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Release of Victor Yeimo from Indonesian prison rekindles West Papuan fight against racism

Freed West Papuan leader Victor Yeimo
Freed West Papuan leader Victor Yeimo . . . inspiring speech condemning racism as the basis of Indonesian repression in the Papuan provinces. Image: YK


Prominent West Papuan independence activist Victor Yeimo was yesterday released from prison in Jayapura, Indonesia’s occupied capital of West Papua, sparking a massive celebration among thousands of Papuans.

His release has ignited a spirit of unity among Papuans in their fight against what they refer to as racism, colonialism, and imperialism.

His jailing was widely condemned by global human rights groups and legal networks as flawed and politically motivated by Indonesian authorities.

“Racism is a disease. Racism is a virus. Racism is first propagated by people who feel superior,” Yeimo told thousands of supporters.

He described racism as an illness and “even patients find it difficult to detect pain caused by racism”.

Victor Yeimo’s speech:

“Racism is a disease. Racism is a virus. Racism is first propagated by people who feel superior. The belief that other races are inferior. The feeling that another race is more primitive and backward than others.

“Remember the Papuan people, my fellow students, because racism is an illness, and even patients find it difficult to detect pain caused by racism.

“Racism has been historically upheld by some scientists, beginning in Europe and later in America. These scientists have claimed that white people are inherently more intelligent and respectful than black people based on biological differences.

“This flawed reasoning has been used to justify colonialism and imperialism in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, with researchers misguidedly asserting genetic and ecological superiority over other races.

“Therefore, there is a prejudice against other nations and races, with the belief that they are backward, primitive people, belonging to the lower or second class, who must be subdued, colonised, dominated, developed, exploited, and enslaved.

“Racism functions like a pervasive virus, infecting and spreading within societies. Colonialism introduced racism to Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, profoundly influencing the perspectives and beliefs of Asians, Indonesians, and archipelago communities.

“It’s crucial to acknowledge that the enduring impact of over 350 years of racist ideology from the Dutch East Indies has deeply ingrained in generations, shaping their worldview in these regions due to the lasting effects of colonialism.

“Because racism is a virus, it is transmitted from the perpetrator to the victim. Colonised people are the victims.

“After Indonesia became independent, it succeeded in driving out colonialism, but failed to eliminate the racism engendered by European cultures against archipelago communities.

“Currently, racism has evolved into a deeply ingrained cultural phenomenon among the Indonesian population, leaving them with a sense of inferiority as a result of their history of colonisation.

“Brothers and sisters, I must tell you that it was racism that influenced Sukarno [the first President of Indonesia] to say other races and nations, including the Papuans, were puppet nations without political rights.

“It is racist prejudice.

The release of Victor Yeimo from prison in Jayapura yesterday
The release of Victor Yeimo from prison in Jayapura yesterday . . . as reported by Tabloid Jubi. Image: Jubi News screenshot APR

“There is a perception among people from other nations, such as Javanese and Malays, that Papuans have not advanced, that they are still primitives who must be subdued, arranged, and constructed.

“In 1961, the Papuans were building a nation and a state, but it was considered an impostor state with prejudice against the Papuans. It is important for fellow students to learn this.

“It is imperative that the Papuan people learn that the annexation of this region is based on racist prejudice.

“The 1962 New York Agreement, the 1967 agreement between Indonesia and the United States regarding Freeport’s work contract, and the Act of Free Choice in 1969 excluded the participation of any Papuans.

“This exclusion was rooted in the belief that Papuans were viewed as primitive and not deserving of the right to determine their own political fate. The decision-making process was structured to allow unilateral decisions by parties who considered themselves superior, such as the United States, the Netherlands, and Indonesia.

“In this arrangement, the rightful owners of the nation and homeland, the Papuan people, were denied the opportunity to determine their own political destiny. This unequal and biased treatment exemplified racism.”

A massive crowd welcoming Victor Yeimo after his release from prison
A massive crowd welcoming Victor Yeimo after his release from prison. Image: YK

Victor Yeimo’s imprisonment
According to Jubi, a local West Papua media outlet, Victor Yeimo, international spokesperson of the West Papua Committee National (KNPB), was unjustly convicted of treason because he was deemed to have been involved in a demonstration protesting against a racism incident that occurred at the Kamasan III Papua student dormitory in Surabaya, East Java, on 16 August 2019.

He was accused of being a mastermind behind riots that shook West Papua sparked by the Surabaya incident, which led to his arrest and subsequent charge of treason on 21 February 2022.

However, on 5 May 2023, a panel of judges from the Jayapura District Court ruled that Victor Yeimo was not guilty of treason.

Nevertheless, the Jayapura Court of Judges found Yeimo guilty of violating Article 155, Paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code.

The verdict was controversial because Article 155, Paragraph (1) of the Criminal Code was never the charge against Victor Yeimo.

The article used to sentence Victor Yeimo to eight months in prison had even been revoked by the Constitutional Court.

On 12 May 2023, the Public Prosecutor and the Law Enforcement and Human Rights Coalition for Papua, acting as Victor Yeimo’s legal representatives, filed appeals against the Jayapura District Court ruling.

On 5 July 2023, a panel of judges of the Jayapura High Court, led by Paluko Hutagalung SH MH, together with member judges, Adrianus Agung Putrantono SH and Sigit Pangudianto SH MH, overturned the Jayapura District Court verdict, stating that Yeimo was proven to have committed treason, and sentenced him to one year in imprisonment.

Jubi.com stated that the sentence ended, and at exactly 11:17 WP, he was released by the Abepura Prerequisite Board.

The Jayapura crowd waiting to hear Victor Yeimo's "freedom" speech on racism
The Jayapura crowd waiting to hear Victor Yeimo’s “freedom” speech on racism. Image: YK

International response
Global organisations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the Indonesian government’s treatment of Papuans and called for immediate action to address the issue of racism.

They have issued statements, conducted investigations, and raised awareness about the plight of Papuans, urging the international community to stand in solidarity with them.

Yeimo’s release brings new hope and strengthens their fight for independence.

His release has not only brought about a sense of relief and joy for his people and loved ones but has also reignited the flames of resistance against the Indonesian occupation.

At the Waena Expo Arena in Jayapura City yesterday, Yeimo was greeted by thousands of people who performed traditional dances and chanted “free West Papua”, displaying the region’s symbol of resistance and independence — the Morning Star flag.

Thousands of Papuans have united, standing in solidarity, singing, dancing, and rallying to advocate for an end to the crimes against humanity inflicted upon them.

Victor Yeimo’s bravery, determination and triumph in the face of adversity have made him a symbol of hope for many. He has inspired them to continue fighting for justice and West Papua’s state sovereignty.

Papuan communities, including various branches of KNPB offices represented by Victor Yeimo as a spokesperson, as well as activists, families, and friends from seven customary regions of West Papua, are joyfully celebrating his return.

Many warmly welcome him, addressing him as the “father of the Papuan nation”, comrade, and brother, while others express gratitude to God for his release.

