Thursday, March 14, 2019

1) UNHRC told thousands of Papuans displaced by violence

2) 'Houses were burned': Papuans claim thousands displaced in conflict

3) South Pacific reimagines its colonial past
1) UNHRC told thousands of Papuans displaced by violence
RNZI 5:13 pm today 
The UN Human Rights Council has heard that at least 2000 Papuans have been displaced by escalating violence in Indonesia's Nduga regency.
The claims were part of presentations to the council by the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, on Wednesday in Geneva.
KNPB spokesperson Victor Yeimo told the council's 40th session that Indonesian military forces in Nduga have violated Papuans' human rights.
"Joint military and police operation started last December in [the] Nduga region, [causing] excessive use of force. More than 2000 people have become IDPs [internally displaced people], houses were burned down and more than 25 civilians were dead."
Mr Yeimo called on the UN Human Rights Council to encourage Indonesia to allow a UN visit to Papua to assess the situation.
Indonesian state media, reported in February, that more than 400 students and 80 teachers had been displaced by violence in the Central Highlands regency.
However, the military has said its decision to deploy 600 additional combat soldiers to the region last week was to safeguard state construction work and protect civilians from Papuan rebels.
At the UNHRC session on Wednesday, Indonesia's permanent secretary to the UN, Dian Triansyah Djani, denied Mr Yeimo's claims.
Mr Djani said the West Papua Liberation Army were responsible for attacks in Nduga, including the killing of four Indonesian soldiers last week.
"The same group is also known to scare local villagers to flee their homes to make it as if there is a humanitarian condition in Nduga."
Mr Djani said development in Papua had been a success but had been hindered by rebels.
Mr Yeimo, the KNPB spokesperson, also called on member states to block Indonesia from applying for a seat on the council until it had addressed human rights concerns in the country.
"We, indigenous West Papuans cannot speak out. When we do, Indonesian military or police forces arrest us," Mr Yeimo told the session.
"When we hold public discussion, they disperse us. When we gather peacefully, they say we are [an] illegal organisation. When we want to pray, they charge us with treason and destroy our houses. They isolate us from foreign journalists and humanitarians workers."
Mr Yeimo said Papuans had become a minority in their own land and had been robbed of their natural resources.
Separately at the UNHRC session, an Indonesian lawyer for Papuans, Veronica Koman, called on the council to request Indonesia facilitate the return of displaced people in Papua.

Report includes photos/video
2) 'Houses were burned': Papuans claim thousands displaced in conflict
A West Papuan has told the UN Human Rights Council thousands of Indigenous Papuans are being displaced because of ongoing conflict in the Indonesian-controlled province. 

West Papuan Victor Yeimo has given testimony to the UN Human Rights Council alleging more than 2000 people have fled violence in his homelands.
The spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee, told the council’s 40th session in Geneva, Indigenous Papuans are being targeted in the Indonesian-controlled province.
He said Indonesian forces have “burned down” houses and killed civilians since responding to an attack by West Papuan militants last December.
“I came here as a victim and witness of the human rights violations perpetrated by the Indonesian government,” he told the council.
“Houses were burned down and more than 25 civilians [are] dead. No one is allowed to have access to investigate.”

Indonesia launched a military operation into West Papua’s Nduga province after 19 Indonesian road workers were killed by the West Papua Liberation Army late last year.
The militant group, made up of Indigenous locals, has long campaigned for West Papua’s independence.
The region has been an Indonesian-controlled province since a disputed referendum vote in 1969.

The road workers were working on the Trans-Papua highway, a prized infrastructure project of Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo. 
He has vowed to finish the initiative aimed at developing the West Papua region. Last week, Indonesia announced it would deploy 600 soldiers to ensure its construction - on top of troops already sent to deal with militant groups.

At the UNHRC session on Wednesday, Indonesian ambassador, Dian Triansyah Djani, blamed the West Papua Liberation Army for people being displaced.
“The same group is also known to scare local villagers to flee their homes to make it as if there is a humanitarian condition in Nduga," he said.
Three Indonesian soldiers and one Papuan independence fighter were killed in an exchange of gunfire between the sides last week.
Human rights lawyer, Veronica Koman also spoke at the UN Human Rights Council's session, condemning the killing of Indonesian road workers - but also denounced the Indonesian government's military and police response. 
“As a consequence of this operation at least 25 civilians have allegedly lost their lives,” she told the council.
“Among them, seven were shot, one burnt alive inside his home and others have died due to hunger and illness since fleeing their homes.”
West Papuan, Mr Yeimo called on Indonesia to allow a UN visit to West Papua to investigate the situation.
“We Indigenous Papuans cannot speak out when we do Indonesian military or [the] police arrest us,” he said.
“We urge members to ensure that domestic human rights situations are addressed before Indonesia apply for a seat at the council.”
Ms Koman said Indonesia had restricted access to the country for journalists and humanitarian organisations.
“Security forces are blocking and threatening journalists and human rights defenders seeking to monitor this operation,” she said.
She called for any displaced people to be allowed to return to their homes.
”We respectfully request the human rights council to urge the Indonesian government to stop the joint military and police operation,” she said.
According to the UN Human Rights Council, in its right of reply, Indonesia stated that non-governmental organisations had interacted with local government officials.
“[But] despite this access, it was regrettable that these organizations still spread untruths about the reality on the ground,” Indonesia's statement said.
The statement said that human rights abuses had been “progressing” and were under investigation by Indonesia’s Attorney General and its national commission on human rights.
“Violence in the Nduga region was regrettable, and the government was attempting to address the situation,” the statement reads.
West Papua's independence remains a point of contention in the country. In January West Papuan leader Benny Wenda delivered a petition with 1.8 million signatures demanding an independence referendum to UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

Lewis Prai Wellip, is a representative for West Papua’s community in Australia and came to Australia in 2010 on a humanitarian visa.

