Report highlights impact of seabed mining on Pacific people

Blue Ocean Law together with the Pacific Network on Globalisation launched today a report on deep sea mining in the Pacific, detailing impacts on indigenous peoples and the capacity of island governments to regulate this potentially destructive, experimental industry.
The report is the first comprehensive analysis of Deep Sea Mining legislative frameworks in 14 Pacific Island nations.
DSM_Cover_Flat2 (2)
Click to download report: Resource Roulette Report

Indonesia must accept fact finding mission to West Papua

A report, titled, We will lose everything, forms the basis of a fact finding mission to West Papua, a call that the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and solidarity movements throughout the Pacific have been calling on the Pacific Islands Leaders to action.


The report commissioned by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the archdiocese of Brisbane in Australia was recently launched in the region, and gives a clear account of the current human rights situation in West Papua.

West Papuans detained by Indonesian security forces last week during a peaceful demonstration. – Photo sourced from Free West Papua Campaign

The commission’s delegation to West Papua in February of this year found no improvement to the human rights situation in West Papua. The report stated that human rights violations by members of Indonesian security forces had not declined and the economic and social status of Papuans has not improved.


The report recommended that governments in the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand should seek intervention at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly to initiate an independent investigation into human rights violations in West Papua.


ULMWP Secretary General, Octovianus Mote says the report clearly highlights a need for a fact finding mission as it states that Papuans continue to live in constant fear of violence while our population is rapidly declines, and we feel marginalized both socially and economically.


“The situation continues to worsen and the report pointed out that over 1200 incidents of harassment, beatings, torture and killings of our people by Indonesian security forces…this needs the attention of our Pacific and global leaders.”


It was agreed at the 46th Pacific Island leaders’ forum in Papua New Guinea in 2015 that Pacific leaders recalled their decisions and concerns expressed at their meeting in 2006 about reports of violence in Papua, in which they also called on all parties to protect and uphold the human rights of all residents in Papua and to work to address the root causes of such conflicts by peaceful means.


The leaders also requested the forum chair, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, to convey the views of the Forum to the Indonesian Government, and to consult on a fact finding mission to discuss the situation in Papua with the parties involved.

Pacific Islanders at the 46th leaders forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. All leaders agreed in 2015 to uphold and protect the human rights of West Papuans. 

But as West Papua’s political recognition grows within the region through the ULMWP, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) is now challenged with recognizing West Papua, yet having Indonesia as an associate member to the forum.


Current MSG Chair and Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare attempted to hold dialogue between the Indonesian government and the ULMWP, but calls to Jakarta were unsuccessful.


“Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS are in favour at attempting dialogue, while PNG and Fiji are less keen on potentially offending Jakarta,” said Sogavare early this year.

People of Vanuatu marching during a peaceful protest last week in Port Vila. – Photo sourced from Thomas Marango

As preparations lead up to the MSG special leaders summit later this month, pressure continues from solidarity movements with the region, calling on leaders to recognize ULMWP in MSG. And while the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat prepare for the 47th Pacific Island leaders forum, regional proposals have clearly pointed out in number that West Papua must be the priority for our Pacific.

Blue Ocean Law and Pacific Network on Globalisation Release Legal Analysis of SPC-EU Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework

Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) Coordinator, Maureen Penjueli, and Blue Ocean Law Attorney, Julian Aguon presenting the legal analysis report.

Suva, Fiji

March 17th, 2016

Blue Ocean Law and Pacific Network on Globalisation call for Greater Indigenous and Environmental Safeguards

International law firm Blue Ocean Law (BOL), together with Fiji-based regional non-governmental organisation, Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), have released “An Assessment of the SPC Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework (RLRF) for Deep Sea Minerals Exploration and Exploitation.” The report is an independent analysis of the RLRF, the legal framework produced by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), funded by the European Union (EU).

“Our assessment analyzes the RLRF from an international law perspective, focusing on problematic aspects of the SPC-EU framework,” says Attorney Julian Aguon of BOL. The report, says Aguon, is striking in its omission of any serious discussion of the right of indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC), inasmuch as large-scale development activities such as experimental deep sea mining trigger protections under international law. These include the right to be meaningfully consulted throughout every stage of the development process, and the right of affected indigenous communities to give or withhold their consent to these activities.