Yamin Kogoya is a West Papuan academic who has a Master of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development from the Australian National University and who contributes to Asia Pacific Report. From the Lani tribe in the Papuan Highlands, he is currently living in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

West Papuan Morning Star flags flying to wecome Victor Yeimo
West Papuan Morning Star flags flying to wecome Victor Yeimo. Image: YK

IPI condemns arrest of French investigative journalist Ariane Lavrilleux over ‘Egypt papers’

"The Egypt Papers" . . . an investigation based on hundreds of leaked documents which revealed how information gathered by French counter-intelligence bodies was abused by the Egyptian military to carry out a campaign of bombings and arbitrary killings of alleged smugglers and innocent civilians. Image: Disclose screenshot APR

Pacific Media Watch

The International Press Institute (IPI) has condemned the arrest and interrogation of French journalist Ariane Lavrilleux and demanded her immediate release. She was released after 39 hours in custody.

IPI has also called on French law enforcement authorities to ensure full respect for international media freedom standards on source protection.

Lavrilleux, a journalist with French non-profit investigative platform Disclose was taken into custody last Tuesday, September 19, after a dawn raid on her home by officers from France’s domestic intelligence agency, the DGSI, said an IPI statement.

French journalist Ariane Lavrilleux
French journalist Ariane Lavrilleux . . . detained by French secret service for 39 hours over her human rights revelations in The Egypt Papers probe. Image: International Press Institute

Her apartment was searched and her computer was confiscated, in the presence of a judge, according to news media reports.

Journalists at Disclose played a key role in a major investigation of French nuclear tests secrecy in the South Pacific in March 2021.

Lavrilleux was taken to the DGSI headquarters in Marseille and questioned for several hours in the presence of her lawyer as part of an investigation into the publication of highly confidential documents in the investigative series, the “Egypt Papers”. She remained in custody overnight and into Wednesday, September 20.

In November 2021, Lavrilleux had co-authored and published the Egypt Papers, about the Sirli operation, an investigative series based on hundreds of leaked documents which revealed how information gathered by French counter-intelligence bodies was abused by the Egyptian military to carry out a campaign of bombings and arbitrary killings of alleged smugglers and innocent civilians.

French state’s potential complicity
At the time, Disclose had issued a statement justifying its decision to publish the confidential information, citing the evidence of the French state’s potential complicity in serious human rights abuses committed by a foreign regime, and the public’s right to know about such matters of public interest.

In July 2022, prosecutors in Paris opened an investigation that was later handed over to the DGSI. They alleged the publication had compromised national defence secrets and revealed information that could lead to the identification of a protected agent.

It is unclear whether any intelligence official was compromised.

“IPI is highly alarmed by the continued detention and interrogation of Ariane Lavrilleux and urges the General Directorate for Internal Security to proceed with extreme caution and full respect for French law and international legal standards regarding journalistic source protection”, IPI executive director Frane Maroevic said.

“Any charges against Lavrilleux must be dropped immediately and all pressure on Disclose and its journalists related to their investigative work must cease.

“The arrest of an investigative journalist is extremely serious, as it has major ramifications for press freedom”, he added.

“Journalists’ right to protect their sources is enshrined in national and international law as it essential for journalists to expose wrongdoing and hold power to account. The public interest defence of revealing the information published in Disclose’s investigative reporting on the Egyptian military is clear.

“IPI and our global network stand behind Lavrilleux and her colleagues at Disclose and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

First home search since 2007
The arrest of Lavrilleux is believed to be the first time since 2007 that the home of a French journalist had been searched by police.

In a statement released immediately after the arrest, Disclose said: “The aim of this latest episode of unacceptable intimidation of Disclose journalists is clear: to identify our sources that revealed the Sirli military operation in Egypt.

“In November 2021, Disclose revealed an alleged campaign of arbitrary executions orchestrated by the Egyptian dictatorship of President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, with the complicity of the French state, based on several hundred documents marked ‘defence – confidential”.

IPI’s Maroevic added that the institute had been in contact with staff at Disclose after the arrest and has offered to help provide legal support through the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a European consortium which offers legal aid.

He noted that the arrest was the latest in a number of worrying incidents involving the interrogation of journalists from Disclose in relation to their reporting on the Egyptian government, and its sources for those stories.

This statement by IPI is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States, Candidate Countries, and Ukraine. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

NZ election 2023: From ‘pebble in the shoe’ to future power broker – the rise and rise of Te Pāti Māori

Te Pāti Māori co-leader tane Rawiri Waititi
Te Pāti Māori co-leader tane Rawiri Waititi . . . succeeded in being visible, critical, combative, prepared to be controversial in defiance if those with a colonial mindset. Image: Te Pati Māori website

ANALYSIS: By Annie Te One

In his maiden speech to Parliament in 2020, Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi told his fellow MPs:

You know what it feels like to have a pebble in your shoe? That will be my job here. A constant, annoying to those holding onto the colonial ways, a reminder and change agent for the recognition of our kahu Māori.

Three years later, most would agree that he and fellow co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer have been just that — visible, critical, combative, prepared to be controversial.

The question in 2023, however, is how does the party build on its current platform, grow its base, and become more than a pebble in the shoe of mainstream politics?

Recent polls suggest Te Pāti Māori could win four seats in Parliament in October. But its future doesn’t necessarily lie in formally joining either a government coalition or opposition bloc, even if this were an option.

The National Party has already ruled out working with the party in government. And Te Pāti Māori has indicated partnership with either major party is not a priority.

Such are the challenges for a political party based on kaupapa Māori (incorporating the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of Māori society) in a Westminster-style parliamentary system.

Focusing on Māori values
These tensions have existed since 2004, when then-Labour MP Tariana Turia and co-leader Pita Sharples established Te Pāti Māori in protest against Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act.

Under that law, overturned in 2011, the Crown was made owner of much of New Zealand’s coastline. Turia and others argued the government was confiscating land and ignoring Māori customary ownership rights.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader wahine Debbie Ngarewa-Packer
Te Pāti Māori co-leader wahine Debbie Ngarewa-Packer . . . running a close race against Labour candidate Soraya Peke-Mason for the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate – a Labour stronghold. Image: Te Pati Māori website

As a kaupapa Māori party, Te Pāti Māori bases its policies and constitution on tikanga (Māori values), while advocating for mana motuhake and tino rangatiratanga. That is, Māori self-determination and sovereignty, as defined by the Māori version of Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi.

A tikanga-based constitution has helped shape policies advocating for Māori rights. But it has also, at times, sat at odds with the rules of Parliament.

Waititi, for example, called pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II “distasteful”. He also refused to wear a tie, breaching parliamentary dress codes.

Between left and right
Over the years, the party’s Māori-centred policies have enabled its leaders to move between left and right wing alliances.

Under the original leadership of Turia and Sharples, Te Pāti Māori joined with the centre-right National Party to form governments in 2008, 2011 and 2014. This was a change from traditional Māori voting patterns that had long favoured Labour.

During it’s time in coalition with National, Te Pāti Māori helped influence a number of important decisions. This included finally signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the development of Whanau Ora (a Māori health initiative emphasising family and community as decision makers), and repealing the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

However, internal fighting over the decision to align with National led to the resignation of the Te Tai Tokerau MP at the time, Hone Harawira. Harawira later formed the Mana Party.

The relationship with National proved unsustainable when Labour won back all the Māori electorates at the 2017 election. Notably, Labour’s Tāmati Coffey beat te Pāti Māori co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell in the Waiariki electorate.

Rebuilding Te Pāti Māori
Waiariki was front and centre again in the 2020 election, where despite Labour’s general dominance across the Māori electorates, new Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi reclaimed the seat. The party also managed to win enough of the party vote to bring co-leader Ngarewa-Packer into Parliament with him.

