10 June 2014

West Papua and Rapa Nui on agenda of civil society campaigns for the next five years

By Online Editor

Civil society organisations in the Pacific have committed to enthusiastically take up the fight for the people of West Papua and Rapa Nui to break free from the shackles of colonial rule.

Both West Papua and Rapa Nui are not on the list of non-self-governing territories administered by the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation, commonly known as the Committee of 24 of C24.

Part of this renewed call from civil societies is direct engagement with governments of the Pacific to keep the struggles for independence for the peoples of West Papua and Rapa Nui on their agenda.

Speaking in Suva this week on behalf of 13 regional civil society groups – Peter Emberson of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) said this energized campaign stems from ongoing dialogue and discussions on rethinking a new pathway for Oceania.

“We are devising our work around mobilizing civil societies around the Pacific region to actively engage their people to stand up and speak out about injustices done to the peoples and territories that are still under the yoke of colonialism.

“We need to remember the price that some of us have paid for freedom. We need to recall the journey that has brought us here. It then becomes our moral obligation, to stand and speak out for the struggle of others. We become less human when we are comfortable in our spaces of convenience while others are still fighting to be free, said Emberson.

He said for the next five years, the church wants to bring back on its agenda and that of governments in the region the urgent engagement in support of the decolonisation of Pacific communities that still remain under colonial rule.

“Churches in the region have been trying to build their work on the Maohi people of French Polynesia and the push for the re-listing of West Papua on the UN list of decolonised territories. The churches have a long history on the campaign towards political independence in the Pacific. However, over time, the issue has fallen off the agenda, said Emberson.

PCC and civil societies have singled out Fiji and Papua New Guinea as key contact points because of their membership of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation.

“We have not been fully engaged with the two governments. This joint action will kick-start this region wide campaign to engage governments, trade union movements, institutions and the peoples of the Pacific, said Susana Tuisawau of the Pacific Foundation for the Advancement of Women (PACFAW), another regional civil society that is part of the campaign in support of West Papua and Rapa Nui.

Apart from engaging directly with Fiji and PNG, civil societies are looking to other regional decision making processes to lobby for support.

Murray Isimeli, also of PCC said civil societies need to influence the highest level political body, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to take a stronger position on West Papua and Rapa Nui.

“Ever since 2004, the issue of West Papua has been reflected on the communiqués but it has tended to be weak because of the complexities of sovereignty. Despite the efforts of countries like Vanuatu, the issue remains part of the Leaders discussion only without any commitment for strong action, said Isimeli.

“It’s time that the Pacific Islands Forum take some strong action.

Isimeli said civil societies are portraying a message of hope in this renewed regional campaign on decolonisation.

“Two years we thought it was impossible but the people of Maohi Nui in French Polynesia are celebrating their one year of re-inscription into the UN List. For us then, our message is the message of hope, that we can mobilise our peoples and governments to bring about change. 

“Our message is to act now, we cannot wait, said Isimeli.

Tuisawau believes in the power of the people.

“If you go back in history, the more voices and more determined people are, they can make governments change their decision. An example was the protest in Fiji and across the region in the late 1980s that forced France to halt nuclear testing in Mururoa in French Polynesia.

The renewed call for commitment on decolonisation was made in Suva this week by the PRNGO Alliance, an association comprised of 13 regional non-governmental organisations. The call coincides with the regional meeting of the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation in Nadi.