Blue Ocean Law Principal Attorney, Julian Aguon addressing the audience during the launch while partnering attorney, Julie Hunter looks on.

Also troubling, say PANG and BOL, is the fact that the SPC-EU framework undercuts established environmental law tenets such as the precautionary approach and the avoidance of transboundary harm by emphasizing the purported benefits of seabed mining while minimizing both the risks and adverse impacts of seabed mining. In addition to creating an overly positive picture of deep sea mining, the framework appears to prioritise creating a climate favorable to industry operators over the economic, cultural, and environmental rights of indigenous peoples.

“While we appreciate the attempt to provide a model legal framework for the Pacific region, we urge the SPC to supplement the RLRF with comprehensive provisions that properly enshrine both FPIC and the precautionary and transboundary harm principles,” says PANG Coordinator Maureen Penjueli. This is critical because some of our island nations will likely adopt this framework with all of its problematic aspects. Only by properly embedding these norms can the framework be brought into conformity with international best practices respecting environmental protection and the rights of indigenous peoples.

Download An Assessment of the SPC Regional Legislative and Regulatory Framework (RLRF) for Deep Sea Minerals exploration and exploitation – FINAL Report


The Moresby Forum: a reframed Pacific regionalism?

By Matthew Dornan and Tess Newton Cain

The political machinations of the recent meeting of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders dominated the media headlines over the last two weeks, with tensions around climate change and West Papua, as well as the future of Australia and New Zealand in the Forum, receiving considerable coverage.


A number of other important developments were sidelined in the media commentary as a result, including leaders’ decisions on three other agenda items: cervical cancer treatment, fisheries management, and ICT development. Importantly, the impact of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism  on proceedings prior to and at the meeting has received scant attention, as has the Hiri Declaration. These are the focus of this post.

It surprised many the extent to which the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (the framework) flew under the radar at the leaders’ meeting in Port Moresby: the first time the framework has been in place. Although the framework itself did not receive much attention, it was its operation that created the agenda for what was discussed in Port Moresby.

The framework was developed as a result of the Review of the Pacific Plan in 2013, and aims to better focus PIF Leaders’ meetings by reducing the number of issues placed on the agenda for discussion. Its establishment, socialisation and implementation has been the paradigm for the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat under the new leadership of its Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, and it is an agenda that she and her team have pursued with vigour. It is worth discussing the framework in some detail, given its implications for the outcomes of both the recent and future leaders’ meetings.


Three key objectives provide the underpinning of the framework:

to broaden the conversation on regionalism beyond that of CROP agencies, which were (often correctly) perceived to dominate priorities under the Pacific Plan.

to ensure regional initiatives had a sound rationale, something sometimes lacking in the past.

to ‘bring back’ the political dimension of regionalism, which many argued had been lost under the technocratic Pacific Plan.

This last point was emphasised in the opening remarks of Dame Meg Taylor to the Forum Officials Committee meeting, which preceded the leaders’ meeting. In her statement, Dame Meg Taylor stated:

“I reiterate the responsibility of this Committee, as articulated in the Framework and approved by Leaders, to ensure that ‘politically sensitive and major regional issues and initiatives are the focus of the Leaders’ meeting’.”

The operation of the framework has been both devised and rolled out since Dame Meg Taylor took over as Secretary-General. One of the most significant planks of its implementation is to provide an opportunity for a wider range of voices (whether individual or institutional) to contribute to determining how the regionalism project should be taken forward. Under the framework, the Forum Secretariat issued a call for public submissions of proposed regional initiatives in the lead up to the leaders’ meeting.

These were assessed by a newly appointed Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism (SSCR), and five were selected for the consideration of leaders, on the basis of a series of tests. These tests ensure that proposals considered by leaders are requiring of a regional approach, generate net benefits, and do not impinge on sovereignty, the market, or duplicate existing activities. The SSCR process is key to the new framework, and is important to meeting all three underpinning objectives identified above.

What was its impact in preparation for the leaders’ meeting and in Port Moresby?