Sitting in opposition this time, the current party leaders have been vocal across a range of issues. The party has called for the banning of seabed mining, removing taxes for low-income earners, higher taxes on wealth, and lowering the superannuation age for Māori.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Some policies, such as 2020’s “Whānau Build” have caused discomfort. Aimed largely at addressing the housing crisis, Whānau Build identified immigration as the root of Māori homelessness.

It was a sentiment more often associated with the extreme right, and the party has since apologised for that part of the policy.

Contesting more seats in 2023
Those bumps and missteps notwithstanding, recent polls show just how competitive Te Pāti Māori has become in the Māori electorates.

Ex-Labour MP Meka Whaitiri — an experienced politician who has held the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorate since 2013 but left to join Te Pāti Māori this year — is in a tight race to regain her seat against new Labour candidate Cushla Tangaere-Manuel.

Co-leader Ngarewa-Packer is also running a close race against Labour candidate Soraya Peke-Mason for the Te Tai Hauāuru electorate — a Labour stronghold.

But Te Pāti Māori has also shifted from its previous focus on the Māori electorates, with Merepeka Raukawa-Tait standing in the Rotorua general electorate.

The Māori Electoral Option legislation, which came into effect this year, now allows Māori voters to change more easily between electoral rolls. In future, Te Pāti Māori may find it can best to serve Māori by standing candidates in general electorates.

Broader social change across Aotearoa New Zealand has also likely been an important contributor to the success of Te Pāti Māori, with greater understanding of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, tikanga and te reo Māori among voters.

Indeed, the current party vision of an “Aotearoa Hou” (New Aotearoa), includes reference to tangata tiriti, a phrase being popularised to refer to non-Māori who seek to honour partnerships based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

According to the most recent polling, Te Pāti Māori may not be the deciding factor in who gets to form the next government come October.

But the party’s resilience and growth after it’s electoral disappointments in 2017 and 2020 show an ability to rebuild. In doing so, it is carving out it’s place in New Zealand’s political landscape.

And if Te Pāti Māori is not the kingmaker in 2023, it is still on the path to influence — and potentially decide — elections in the not-too-distant future.The Conversation

Annie Te One is lecturer in Māori Studies at Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

‘It was set up to fail us’ – Palestinians reflect on 30 years of the Oslo Accords

Palestinian demonstrators protesting in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank
Palestinian demonstrators protesting in Ramallah in the Occupied West Bank against Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas in the aftermath of the death of activist Nizar Banat in 2021 . . . the banners say “Leave”! Image: STR/APA/Mondoweiss

Though the Oslo Accords and its signatories made many promises to the Palestinians, in reality, it carved Palestine up into bantustans and ghettos with limited self-autonomy for Palestinians on a minuscule portion of their homeland.

By Yumna Patel

On September 13, 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Yasser Arafat shook hands in front of an elated US President Bill Clinton on the White House lawn.

The image capturing that handshake came to be one of the most famous images of all time, representing one of the most defining moments in recent Palestinian history.

It was the day that the Declaration of Principles (DOP), or the first Oslo Agreement (Oslo I) was signed, kicking off the so-called peace process that was meant to culminate with “peace” in the region and resolve the so-called “conflict”.

But the Oslo Accords never actually promised an independent Palestinian state, or even something that remotely resembled it. In reality, it carved the occupied Palestinian territory up into bantustans with limited self-autonomy for Palestinians on a minuscule portion of their homeland.

It paved the way for Israel to swallow up more land, resources, and tighten its grip on the borders and the people living within it.

Even the promises that were made — halts on settlement construction, withdrawal from certain areas of the occupied territory, and the eventual transfer of control of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority (PA) — never happened.

Wednesday marked 30 years since the first Oslo Accords were signed. And though final status negotiations have failed repeatedly over the decades, the Oslo Accords have remained in effect, creating a unique situation on the ground for Palestinians.

The PA, which was set up as an interim government, has become permanent, and its leaders have remained unchanged for 17 years. Both the Fatah-dominated PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza have evolved into authoritarian regimes, causing many young Palestinians to declare their governments as “subcontractors of the Israeli occupation”.

In the meantime, Israel has a tighter grip than ever before on Palestinian life and land, with Gaza under tight blockade and the West Bank carved up into small cantons, or apartheid-style “bantustans,” as analysts put it.

With each passing year, the Israeli government has become increasingly right-wing, breaking its own records on violence against Palestinian communities and the construction of illegal settlements deep in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

To say that the reality on the ground is desperate would be an understatement. And many Palestinian youth, who grew up in the shadow of the accords and all its false promises, blame the accords, or “Oslo” as it is locally called, in large part for the situation they find themselves in today.

Setting the stage
Before that fateful day on the White House lawn in 1993, there was a lot happening for Palestinians both at home and abroad.

From 1987-1993, the Palestinian streets were in upheaval. It had been two decades since Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and Palestinians were fed up.

The First Intifada, or the first Palestinian uprising, took Israel and the world by surprise. A mass civil disobedience campaign swept the country, and turned into years of protests and subsequent repression by the Israelis.

Despite the violence that plagued the Palestinian streets, many Palestinians found themselves hopeful — that by standing up to the occupation, they could change their reality.

Then, in the fall of 1991, the world convened in Madrid for a “peace conference”. Sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union, it was the first time Israel and the Palestinians were to engage in direct negotiations.

The PLO, which is internationally recognised as the representative of the Palestinian people, was operating in exile in Tunisia, and was barred from attending the conference. In its place, a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation was tasked with representing the Palestinian people instead.

Dr Hanan Ashrawi was one of the advisors to the delegation.

“We went with a sense of mission that we are representing a people who have dignity, who have rights, who have courage, who have defied this military occupation. And we are going to present ourselves to the world, and we are going to extract our rights,” Ashrawi told Mondoweiss, reflecting on the moment in history that propelled her onto the global stage.

“So we were confident, and there was a spirit of optimism, maybe naivete, if you will,” she said.

The Madrid conference set the stage for years of peace negotiations facilitated by Washington and Moscow. Despite its flaws, those involved in the Madrid conference, like Ashrawi, seemed hopeful that political negotiations could really lead somewhere.

“That was a period, albeit a short-lived period, of hope, of optimism, of confidence,” Ashrawi said.

“And when we came back, people believed that they could achieve liberation through a political process, but that these were dashed afterwards completely.”

Backchannel negotiations
While public negotiations were being held on the global stage in the months after the Madrid conference, a different set of negotiations were being held behind closed doors between two unlikely partners.

In 1993, in Oslo, Norway, Israel and the PLO engaged in backchannel discussions that resulted in an unprecedented conciliation.

The PLO, a militant liberation organisation, recognised the state of Israel and its “right to exist in peace and security”. In exchange, Israel recognised the PLO as a “representative of the Palestinian people,” falling short of actually recognising the Palestinians’ right to sovereignty.

After months of secret negotiations, and in a shock to many Palestinians, Rabin and Arafat shook hands in September 1993, as the Declaration of Principles (DOP), or first Oslo Accords (Oslo I), were signed.

The move came as a shock to many Palestinians, including those who had been engaging in public peace negotiations for years, and were seemingly unaware of the secret deal that was materialising behind the scenes.

“The signing of the DOP was a real disappointment,” Dr Ashrawi told Mondoweiss. “I wasn’t upset or disturbed because there were backchannel discussions that we weren’t part of, or that it was signed behind our back.

