into a police bus to get his contact details.
At no time did the RSIPF arrest the local leader of the West Papua supporters. The flag was taken away from them at the location to stop any provocation against the Indonesian delegation. The flag was returned to the owner yesterday.
RSIPF want to strongly advice members of our communities in and around Honiara to refrain from any activity that may cause harm to the peace of our nation. Anyone who wants to disturb the peace will face the full force of the law.