The SSCR process has been successful in broadening the conversation on regionalism this year. The process has generated considerable public interest, more than was expected, with a total of 68 submissions received from NGOs, regional bodies, universities, CROP agencies, and Forum member country governments. The SSCR referred a number of these to appropriate ministerial meetings for decisions as envisaged by the framework, again as a way of ensuring that the leaders’ discussions were focused on only those issues that would be in line with the underpinning objectives. (These were a joint position on climate change, West Papua, a regional response to cervical cancer, better fisheries management, and ICT development).

Palau's President Tommy Remengesau (L), Pacific Island Forum Secretary-General Dame Meg Taylor (2nd L), Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga (C), Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna (2nd R) and Nauru's President Baron Waqa (R) pose for a photo during the Smaller Islands States Leaders meeting as part of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on September 7, 2015.  Vulnerable Pacific island nations will this week send the world an urgent plea for action on climate change at crunch talks in Paris later this year.  Some Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) countries lie barely a metre (three feet) above sea level and fear they will disappear beneath the waves without drastic intervention from major polluters.  AFP PHOTO / Ness KERTON

Assessment of these proposals against the various tests was designed to ensure that proposals had a clear rationale. It is hard to judge the impact of these tests as the basis for the SSCR’s decision on the five proposals presented to leaders were not made public (although the Secretariat has published the template that was used to review submissions prior to their consideration by the SSCR). Indeed, very little detail was provided about what was actually placed on the agenda of leaders. This has detracted from achievement of the first aim, and is discussed more below.

The third objective, to ‘bring back’ the political dimension of regionalism, was certainly achieved at the recent Forum Leaders’ meeting. This was in part due to the SSCR process, which both selected topical issues and limited leaders’ discussion to five agenda items, thereby facilitating discussion (To put this in perspective, the communiqué from last year’s meeting reflects a much more unwieldy agenda). However, the context within which the meeting took place, in the lead up to the UNFCCC negotiations, was no doubt also a factor.

So, what should we make of the meeting? And what was the impact of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism?

There can be no doubt that the leaders’ meeting focused on matters of political importance. (In turn, the Hiri Declaration replaces the 2004 Auckland Declaration as the basis for political support for the regional project, and includes specific mention of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism.)

Somewhat ironically, it was the very success of the framework in ‘bringing back’ politics that highlighted differences between Forum member states on key issues. This was most evident in the rift between Australia/New Zealand and Forum island countries on climate change. But it was also evident on West Papua, with countries like PNG opposed to the more assertive recommendations of countries like Solomon Islands. (It is worth noting that some other potential subjects for discussion that are equally controversial were not included in the agenda, such as the worrying political developments in Nauru).

The other agenda items discussed by leaders were less controversial. One suspects that some, such as the cervical cancer initiative, were selected at least in part due to their potential for implementation. But agreement on specific actions in these areas was required for these initiatives to be considered a positive outcome at Port Moresby. The only area where this occurred was fisheries management.

On the issues of both ICT and cervical cancer the Forum Leaders’ communiqué was vague. The reasons for this are difficult to establish, given that the background material provided to leaders is not publicly available. It is possible that not enough effort was made in preparing detailed proposals for leaders. The fisheries proposal was different in this respect, as a plan had already been developed by fisheries agencies and required only approval by leaders. An alternative explanation is that a conscious decision was made to keep the subject matter general, in order to first gain leadership approval to develop proposals. In either case, it was a mistake not to develop detailed proposals for the initiatives, given longstanding criticisms of regionalism as not sufficiently action-oriented.

The framework worked well in other areas. Observers at the meeting have told us that the discussion was more substantive than in previous years, in which the agenda had been too crowded. The framework also attracted the interest of the public, reflecting a continuation of the high level of public engagement observed during the review of the Pacific Plan in 2013. This will help to addresses past concerns about ‘capture’ of regionalism by CROP agencies. The first ever meeting of civil society organisations with the Troika (the current PIF chair, outgoing PIF chair and incoming PIF chair) also addressed such concerns. Previous claims that the Forum excludes civil society (unlike the Fiji-sponsored Pacific Islands Development Forum) are now hard to justify as a result.