“I said then very openly, that I don’t care who signs it or who negotiate it. I care about what’s in it, what’s in the agreement.”

When Dr Ashrawi saw the agreement, she said she was “extremely disappointed” and concerned over what she described as “built-in flaws,” which she said she felt at the time would end up backfiring on the Palestinians.

“Because [the accords] did not challenge the reality of the occupation, and they did not deal with the real issues, with the core issues, with the causes of the conflict itself. The totality of the Palestinian experience was excluded. The fragmentation was maintained, the phased approach was maintained, the Israeli actual control on the ground was maintained, and all the postponed issues had no guarantees, no oversight.”

Dr Yara Hawari, a political analyst for Palestinian think tank Al-Shabaka, said the Oslo Accords “were always set up to fail”.

“[They were set up] to make Palestinians lose out on what was supposedly peace negotiations, and so many decades on we’ve seen that actually, it has been complete capitulation for the Palestinian people.”

What did the accords say?
The Oslo Accords were a number of agreements, signed between 1993 and 1995, that laid the foundation for the Oslo process — a so-called peace process that, over the course of five years, was to culminate in a peace treaty that would end the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”.

So, what exactly did the accords say? And why were they so controversial?

“The Palestinians were told that the Oslo Accords would be a peace process, and that over an interim period, Palestinians would be led to eventual statehood. And it was designed to be a phased process.

“So at each stage, Palestinians would be granted more and more sovereignty,” Dr Hawari said.

“But in reality, what we saw was that the West Bank was completely divided up into bantustans. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank were completely separated from each other, and the Palestinian leadership was turned into this service-functioning body, and Palestinians were deprived of complete autonomy.”

While they outlined economic and security agreements, the creation of the interim Palestinian National Authority (PNA), and limited Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza, the accords never actually agreed upon any of the major issues plaguing the Palestinian struggle: the borders of a future state, illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes, and the status of Jerusalem as a future capital.

“The totality of the Palestinian experience was excluded. The fragmentation was maintained, the phased approach was maintained, the Israeli actual control of the ground was maintained, and all the postponed issues had no guarantees, no oversight, no arbitration, and no accountability,” Dr Ashrawi said.

There was never any intention to accept any kind of sovereignty or self-determination for the Palestinians.

The fallout
In the years after the first Declaration of Principles was signed, the new Palestinian Authority went into full swing, forming their new interim government and welcoming back home hundreds of Palestinians who had been living in exile.

But by 1999, when the 5-year-interim period laid out by the accords had ended, little had been accomplished in terms of final status negotiations.

Israel had not followed through on its promise to fully withdraw from certain areas of the West Bank and Gaza, and despite promises to halt settlement construction, Israel was still building Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

And in 2000, spurred on by Ariel Sharon’s inflammatory visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque, the Second Intifada erupted. Israel’s military forces reoccupied the West Bank, and the next few years were marred by mass killings, arrests, and the construction of an illegal wall that separated families and annexed more Palestinian land.

Whatever fragments had remained of a peace process vanished.

The settlements and shrinking spaces
In the midst of the Second Intifada, America’s attempts to revive a peace process with the Camp David summit in 2000 proved to be futile. And yet, though the peace process was dead in the water, the framework laid out by the Oslo Accords remained in place.

That meant Palestinians were left with a government that was intended to be temporary but with no independent state for that body to govern. And Israel, through military force, still had control over the borders, resources, and effectively, the lives of millions of Palestinians

“The key promise of Oslo was Palestinian statehood, and we know that has obviously not been achieved,” Dr Hawari told Mondoweiss.

“Instead, what we see is these little pockets of false Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank. There were many other promises that were made as well: economic promises, promises to do with control over resources, and actually, none of those have been fulfilled.

“The only people that have won from the accords, or who have actually gained, are the Israeli regime, which now controls the West Bank in its entirety, has Gaza under siege, and basically has looted all of the Palestinian resources.

“And this was laid out in the Oslo Accords.”

In the years following the signing of the Oslo Accords, Palestinians witnessed their spaces shrinking rapidly, as Israel promoted vast settlement construction deep within the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

Between the signing of the Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the First Intifada, the number of Israeli settlers in the West Bank increased by almost 100 percent.

In the year 2000, the settler population in the West Bank stood at just over 190,000. Today, that number has surpassed 500,000 settlers, all of whom are living on Palestinian land, in violation of international law.

Including settlers living illegally in East Jerusalem, the settler population in the occupied Palestinian territory has surpassed 700,000.

An increase in settler population, coupled with an extreme right-wing Israeli government, has meant a significant increase in settler violence, with Palestinian civilians on the frontlines.

In the first eight months of 2023, the UN documented more than 700 settler attacks against Palestinians. The attacks have resulted in damage to homes, property, farmland, physical injuries, and even death.

Because of the maps drawn by the Oslo Accords, the PA only has security jurisdiction over 18 percent of the West Bank, meaning that in the event of a settler attack, most Palestinian civilians are left to fend for themselves.

A disillusioned youth
In the wake of the Oslo Accords, a new generation of Palestinians was born that would come to be known as the “Oslo Generation” — whose youth would be defined by false promises and loss of life, land, and the power to choose their own future.

“We witness our own family and friends being killed and arrested on a daily basis. We get humiliated at military checkpoints whenever we’re trying to leave or enter our cities or villages.

“And we witness our people being expelled from their land while more and more settlements are being built in their place,” Zaid Amali, a Palestinian activist in Ramallah, told Mondoweiss.

When asked what he thought of Palestinian and international leaders still promoting a two-state solution and “peace negotiations” on the global stage, Amali responded:

“It may be more convenient for them to stick to that framework, but it’s very unrealistic and naive to still hang on to it because Israel has systematically destroyed the two-state solution.

“And to us as well, it feels insulting and disrespectful to keep talking about this in theory, when in reality, on the ground, it’s the complete opposite of what’s happening.”

In the 30 years since the first accords were signed, the Palestinian Authority, which was intended to be an interim government, has become permanent. And yet, elections have only ever been held twice in 3 decades. Any attempts over the last 16 years at holding elections or reviving reconciliation talks between rival factions have been squandered.

PA leaders in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in Gaza have consolidated power in the hands of a few elites while growing increasingly authoritarian, cracking down on dissent, censoring the media, and jailing and even killing dissidents.

“The way the system became, in a sense, right now is quite disappointing,” Dr Ashrawi told Mondoweiss. Without naming names, Ashrawi continued, “People became more concerned with power, with control, other than with service.

“[They became] more concerned with self-interest, influence, and the trimmings of power rather than the whole idea of contributing and serving the people.”

When asked how things deteriorated into the present-day situation, Dr Ashrawi attributed it to an overall “abuse of power.”

“There were gradually constricting spaces for freedoms and rights that ultimately, now you don’t even have a legislative power. Even the judiciary was subjugated to the executive.

“The executive became concentrated in the hands of the few, and so we have distorted any semblance of democracy that we may have had and that we have tried to establish even under occupation,” she said.

“I don’t blame the occupation for everything. There are things under our control that were abused and distorted.”

The concentration of power in the hands of authoritarian figures like President Mahmoud Abbas has meant that an entire generation, like Zaid Amali, is now nearing or surpassing the age of 30 without ever having participated in a national election.

Amali, 25 years old, said it’s an extremely frustrating reality for young Palestinians like him.