Now Melbourne-based, he said the situation in his homeland has created a “serious” humanitarian crisis.
“Most of them have experienced military raids and operations and they still have the trauma in them,” he told SBS News.  
“They are basically fearful of the presence of Indonesian military."

He also wants an independent UN investigation and for Indonesian forces to engage in negations with West Papuan militants.
“We would like to have a mediation under UN mandate. So we can find a solution to the whole problem,” Mr Wellip told SBS News.
“We immediately need the United Nations to send an investigation into the area.”


3) South Pacific reimagines its colonial past

Island region is rewriting British explorer James Cook’s contested legacy on the 150-year anniversary of his epic voyages
South Pacific nations are reassessing their colonial heritages as the 150th anniversary of British explorer James Cook’s epic voyages in the region approaches. Even the island country that now bears his name, Cook Islands, is seeking to rewrite its history.
Cook claimed most of the South Pacific’s scattered islands for Great Britain during his three trips between 1768 and 1779, triggering a territorial grab that also brought in France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany.
The United States colonized northern islands, though some briefly came under Japanese control.
British ships led by Cook had their first South Pacific contact on October 9, 1769, when the crew of the Endeavour landed on New Zealand’s North Island in an area with the unfortunate name of Poverty Bay.
Musket shots were fired as they landed and a Maori tribal chief was killed in the melee.
The tone was thus set for a courtship with the South Pacific Islands that continues to incite strong passions, even in countries that had limited links with the British.
One of these is Cook Islands, which has recently said it may change the name by which it has been known for nearly 200 years.

“I’m quite happy to look at a traditional name for our country which more reflects the true Polynesian nature of our island nation,” Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown said recently after a committee met to discuss the issue.
This is a little odd, as Cook Islands was never colonized by Great Britain: like Tonga and Fiji, it asked for protectorate status to keep France and Germany at bay. What’s more, the nation was never named after Cook, though he did visit one atoll, Manuae, in 1773, which he called Hervey Island.

All 15 islands eventually became known as Hervey, but they were wrongly identified as Cook Islands on Russian navigational charts in the 1820s and that name stuck. By then, Great Britain had passed administration to New Zealand, which still looks after the island country’s defense and foreign affairs.
Cook Islands is the only South Pacific island that wasn’t occupied by outside colonizers. So why all the anguish now over an imperial legacy that was only perfunctory?
One reason is that while the islands didn’t suffer greatly from colonialism, their Polynesian culture did. European settlers brought a host of social ills that continue to have an impact, including forced migrations, suppression of native languages in favor of English and French, an aggressive takeover by Christianity and 50 years of nuclear testing by the UK, US and France.
Traditional systems of government and justice co-exist in an awkward embrace with democratic institutions introduced by the colonial powers. Natural resource exploitation in countries like Nauru and Solomon Islands uprooted rural populations and left behind environmental catastrophes.
Tribal lands were broken up in New Zealand, Hawaii and French Polynesia in the 1800s, leaving artificial borders between ethnic groups. It is little wonder revisionism was a hot topic as the last colonists left in the 1970s.

In Australia, the Aboriginal population is trying to rewrite history books, tear down statues and reclaim tribal homelands. Cook’s busts in Sydney have been desecrated so many times they are now encircled by wire fences.

Australia Day, which commemorates the 1788 arrival of British vessels in Sydney, is known by most Aborigines as Invasion Day or Survival Day.
“It’s not a date that is particularly pleasing for Aborigines,” said Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell. “The British were armed to the teeth and from the moment they stepped foot on our country, the slaughter and dispossession of Aborigines began.” He calls it “Aboriginal Sovereignty Day.”
There were at least 270 sanctioned massacres of Aborigines by police, soldiers or settlers between 1788 and the late 1920s, and an unknown number of other killings. Records are only kept for six or more deaths.
Pitcairn (the UK), New Caledonia (France), Guam (US), American Samoa (US) and Easter Island (Chile) all still remain under colonial rule. Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, Ka Pae’aina (the US), West Papua (Indonesia) and Te Ao Maohi (French Polynesia) are still fighting for their independence.
Efforts to turn back the clock have had mixed success. Most countries still have Queen Elizabeth as head of state, and colonial links are still ubiquitous.
“There is no escaping the fact that Captain Cook is a polarizing national symbol, representing possession and dispossession,” Tracy Ireland, an associate professor at the University of Canberra, noted in an essay as preparations begin in Australia for a commemoration of his voyages.
“Another anniversary of Cook’s landing may give us much to reflect upon, but it also highlights the need for investment in new symbols that grapple with colonial legacies and shared futures,” she wrote.
The New Hebrides had a name change to Vanuatu and introduced a new flag after gaining self-rule from British and French rule in 1980, following a bizarre uprising that was fought mostly with bows, arrows and spears.
Fiji announced plans in 2015 for a new flag without the British union emblem, declaring that the existing design contained “colonial symbols.” But the idea was dropped one year later for reasons of cost.
Australians voted against becoming a republic without a British head of state in 1999 and New Zealanders rejected plans for a new flag in 2016. In both instances, there were deep divisions on what should replace the Union Jack-emblazoned flag.
Even the Cook Islands has found that while the population of 12,000 may not look fondly on the colonial period, it is difficult to find a consensus for change in a land of many languages and traditions.
A 1994 proposal to change the name to Avaiki Nui was rejected, and a similar outcome seems likely this time as well.

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