There is room for improvement in this area, however. Despite the public submission process, there was a lack of transparency with respect to what was discussed. Civil society organisations that attended the meeting were provided with a list of broad themes for discussion, but not the actual proposals considered by leaders. It remains unclear on what basis the SSCR made its decision to select the five agenda items for leaders (no documentation has been released). The process could therefore be improved, and hopefully will be in the future.

In our view, therefore, the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism went some way in achieving its objectives, notwithstanding the weak communiqué and political tensions surrounding the Forum Leaders’ meeting. The framework has made conversations about regionalism more inclusive, although there is room for improvement. It may have improved the process for consideration of regional proposals, although the lack of transparency highlighted above makes this difficult to judge. Again, there is considerable room for improvement in this space.

Most significantly, the framework recognises the reality that regionalism is inherently political. This is a positive, given the problems associated with the technocratic Pacific Plan. A more political approach will help to ensure that future strengthening of the regional architecture has a more solid foundation. However, this does not mean that strengthening regionalism will be any easier. The tensions observed at Port Moresby were a stark reminder of this.

The article was sourced from the Development Policy Center Blog. Matthew Dornan is a Research Fellow at the Development Policy Centre. Tess Newton Cain (@CainTess) is a Visiting Fellow at the Development Policy Centre.

Draft text of the Chapter on Development and Economic Co-operation – PACER Plus

Article 1

Scope and Objectives

1.       The Parties reaffirm the importance of ongoing development and economic cooperation between them, including existing bilateral and regional cooperation [NZ: through the Australian and New Zealand Aid Programmes that supports the expansion and diversification of export of the Forum Island Countries and their increased participation in international trade.]

2.       [NZ: The Parties agree to improve trade and investment related assistance through their existing development and economic cooperation programmes, taking into account the priorities of the Forum Island Countries including in the following areas:


(i)                 Supply-side constraints to strengthen market access opportunities for the Forum Island Countries under this Agreement;

(ii)               trade development, including strengthening domestic services capacity; and

(iii)             trade and investment related regulatory capacity building.]


[AU: The Parties agree to improve and complement their existing development and economic cooperative partnership in trade and investment related areas where they have mutual interests, taking into account areas of utmost importance to the developing country Parties] [PICs: with a view to assisting them to enhance their participation in international trade and achieve economic growth and sustainable development]. In elaborating areas of partnership, account shall be taken of the different levels of development and capacities of the Parties.

3.       The parties take due note of the provisions in various Chapters of this Agreement that [AU/NZ: encourage and facilitate cooperation and consultation] PICs: highlight the capacity constraints of the developing country Parties and agree to adopt effective measures to address them comprehensively within a reasonable period of time].

Taking into account the capacity constraints of the developing country Parties and the provisions in the various Chapter that encourage and facilitate cooperation and consultation, the Parties agree to adopt targeted measures to address the capacity gaps in the developing country Parties’.

4.       Development and economic cooperation under this Chapter shall support implementation of this Agreement [AU/NZ: through trade and investment related activities specified in the Work Programme] [PICs: and facilitate the greater participation of the PICs in international trade.
The Work Program established within the framework of this Chapter shall assist the developing country Parties to implement their obligations under this Agreement.


Broader trade-related support to assist the PICs to enhance their participation in international trade shall be provided through the aid programmes of Australia and New Zealand. To that end, new and additional funding, to be channelled through a dedicated Aid for Trade fund in the aid programmes of Australia and New Zealand, shall be agreed bilaterally between Australia and New Zealand and individual Pacific Island Countries. The range of activities to be implemented to support the greater participation of the PICs in international trade shall include the following:


(i)                 promoting trade development through targeted measures in response to the need identified by the developing country Parties;

(ii)               addressing supply-side constraints to strengthen the trade-related infrastructure of the developing country Parties; and

(iii)             assistance to develop and strengthen regulatory capacity building.