“It’s frustrating because we should be able to elect our own government in a democratic way,” he said.

“This government should reflect our interests and manage the needs of the Palestinian people and represent us in a true way.”

“But on the contrary, it’s actually serving the interest of the few at the expense of the majority in Palestine. And when we talk about Palestinian youth, they do form the majority of the Palestinian population.

“So, for us young Palestinians, it is, again, very frustrating to see that this government is not really working in our interest. But oftentimes, unfortunately, [it is] against us.”

Turning to armed resistance
In 2023, the Palestinians who were born the year the Oslo Accords were signed turned 30. Until today, none have had the opportunity to participate in political life on a national level. Economically, their opportunities are few and far between.

Unemployment in occupied Palestine is close to 25 percent — while in Gaza alone, that number is closer to 50 percent.

All the while, Israel’s grip on Palestinian life grows ever tighter. 2022 and 2023 marked record-breaking years for Israeli violence against Palestinians, as well as settlement expansion. The situation on the ground has grown desperate, causing many young Palestinians to take matters into their own hands.

Since 2022, the West Bank has seen a resurgence in armed resistance, with militias led by Palestinians as young as 18 years old. Many of the armed resistance groups, some of which operate under a banner of unity and defiance of factional rivalries, have seen massive popular support.

But both the Israeli and Palestinian governments have deemed these armed militias as a threat to the status quo cemented after the Oslo Accords. As part of its policy of security coordination with the Israelis, which was outlined in the accords, the PA has in recent months jailed dozens of Palestinian fighters, along with political dissidents, activists, journalists, and university students.

While some fighters have accepted clemency and handed over their weapons willingly, those who haven’t are being hunted down and arrested.

“We don’t know who’s against us, the [Palestinian] Authority or the Israeli army,” one young man in the Jenin refugee camp told Mondoweiss, just days after a visit by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the camp — his first visit in 11 years.

“For four years before my arrest [by the Israelis], I was also wanted by the PA. We don’t feel safe at all with the presence of [the PA].”

“Right now, they are actually working against us,” the young man said, referring to the PA’s arrest campaign targeting fighters in areas like Jenin, as part of an ongoing joint security cooperation effort between the PA and the Israeli government.

“It’s all one operation, one operation with the Israeli military and intelligence. When the army comes to attack us, the PA goes and hides away in their stations.

“They [the PA] are trying to get us to turn ourselves in and hand over our weapons, and give up this cause that we are fighting for. But we won’t give it up, no matter what.”

But the PA’s attempts to curb resistance only seem to be backfiring. Public opinion polls from this year show that 68 percent of Palestinians support armed resistance groups, and close to 90 percent believe the PA has no right to arrest them.

Additionally, more than half of Palestinians believe that the continued existence of the PA serves Israel’s interests, not the interest of the Palestinian people.

“This is a leadership that has led us to a situation where we live in bantustans and essentially in ghettos in the West Bank, Gaza, and colonised Palestine,” Dr Hawari said.

“So we have to reckon with that, and that is internal work that Palestinians have to focus on.

“For us to have a brighter future, we have to take a very good look at our leadership and reassess what we want that leadership to look like.

“Do we want it to be a leadership that capitulates and collaborates with our oppressors? Or do we want a leadership that is revolutionary and centers our freedom in their narrative?”

Republished under a Creative Commons licence from Mondoweiss.

OPM calls for decolonisation of West Papua, condemns UN ‘collusion’

The OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak (centre) at a West Papua public meeting in Port Moresby
The OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak (centre) at a West Papua public meeting in Port Moresby in 2020. Image: OPM

Asia Pacific Report

The Free Papua Organisation (Organisasi Papua Merdeka-OPM) has sent an open letter to the United Nations leadership demanding that “decolonisation” of the former Dutch colony of West New Guinea, the Indonesian-administered region known across the Pacific as West Papua, be initiated under the direction of the UN Trusteeship Council.

The letter accuses the UN of being a “criminal accessory to the plundering of the ancestral lands” of the Papuans, a Melanesian people with affinity and close ties to many Pacific nations.

According to the OPM leader, chairman-commander Jeffrey Bomanak, West Papuans had been living with the expectation for six decades that the UN would “fulfill the obligations regarding the legal decolonisation of West Papua”.

OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak
OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak . . . an open letter to the UN calling for the UN annexation of West Papua in 1962 to be reversed. Image: OPM

Alternatively, wrote Bomanak, there had been an expectation that there would be an explanation “to the International Commission of Jurists if there are any legal reasons why these obligations to West Papua cannot be fulfilled”.

The open letter was addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi and Trusteeship Council President Nathalie Estival-Broadhurst.

Bomanak also accused the UN of “gifting” West Papua and Indonesia and the US mining conglomerate Freepost-McMoRan at Grasberg in 1967.

‘Guilty’ over annexation
“The United Nations is guilty of annexing West New Guinea on Sept 21, 1962, as a trust territory which had been concealed by the UN Secretariat from the Trusteeship Council.”

Indonesia has consistently rejected West Papuan demands for self-determination and independence, claiming that its right to sovereignty over the region stems from the so-called Act of Free Choice in 1969.

But many West Papuans groups and critics across the Pacific and internationally reject the legitimacy of this controversial vote when 1025 elders selected by the Indonesian military were coerced into voting “unanimously” in favour of Indonesian rule.

A sporadic armed struggle by the armed wing of OPM and peaceful lobbying for self-determination and independence by other groups, such as the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), have continued since then with persistent allegations of human rights violations with the conflict escalating in recent months.

In 2017, the UN’s Decolonisation Committee refused to accept a petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans calling for independence, saying West Papua’s cause was outside the committee’s mandate.

“The UN is a criminal accessory to the plundering of our ancestral lands and to the armament exports from member nations to our murderers and assassins — the Indonesian government,” claimed Bomanak in his letter.

“West Papua is not a simple humanitarian dilemma. The real dilemma is the perpetual denial of West Papua’s right to freedom and sovereignty.”

Bomanak alleges that the six-decade struggle for independence has cost more than 500,000 lives.

West Papua case ‘unique’
In a supporting media release by Australian author and human rights advocate Jim Aubrey, he said that the open letter should be read “by anyone who supports international laws and governance and justice that are applied fairly to all people”.

“West Papua’s case for the UN to honour the process of decolonisation is a unique one,” he said.

“Former Secretary General U Thant concealed West Papua’s rights as a UN trust territory for political reasons that benefited the Republic of Indonesia and the American mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

“West Papua was invaded and recolonised by Indonesia. The mining giant Freeport-McMoRan signed their contract to build the Mt Grasberg mine with the mass murderer Suharto in 1967.

“The vote of self-determination in 1969 was, for Suharto and his commercial allies, already a foregone conclusion in 1967.”

Aubrey said that West Papuans were still being “jailed, tortured, raped, assassinated [and] bombed in one of the longest ongoing acts of genocide since the end of the Second World War”.

Western countries accused
He accused Australia, European Union, UK, USA as well as the UN of being “accessories to Indonesia’s illegal invasion and landgrab”.