(iv)              adjustment assistance to adapt to the new condition of competition;]

Article 2


For the purpose of this Chapter:

(a)    Implementing Party or implement parties means, for each component of the Work Programme, the Party or Parties primarily responsible for the implementation of that component; and

(b)   Work Program means, the programme of development and economic co-operation activities [AU/NZ: organised into components, mutually determined by the Parties [NZ/PICs: and based on the needs specified by the PICs] prior to the entry into force of this Agreement and revised by the Parties by mutual agreement pursuant to the mechanism in Article 7 after entry into force.

(c)    Development assistance coordination agency means the agency of a Party with primary responsibility for the coordination and management of Official Development Assistance within that Party.

Article 3

Resources For the Work Program

1.       Recognising the development gaps between the Parties, [AU: the Parties shall contribute appropriately to the implementation of the Work Program.] [PICs/NZ: the developed country Parties shall devote adequate financial resources to ensure effective implementation of the Work Program which would assist the developing country Parties with the implementation of their obligations under the Agreement. Developing country Parties, in a position to do so, may contribute financially or in-kind to the implementation of the Work Program].

2.       In determining the appropriate level of contribution to the Work Programme, the Parties shall take into account:

[PICs: (a) the nature of the development priorities of the Forum Island Countries

(a)    different levels of development and capacities of the Parties;

(b)   any in-kind contributions that Parties are able to make to Work Program components;

(c)    any contributions that non-Parties are able to make to Work Program components, directly and indirectly; and

(d)   that the appropriate level of contribution enhances the relevance and sustainability of cooperation, strengthens partnerships between Parties and builds Parties shared commitment to the effective implementation and oversight of Work Program components.

Article 4

Development and Economic Cooperation Work Program

1.       Each Work Program component shall:

(a) be trade-or investment-related and support the implementation of this Agreement,

(b) be specified in the Work Program;

(c) [PICs: Wherever possible] [AU: involve a minimum of two Forum Island Country Parties, Australia and/or New Zealand] ;

(d) address the [AU: mutual priorities of the participating Parties; and [NZ/PICs: needs of the Forum Island countries as mutually prioritised by the participating countries];

(e) Wherever possible, avoid duplication in relation to, and build on and complement existing economic cooperation activities and delivery mechanisms.

2.       The description of each Work Program component shall specify the details necessary to provide clarity to the Parties regarding the scope and purpose of such component.



Article 5

Focal Points for Implementation


1.       Each Party shall designate a focal point for all matters relating to the implementation of the Work Program and shall keep all Parties updated on its focal point’s details.

2.       The focal points shall be responsible for overseeing and reporting on the implemention of the Work Program in accordance with Article 6 (Implementation and Evaluation of Work Program Components) and Article 7 (Review of Work Program), and for responding to enquiries from any Party regarding the Work Program.

3.       The focal point of a Party shall coordinate on the Work Program with the development assistance coordination agency of that Party.

Article 6

Implementation and Evaluation of Work Program Components

1.       Prior to the commencement of each Work Program component, the implementing Party or Parties, in consultation with relevant participating Parties, shall develop an implemention plan for that Work Program component and provide that plan to each Party.

2.       The implementing Party or Parties for a Work Program component shall use existing mechanisms for the implementation of that component, unless otherwise agreed by those Parties.

3.       Until the completion of a Work Program component, the implementing Party or Parties shall regularly monitor and evaluate the relevant component and provide periodic reports to each Party including a final component completion report.

Article 7

Review and Modification of Work Program

1.       At the direction of theJoint Committee, the Work Program shall be reviewed within [PICs: two] [AU: three] years after its implementation and thereafter at regular intervals to assess its overall effectiveness [PICs: in terms of assisting the Forum Island Country Parties to implement their PACER Plus obligations in support of the Agreements broader objectives].

2.       The Joint Committee [AU/NZ: may] [PICs: shall, where appropriate] modify the Work Program taking into account outcomes of reviews [AU:,] [PICs: and] priorities

 [PICs: of the Forum Island Countries].

[AU: and available resources].

Article 8

Non-Application of Chapter [..] (Consultations and Dispute settlement)

Chapter [..] (Consultation and Dispute settlement) shall not apply to any matter arising under this Chapter.

10th Intersessional Meeting

Discussions on Development Assistance


This paper contains clean copy draft text incorporating outcomes of the 9th Intercessional Meeting of PACER Plus officials.

Text that is not agreed is in square brackets and attributed as follows:

  • AU:”for text tabled by Australia;
  • FIC:” for text tabled by OCTA/FICs; and
  • NZ:”for text tabled by New Zealand.

Text that is not agreed is as follows:

  • Blue for text tabled by Australia;
  • Red for text tabled by OCTA/FICs; and
  • Green for text tabled by New Zealand.


Pacific leaders urged to reduce trade agreements

Pacific leader have been told the cost of doing business in the islands will be greatly reduced if there are fewer trade agreements in the region.

The advice came from Dr Edwini Kessie when he addressed Pacific leaders who are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc of states that met in Port Moresby in the lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders summit this week.

Dr Kessie is the Chief Trade Adviser for the Pacific Islands, overseeing the Forum member nations’ free trade agreement negotiations on PACER Plus with Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Edwini Kessie

As a region, Dr Kessie said the Pacific has too many trade agreements that are overlapping and costly.

“The FICs (Forum Island Countries) cannot afford to have multiple and overlapping trade agreements. Not only do they increase the cost of doing business in the region, which already is among the highest in the world, they also deter foreign direct investment.

“There needs to be a consolidation of the trade agreements in the region in the near future. Increasingly, we are witnessing preferential trade negotiations that would create mega-regional trading blocs, including the TPP, TTIP and RCEP.

“While the combined population of around 40 million of PACER Plus Parties pales into insignificance when compared with the population of these mega-regional trading blocs, it would provide enormous opportunities for FIC firms to become international players as they grow and strengthen their productive capacities and operations through increased trade in the region, particularly with Australia and New Zealand.

“It will also provide them with an opportunity to participate in regional and global value chains which offer routes to new export markets and expansion of business opportunities. A dynamic PACER Plus Agreement will increase business activity within countries and in the region generating highly paid jobs and enhancing living standards.

“The Pacific region has enormous potential and now is the time to work to make this a reality. Concluding and implementing an ambitious PACER Plus Agreement will be an unmistakable signal that the FICs are committed to playing a greater role in the global economy and enhancing the living standards of their people.”

Dr Kessie told Pacific leaders that development forms a key component of PACER Plus in keeping with the directions they themselves directed negotiators in their 2009 Forum.

“Development permeates throughout the draft Agreement, firmly anchored on the principle of special and differential treatment. It recognises the unique circumstances of the FICs, and does not impose onerous obligations on them.

“It upholds the right of the FICs to regulate in the public interest and provides adequate policy space for the FICs to pursue development-oriented policies that would promote economic growth on a sustainable basis.”

The Chief Trade Adviser said to date, negotiations have concluded on:
● Customs Procedures (Trade Facilitation)
● Development Assistance
● Dispute Settlement
● Initial Provisions, Institutional Provisions, Final Provisions and Transparency
● Investment
● Labour Mobility
● Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures
● Technical Barriers to Trade; and
● Trade in Services
What remains and making good progress he said were negotiations on trade in goods, rules of origin and the temporary movement of natural persons, before tackling schedules of commitments for trade in services, the temporary movement of natural persons, investment and trade in goods.

Dr Kessie told leaders they expected to wrap up most of the pending chapters in their next round of negotiations scheduled for October in Melbourne, Australia.

He submitted that leaders renew their confidence in the PACER Plus negotiations as an instrument for promoting regional integration in the Pacific and assisting the FICs to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development.

He also urged them to note the substantive progress made in the PACER Plus negotiations and request that Ministers responsible for International Trade ensure that their negotiators exercise the necessary flexibility in the negotiations to ensure the rapid conclusion of a high quality trade and investment agreement at the latest by June 2016.

Story by Samison Pareti

NZ plays mum on West Papua in lead up to Pacific leaders summit

By Lealaiauloto Aigaletaulealea Tauafiafi

West Papua is one of five priority items confirmed for Pacific leaders to discuss and decide on a course of action when they meet in Papua New Guinea next month. A visit by a West Papuan leader last week to Wellington failed to jiggle New Zealand’s position out in the open.