About Australia’s alleged role, Aubrey said he had called for a Royal Commission to investigate but had not received a reply from Governor-General David Hurley or from Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

Fijian lawmakers vote for truth telling body to ‘heal coup pains, scars’

Fiji Parliament passes a motion to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Fiji Parliament passes a motion to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission . . . seeking "closure and healing" for individuals who are still affected by Fiji's turbulent history. Image: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji FB/RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific

Fiji’s Parliament has passed a motion for the coalition government to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission “to facilitate open and free engagement in truth telling” to resolve racial differences and concerns in the country.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka had announced in December 2022 after forming a coalition that the setting up of such a body “to heal the pains and scars left by the events of the 1987, 2000 and 2006 coups” was one of its top priorities.

On Wednesday, 28 MPs voted for the motion, 23 voted against while four did not vote.

While tabling the motion in the Parliament, Fiji’s Assistant Minister for Women Sashi Kiran said people were still hurting from “political upheavals” and “many unresolved issues” from the past.

Kiran said the commission would offer “closure and healing” to individuals who were still affected by Fiji’s turbulent history.

Sashi Kiran
Assistant Women’s Minister Sashi Kiran . . . Fiji has been plagued by political turmoil for more than three decades with four coups. Image: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji FB/RNZ Pacific

In May, the Methodist Church of Fiji initiated a national prayer and reconciliation programme during the Girmit Day celebrations. Kiran said the participation of leaders and various faith groups at the event signalled that Fijians were ready for the healing process.

“Some may ask whether this is the time for it. Some may say we should focus on cost of living and on better public services and I understand [that],” she said.

‘Many unresolved issues’
“I know from many long years of personal engagement with our people a lot of people are hurting. There are many unresolved issues that need closure.

“Can we be a prosperous society if we live in fear and insecurity, if we do not trust our neighbours and carry wounded hearts.”

She said Fiji had been plagued by political turmoil for more than three decades with four coups.

“We are not looking deep inside ourselves to learn the lessons of the past. It is easier to look away from the painful events and perhaps pretend that they did not happen.

“But constant echoes of divide, narratives of the past remind us that there are deep rooted wounds in may hearts unable to heal.”

An emotional Rabuka said the commission would “remove the division between the two main communities that have co-existed since well before independence” in 1970.

He said the opposition did not have any reason to oppose the motion.

‘I am opening it up’
“I have, but I am opening it up. I would probably want to hide a long of things I know [but] none of you [MPs] has anything to hide so we should cooperate and work for this,” Rabuka said.

However, opposition MPs did not back the motion, saying a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would do more harm than good.

Sitiveni Rabuka
An emotional Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka . . . opposition should back the government over the commission. Image: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji FB/RNZ Pacific

Tackle ‘deep-rooted problems’ – Naupoto
FijiFirst MP and former military commander Viliame Naupoto, in a teary intervention, said “the problem we have is the divide in our society”.

“The divide along racial lines, now there’s even a bigger divide along political lines. I think the big task we have is try and narrow the divide as much as we can and keep working on it,” Naupoto said.

“When we have the Truth and Reconciliation Commission you are opening wounds of the past. If it needs to be opened, it needs to be treated so that it can heal.”

Naupoto cautioned that political leaders needed to ensure they were not creating new wounds by opening wounds of the past.

“Equality that we strive for can be dealt with policies that unite us,” he said.

“When we see that most of the things that were put in place by the government of the past it means also that the 200,000 voters that voted for us are feeling bad . . . and so our divide widens now.

“I plead that if you want and work on that utopian dream of this country that is prosperous and peaceful and stable, we have to be tough and face the deep-rooted problems that we have.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Viliame Naupoto
Opposition FijiFirst MP Viliame Naupoto . . . equality can be achieved through policies. Image: Parliament of the Republic of Fiji FB/RNZ Pacific

IFJ condemns Indonesia over bribery, harassment attempt on RNZ journalist

Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders' summit participants and journalists attend the closing ceremony in Port Vila
Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders' summit participants and journalists attend the closing ceremony in Port Vila on August 26 . . . protests over attempted bribery and intimidation of RNZ Pacific journalist allegation. Image: MSG Facebook/IFJ

Pacific Media Watch

A Radio New Zealand Pacific journalist has alleged that an Indonesian official attempted to both bribe and intimidate him following an interview at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) leaders’ summit in the Vanuatu capital of Port Vila last month.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliates, the Media Association Vanuatu (MAV) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia, have condemned the attempted bribery and harassment of the journalist and urged the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident.

On August 23, RNZ Pacific journalist Kelvin Anthony reported that a representative of the Indonesian government, Ardi Nuswantoro, attempted to bribe him outside Port Vila’s Holiday Inn Resort after Anthony conducted an exclusive interview with Indonesia’s Australian ambassador, Dr Siswo Pramono.

According to Anthony, Nuswantoro had previously expressed the Indonesian government’s displeasure at RNZ’s coverage of ongoing independence efforts in West Papua, reported the IFJ in a statement.

The journalist had advised him of the outlet’s mandate to produce “balanced and fair” coverage and was invited to the hotel for the interview, where he questioned Dr Pramono on a broad range of pertinent topics, including West Papua.

Following the interview, Anthony was escorted from the hotel by at least three Indonesian officials. After repeatedly inquiring as to how the journalist was going to return to his accommodation, Nuswantoro then offered him a “gift” of an unknown amount of money, which Anthony refused.

Anthony reported that he felt harassed and intimidated in the days following, with Nuswantoro continuing to message, call, and follow him at the conference’s closing reception.

Interview not aired
RNZ chose not to air the interview with Dr Pramno due to the incident.

In response to the claims of bribery and intimidation sent to the Indonesian government by RNZ, Jakarta’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Asia Pacific and African Affairs director-general Abdul Kadir Jailani said, “bribery has never been our policy nor approach to journalists . . . we will surely look into it.”

RNZ Pacific journalist Kelvin Anthony
RNZ Pacific journalist Kelvin Anthony . . . “harassed” while covering the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders’ summit in Port Vila last month. Image: Kelvin Anthony/X

In a September 6 interview, New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins reiterated his government’s commitment to press freedom, stating the importance of free and independent media.

Journalists and civil society in West Papua have faced increasing threats, restrictions and violence in recent years. Indonesian media has disproportionately reflected state narratives, with state intervention resulting in the censorship of independent outlets and effective barring of local or international journalists from Indonesian-administered Papua.

In February, renowned Jubi journalist Victor Mambor was subject to a bombing attack outside his Jayapura home.

MAV said: “The Media Association of Vanuatu (MAV) is concerned about an alleged bribery attempt by foreign officials at a Melanesian Spearhead Group regional meeting.

MAV president Lillyrose Welwel denounces such actions and urges MAV members to adhere to the Code of Ethics, as journalism is a public service. She encourages international journalists to contact the association when in the country, as any actions that do not reflect MAV’s values are not acceptable.”

AJI calls for ‘safety guarantee’
AJI said:“AJI Indonesia urges the Indonesian government to investigate the incident with transparency. This action must be followed by providing guarantees to any journalist to work safely in Papua and outside.

“The Indonesian government must also guarantee the protection of human rights in Papua, including for civilians, human rights defenders, and journalists.”

The IFJ said: “Government intervention in independent and critical reporting is highly concerning, and this incident is one in an alarming trend of intimidation against reporting on West Papua.

“The IFJ urges the Indonesian government to thoroughly investigate this incident of alleged bribery and harassment and act to ensure its commitment to press freedom is upheld.”