A view to the government’s position heading to the leaders’ summit would have been invaluable for West Papua’s freedom movement as it calls on Pacific leaders to set up a fact-finding mission to send to Indonesia. If leaders agree, it would be a major step forward in the Melanesian population’s 40-plus year fight for political recognition as the way to restore their independence and fundamental right to self-determination.

Youngsolwarans in Wellington during a recent protest in front of the New Zealand National Parliament.

Mr Octovianus Mote, the head for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) was in Wellington last week hoping to get a view to the New Zealand government’s position, whether it would support West Papua’s call for a fact-finding mission.

“West Papua has had 53 years of human rights violations and there is an ongoing genocide. There are so many academic reports and human rights reports about it,” said Mr Mote.

“We are really calling for the Forum to form a fact-finding commission and to conduct a human rights assessment of West Papua.”

But even though Mr Mote spoke at the Beehive last week at a function organised by the Green party, there was a lack of government representation and the overwhelming silence on West Papua failed to shine a light on the government’s possible stance.

Even a list of Pacific Guardians queries on the West Papua issue sent to Pacific Peoples minister Peseta Sam Lotu-I’iga failed to get a response. It indicates the high level of sensitivity around multiple issues likely to be thrashed out by leaders at the PNG summit such as the watered down climate change positions for both New Zealand and Australia; the calls by Fiji for New Zealand and Australia to resign from the Forum ensuring a tinder box environment heightened by the inclusion of West Papua and Indonesia in the mix, especially with host PNG supporting West Papua.

However, Labour’s Pacific spokesperson, Su’a William Sio told Pacific Guardians that a conversation he had with National MP Alfred Ngaro Friday last week indicates that the government has “taken up a position [on West Papua]”.

New Zealand’s Greens Party, Catherine Delahunty with West Papuan Morning Star flag.

“As co-Chair multiparty Parliamentary Friendship Group, I have spoken to Alfred that I would like someone from the region to come and speak to parliamentarians on the issue of West Papua. Alfred said he can get someone from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I said that’s fine but we also need a Pacific person from the region,” Su’a said.

“But Alfred’s answer, confirming that someone from Foreign Affairs can present to the group indicates to me that the government has taken up a position.”

Su’a did not confirm when the West Papua presentation is likely to take place – that he’s asked Green MP and West Papua advocate Ms Catherine Delahunty to find a Pasifika speaker from the region to speak to the group.

Su’a added, “We are also caught up in our own issues that I’m sure most people in New Zealand will not believe that there is still this kind of goings in West Papua in this day and age – that the Indonesian government is allowing this kind of behavior to go on and the Western world does not seem to take notice.”


West Papua has been subjected to a brutal repression by the Indonesians since 1962. Prior to that, the island of New Guinea (the eastern half now known as Papua New Guinea and the western half now known as West Papua) as well as Indonesia had been Dutch colonies until Indonesia’s own war of independence in 1949.

In 1936 while still under Dutch rule an erstberg (ore mountain) was discovered in the southwest region of New Guinea, and in 1959 alluvial gold was found just off the West Papuan coast. Another massive ore mountain was yet to be discovered deep in the West Papuan forest.

In the 1950s, plans were made by the Dutch to prepare for withdrawal including plans for West Papua to revert to indigenous rule by 1972.

Despite a West Papuan congress on independence in 1961 and the raising of the national “Morning Star” flag, Indonesia had claimed New Guinea as part of its territory. A United Nations intervention resulted in the New York Agreement in 1962 which placed the territory in UN trusteeship (without consent of the population) and required that West Papuans hold an independence vote under UN supervision.

But by the time the vote was conducted in 1969 the Indonesian military had handpicked 1,026 representatives to vote on behalf of the entire population. Having been threatened with the death of their families the vote was unanimous for Indonesian rule. The so-called “Act of Free Choice” is known to this day by indigenous West Papuans as the “act of no choice.”

When the West Papuans were making plans for independence in 1961, unbeknownst to either they or the Dutch, then-Indonesian army general Suharto was negotiating a mining deal with the American mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold. Subsequent discoveries resulted in the notorious Grasberg mine one of the largest reserves of copper and gold in the world—and is today at the center of the conflict between Indonesia and West Papua.

The Free West Papua Movement claims that over 500,000 civilian West Papuans have been killed to date.

Source: Pacific Guardians


Will Fiji be attending the Pacific Islands Forum?

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama wants Australia and New Zealand out of PIF.

Fiji remains firm and tight-lipped about its re-engagement into the Pacific Islands Forum as one of its active members.

With just three weeks remaining before our Pacific leaders meet in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea), scheduled from the 7th – 11th of September, there is no official word of Fiji leading a Government delegation to PNG.

Fiji’s stand that Australia and New Zealand’s influence in the Forum be re-assessed. In April this year, Fiji maintained its stand that it will not be part of the oldest regional organisation in the Pacific if demands are not met.

Last week, Fiji took part in the Forum Official Committee (FOC) meeting to deliberate on regional issues and prepare a fixed agenda for the leaders’ summit. But there was no official word of a delegation heading to PNG next month.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor.

Forum Secretariat’s Secretary General, Meg Taylor says the onus is on Fiji to engage or use its sovereignty in choosing to be left out.

In an earlier media interview, Dame Taylor said the suspension from PIF has been lifted “I would sincerely hope that Fiji would re-join the forum because I think…when people asked, why is it that you want Fiji to be back well, Fiji has a lot to offer the Forum you know.”

Taylor says, with an abundance of expertise, knowledge and a substantive understanding of issues in the region, Fiji is a key partner to all member countries of the Forum.

Pacific leaders called to support West Papua

The Secretary-General of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Octo Mote. Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

After six year, the issue of West Papua will surfaced again at the regional Pacific islands leaders’ forum.

The last time the key regional political unit of the Pacific talked about West Papua was back in 2009 during the 40th Pacific islands forum (PIF) which took place in Cairns, Australia. During that forum, there was lobbying for West Papua to be given observer status, and there was also was small talk amongst leaders to consider the idea.

In past years, the forum has noted its concern about the growing human rights abuses in West Papua. However, the 40th PIF communiqué had no mention of West Papua because of pressure from Australia to keep it off the forum’s agenda.

This time around the 46th Pacific leaders’ forum scheduled from the 7th to the 11th of September in Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) will challenge our island leaders. The issue of West Papua is one of top five priority issues on the leader’s agenda.

The Secretary-General of the ULMWP during his recent visit to Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare. Photo: Solomon Islands PM’s Press

The challenge remains for the region’s top players such as PNG and Fiji who share the same foreign stance as Australia and New Zealand, respecting the sovereignty of Indonesia.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) together with solidarity groups in the Pacific including Australia and New Zealand are calling on our leaders to send a human rights fact finding mission to West Papua.

The ULMWP’s Secretary General, Octovianus Mote, said he is hoping our Pacific leaders will not object this humanitarian fact-finding mission.

Mr Mote told Radio New Zealand International recently that the mission must seek an independent, multi-disciplinary group.

“So, not only government delegations but really with human rights experts, journalists, so it can really dig into what’s happened in West Papua in the past 53 years. Otherwise, we West Papuans are crying for the creeping genocide that’s taking place.”

Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands have made known their support for West Papua.

Current chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the Solomon Islands Government has appointed a special envoy on West Papua to look into regional and international issues relating to West Papua.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has also made the assurance to the ULMWP that Samoa will be supporting West Papua’s plea.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has given assurance. Photo: Radio Australia

Five top issues set agenda for Pacific Island Leaders


Five top priority issues will now make the agenda for the Pacific Island Leaders’ summit in Port Moresby, PNG, next month.

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has presented the five priority issues for leaders to address in regards to greater regionalism.

The issues were identified by the recently created Specialist Sub-Committee on Regionalism and have been presented to the Forum Officials Committee who met in Suva last week.


Sub-Committee called for public proposals and received 68 proposals.

PIF Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor says the issues raised reflected community expectations of the role Forum leaders could play.

The five issues are increased economic returns from fisheries and maritime surveillance; climate change and disaster risk management; information and communication technology; West Papua and cervical cancer.


Photos sourced from the Pacific Islands Secretariat