Pacific Media Watch condemnation
Pacific Media Watch also condemned the incident, saying that it was part of a growing pattern of disturbing pressure on Pacific journalists covering West Papuan affairs.

“West Papua self-determination and human rights violations are highly sensitive issues in both Indonesia and the Pacific. Journalists are bearing the brunt of a concerted diplomatic push by Jakarta in the region to undermine Pacific-wide support for West Papuan rights. It is essential that the Vanuatu authorities investigate this incident robustly and transparently.”

According to a CNN Indonesia report on September 6, Indonesian authorities denied the attempted bribery and harassment allegation.

Jakarta's "denial" reported by CNN Indonesia

Jakarta’s “denial” reported by CNN Indonesia. Image: CNN Indonesia screenshot APR

PNG’s Marape makes foreign policy gaffes over Israel, West Papua

Clarifications or not, PNG Prime Minister James Marape has left a lingering impression that Papua New Guinea’s foreign policy is for sale
Clarifications or not, PNG Prime Minister James Marape has left a lingering impression that Papua New Guinea’s foreign policy is for sale, especially when relating to both Indonesia and Israel. Image: Benny Wenda

By David Robie, editor of Café Pacific

Prime Minister James Marape has made two foreign policy gaffes in the space of a week that may come back to bite him as Papua New Guinea prepares for its 48th anniversary of independence this Saturday.

Critics have been stunned by the opening of a PNG embassy in Jerusalem in defiance of international law — when only three countries have done this other than the United States amid strong Palestinian condemnation — and days later a communique from his office appeared to have indicated he had turned his back on West Papuan self-determination aspirations.

Marape was reported to have told President Joko Widodo that PNG had no right to criticise Indonesia over human rights allegations in West Papua and reportedly admitted that he had “abstained” at the Port Vila meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group last month when it had been widely expected that a pro-independence movement would be admitted as full members.

The membership was denied and the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) remained as observers — as they have for almost a decade, disappointing supporters across the Pacific, while Indonesia remains an associate member.

Although Marape later denied that these were actually his views and he told PNG media that the statement had been “unauthorised”, his backtracking was less than convincing.

West Papua . . . backtracking by PNG Prime Minister James Marape
West Papua . . . backtracking by PNG Prime Minister James Marape. Image: PNG Post-Courier

In the case of Papua New Guinea’s diplomatic relations with Israel, they were given a major and surprising upgrade with the opening of the embassy on September 5 in a high-rise building opposite Malha Mall, Israel’s largest shopping mall.

Marape was quoted by the PNG Post-Courier as saying that the Israeli government would “bankroll” the first two years of the embassy’s operation.

Diplomatic rift with Palestine
This is bound to cause a serious diplomatic rift with Palestine with much of the world supporting resolutions backing the Palestinian cause, especially as Marape also pledged support for Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attending the inauguration ceremony.

Papua New Guinea has now joined Guatemala, Honduras, Kosovo and the United States as the “pariah” countries willing to open embassies in West Jerusalem. Most countries maintain embassies instead in Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial centre.

Israel regards West Jerusalem as its capital and would like to see all diplomatic missions established there. However, 138 of the 193 United Nations member countries do not recognise this.

Palestine considers East Jerusalem as its capital for a future independent state in spite of the city being occupied by Israel since being captured in the 1967 Six Day War and having been annexed in a move never recognised internationally.

As Al Jazeera reports, Israel has defiantly continued to build illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and in the Occupied West Bank.

“Many nations choose not to open their embassies in Jerusalem, but we have made a conscious choice,” Marape admitted at the embassy opening.

“For us to call ourselves Christian, paying respect to God will not be complete without recognising that Jerusalem is the universal capital of the people and the nation of Israel,” Marape said.

Law as ‘Christian state’
According to PNG news media, Marape also plans to introduce a law declaring the country a “Christian state” and this has faced some flak back home.

In an editorial, the Post-Courier said Marape had officially opened the new embassy in Jerusalem in response to PNG church groups that had lobbied for a “firmer relationship” with Israel for so long.

“When PM Marape was in Israel,” lamented the Post-Courier, “news broke out that a Christian prayer warrior back home, ‘using the name of the Lord, started performing a prayer ritual and was describing and naming people in the village who she claimed had satanic powers and were killing and causing people to get sick, have bad luck and struggle in finding education, finding jobs and doing business’.

“Upon the prayer warrior’s words, a community in Bulolo, Morobe Province, went bonkers and tortured a 39-year-old mother to her death. She was suspected of possessing satanic powers and of being a witch.

“It is hard to accept that such a barbaric killing should occur in Morobe, the stronghold of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has quickly condemned the killing.”

The Post-Courier warned that the country would need to wait and see how Palestine would react over the embassy.

“Australia and Britain had to withdraw their plans to set up embassies in Jerusalem, when Palestine protested, describing the move as a ‘blatant violation of international law’.

Indonesian ‘soft-diplomacy’ in Pacific
The establishment of the new embassy coincides with a high profile in recent months over the Indonesian government’s major boost in its diplomatic offensive in Oceania in an attempt to persuade Pacific countries to fall in line with Jakarta over West Papua.

Former Security, Politics and Legal Affairs Minister Wiranto – previously a former high-ranking Indonesian general with an unsavoury reputation — gained an additional budget of 60 million rupiah (US$4 million) to be used for diplomatic efforts in the South Pacific

“We are pursuing intense soft-diplomacy. I’m heading it up myself, going there, coordinating, and talking to them,” he told a working meeting with the House of Representatives (DPR) Budget Committee in September 2018.

“We’re proposing an additional budget of 60 billion rupiah.”

Wiranto was annoyed that seven out of 13 Pacific countries back independence for West Papua. He claimed at the time that this was because of “disinformation” in the Pacific and he wanted to change that.

In 2019, he was appointed to lead the nine-member Presidential Advisory Council but his Pacific strategy was followed through over the past six years.

“We’ve been forgetting, we’ve been negligent, that there are many countries [in the Pacific] which could potentially threaten our domination — Papua is part of our territory and it turns out that this is true,” said Wiranto at the time of the budget debate.

But for many critics in the region, it is the Indonesian government and its officials themselves that have been peddling disinformation and racism about Papua.

Atrocities in Timor-Leste
Wiranto has little credibility in the Pacific, or indeed globally over human rights.

According to Human Rights Watch: “The former general Wiranto was chief of Indonesia’s armed forces in 1999 when the Indonesian army and military-backed militias carried out numerous atrocities against East Timorese after they voted for independence.

“On February 24, 2003, the UN-sponsored East Timor Serious Crimes Unit filed an indictment for crimes against humanity against Wiranto and three other Indonesian generals, three colonels and the former governor of East Timor.

“The charges include[d] murder, arson, destruction of property and forced relocation.

“The charges against Wiranto are so serious that the United States has put Wiranto and others accused of crimes in East Timor on a visa watch list that could bar them from entering the country.”

Australian human rights author and West Papuan advocate Jim Aubrey condemned Wiranto’s “intense soft-diplomacy” comment.

“Yeah, right! Like the soft-diplomatic decapitation of Tarina Murib! Like the soft-diplomatic mutilation and dismemberment of the Timika Four villagers! Like Indonesian barbarity is non-existent!,” he told Asia Pacific Report.

“The non-existent things in Wiranto’s chosen words are truth and justice!”

Conflicting reports on West Papua
When the PNG government released conflicting reports on Papua New Guinea’s position over West Papua last weekend it caused confusion after Marape and Widodo had met in a sideline meeting in in Jakarta during the ASEAN summit.

According to RNZ Pacific, Marape had said about allegations of human rights violations in West Papua that PNG had no moral grounds to comment on human rights issues outside of its own jurisdiction because it had its “own challenges”.

He was also reported to have told President Widodo Marape that he had abstained from supporting the West Papuan bid to join the Melanesian Spearhead Group because the West Papuan United Liberation Movement (ULMWP) “does not meet the requirements of a fully-fledged sovereign nation”.

“Indonesia’s associate membership status also as a Melanesian country to the MSG suffices, which cancels out West Papua ULM’s bid,” Marape reportedly said referring to the ULMWP.

Reacting with shock to the report, a senior PNG politician described it to Asia Pacific Report as “a complete capitulation”.

“No PNG leader has ever gone to that extent,” the politician said, saying that he was seeking clarification.

The statements also caught the attention of the ULMWP which raised their concerns with the Post-Courier.

The original James Marape "no right" report published by RNZ Pacific
The original James Marape “no right” report published by RNZ Pacific last on September 8. Image: RN Pacific screenshot APR

Marape statement ‘corrected’
Three days later the Post-Courier reported that Marape had “corrected” the original reported statement.

In a revised statement, Marape said that in an effort to rectify any misinformation and alleviate concerns raised within Melanesian Solidarity Group (MSG) countries, West Papua, Indonesia, and the international community, he had addressed “the inaccuracies”.

“Papua New Guinea never abstained from West Papua matters at the MSG meeting, but rather, offered solutions that affirmed Indonesian sovereignty over her territories and at the same time supported the collective MSG position to back the Pacific Islands Forum Resolution of 2019 on United Nations to assess if there are human right abuses in West Papua and Papua provinces of Indonesia.”

He also relayed a message to President Widodo that the four MSG leaders of Melanesian countries – [Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon islands and Vanuatu] — had resolved to visit him at his convenience to discuss human rights.

But clarifications or not, Prime Minister Marape has left a lingering impression that Papua New Guinea’s foreign policy is for sale with chequebook diplomacy, especially when relating to both Indonesia and Israel.

Being homeless in PNG is a ‘death sentence’, says Moresby’s Raymond

Homeless Raymond Green and his worldly possessions
Homeless Raymond Green and his worldly possessions . . . “All I own can be seen inside my small bag. Everything I had has been either stolen, lost or destroyed somewhere or somehow.” Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Theophiles Singh in Port Moresby

Living in the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby without a house or a source of income is a death sentence, says Raymond Green.

He highlights the struggles of sleeping in the streets, begging for his daily bread and wandering around aimlessly — living a life of quiet desperation.

His advice: Don’t ever borrow money from someone if you don’t have the means to repay them.

According to Raymond Green, he learnt this lesson the hard way when he had to sell off everything under his name to repay his debt.

“I have absolutely nothing. No house, no wife, no money, no valuables and certainly no food in my stomach as we speak,” he told the PNG Post-Courier.

“My struggles cannot be explained by words.

“Every day I have to keep on moving to survive, begging for scraps of food here and there.

Harassment and bullying
“I enjoy the cold nights, but I just wish it could be more peaceful, as there are always people out there who find happiness in harassing and bullying me,” he says.

“I live in pain, agony and desperation. My past haunts me, and my regrets fill me with sorrow.

“Sometimes I wish life could give me a fresh start, but it sadly does not work that way.”

Green doesn’t mince his words when he expresses his daily struggles of being “homeless” and “poor”.

Something he explains that he could have avoided if he had taken the right path when he was younger.

“My daily living is a constant struggle for survival, and I sometimes feel like I am dead inside,” he says.

‘Ultimately have nothing’
“It’s true, being homeless is practically like being dead because you ultimately have nothing.

“All I own can be seen inside my small bag. Everything I had has been either stolen, lost or destroyed somewhere or somehow.”

He says he is waiting for a one off-payment from a certain office, by which he can then use the money for his retirement.

He says there is a high chance he may never receive this payment.

Raymond Green is one of the many who live under extreme poverty conditions, while continuously fighting to survive in Port Moresby.

Theophiles Singh is a PNG Post-Courier journalist. Republished with permission.

Milne Bay governor explains secret meeting with notorious PNG gang

The controversial photo of Milne Bay Governor Gordon Wesley (red shirt) and gang leader Eugene Pakailasi (blue shirt)
The controversial photo of Milne Bay Governor Gordon Wesley (red shirt) and gang leader Eugene Pakailasi (blue shirt) . . . “Eugene had strange reasons for keeping the gang alive, some of which involve an agreement with some prominent public figures during previous elections.” Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Melyne Baroi in Port Moresby

“I will surrender if you guarantee I will not be killed,” says Eugene Pakailasi, who took over leadership of Papua New Guinea’s Milne Bay gang after Tommy Maeva Baker was killed in 2021.

He proclaimed this to Milne Bay Governor Gordon Wesley who met with the gang allegedly earlier this year in a daring secret meet-and-greet event in the Owen Stanley Range in Milne Bay Province.

The gang leader revealed his reasons for maintaining the gang and requesting police leniency.

Assistant Police Commissioner (Southern region) Clement Dalla in an interview with the PNG Post-Courier confirmed the above picture, saying that it had been taken earlier this year.

“We are aware of these pictures. The Governor has stated that Pakailasi wants to surrender,” Assistant Commissioner Dalla said.

“The Governor must reach out to police and we can work together to facilitate any surrender and work out a possible arrangement of a surrender programme.”

Police said Pakailasi was wanted for a string of robberies within the provincial capital of Alotau with his alleged involvement in various shootouts with police during Baker’s reign.

Elusive gang leader
So far, the gang leader remains elusive as police continue to make calls for the surrender of all members.

According to Governor Wesley, after being contacted by the gang to meet up, he went up to the mountains “alone” and found their camp base where they had a conversation.

“Eugene had strange reasons for keeping the gang alive, some of which involve an agreement with some prominent public figures during previous elections,” Governor Wesley said.

“Eugene said the gang’s agenda remains the same as when the former gang leader Baker was leading before his death.

“He said they were not paid for the work they did for the people in the public office and therefore still hold a grudge,” he added.

Eugene later asked the Governor to inform the police that he was not guilty of all the criminal allegations against him and that he would surrender to clear his name but was afraid of being shot dead.

“I told [the gang] that the only way I could help them was to have them surrender and work with the police in lowering the crime rate in the province,” Governor Wesley said.

Against killings in province
He reiterated that this rare occasion was followed by his efforts to have some of the gang members surrender and also said that he was against killings in the province — whether by the gang or by police.

Governor Wesley said that was the reason why he wanted to work with both the police and the gang to allow justice to be served peacefully.

The Governor claimed: “We have seen about 300 to 400 men and boys surrender their weapons in the past months since the surrender programme started.

“We have also seen about 200 deaths of young men and women who were suspected to be part of the gang in the province this year.

“I told Eugene and his gang that unless they want to be added onto the death toll, they must surrender to police.”

Governor Wesley said he would be sending an in-depth report to the provincial police commander of his conversation with the gang.

He would seek lenience from the Police Commissioner and the Prime Minister on the gang’s behalf to accommodate a peaceful surrender.

Melyne Baroi is a PNG Post-Courier reporter. Republished with permission.