My short statement on Friday to PM, James Marape, on health & education

mediaOn Friday morning, the Prime Minister, James Marape called  members of the media and the public relations practitioners to a breakfast meeting in Port Moresby.  It was the first time in  which the media was allowed to interact  with the PM outside of  our usual operations.

Below is a short transcription of what I conveyed to him after an address by  Neville Choi, EMTV’s  Head of News & Media Council President.

“Prime Minister, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you directly.

“I want to raise a few issues that we have raised and continue to raise.  I want to also points out a blockages that need to be addressed.

“First on health and education… The Free Education policy has failed our people.  There are still many, many schools that do not receive funds on time. Many more do not receive it at all.  Our teachers have been intimidated and threatened  by provincial and school administrations  to not speak out.

“The problem continue to linger because people are too afraid to speak out.

“For health…The people tasked to deliver medicines to our hospitals and clinics continue to fail.  You don’t have to go far to see those failures. In our five urban clinics in Lae, there are shortages of  anti-malarial drugs, antibiotics,  TB drugs and family planning drugs.

“Even the consumables needed for health workers to do their jobs are in short supply.  The gloves,  needles and other supplies. If urban clinics have shortages, what about rural clinics?

“Our health workers are also being intimidated and told to shut up.  What we need, Prime Minister, is an admission that there is a problem. Not a cover up! We don’t need department secretaries who are too afraid to face the facts and admit publicly in the media that there is a problem.  Many are too timid.

“I want you to use the information that the media has available during natural disasters.  Use the information available. Journalists are specialists in information  gathering and dissemination. Use that mechanism that is available free of charge.

“We were in Tari during the earthquake in 2018. You were in the conference room when we walked in. We were putting out information and making it available. And while the death toll stood at 63,  the  government mechanism chose to ignore the first hand information and were quoting a figure of 100 plus.

“We need aircraft for our defense force for disaster operations. I’ve spoken to the senior members of  the PNGDF Air Transport Wing, there is an aircraft that is sitting idle because it needs a gearbox replacement that will cost K2 million.

“…there are many in government who have been unhappy with the recent coverage that has been embarrassing for them.   But I want you to know that We will continue to challenge you and the government on the issues that matter.”

Civilian militia being LEGALLY assembled for operations in #Wamena

jihadOver the last week, increasingly strong evidence from multiple sources have come to light that Islamic groups are mobilizing volunteers for what they are calling a  ‘Jihad’ (holy war) against the ‘OPM’ in Wamena in the central highlands of the West Papua region.

One of the groups is the Front Jihad Islam (FJI).

FJIA banner  hung up on a recruitment post announced the  “Open registration for Islamic paramilitary groups throughout Indonesia to send [qital] jihad to wamena Papua to defend Muslim brothers in Papua who were slaughtered by…infidels…and to maintain the integrity of the Unitary Republic of Indonesia from the OPM hordes…”

This has come about because of recent laws passed by the Indonesian Government that authorizes the use of civilian militia in the defense of state interests. The rational behind this controversial law is that the country cannot depend entirely on the Indonesian National Army (TNI) and the Indonesian National Police (POLRI) to defend the country in the far flung regions of the country.

On the 23rd of September, more than 30 people were killed in Wamena and Jayapura  in independence protests by West Papuans. More than 5000 were displaced prompting the Indonesian  Military to evacuate people to Jayapura.

The paramilitary groups make no secret of the fact that they are recruiting  to ‘defend,’ there is no guarantee that there will be no escalation of violence.

The implications on the West Papuan people are frightening.   In the last 36 hours, militia groups emboldened by the new laws have begun recruiting people for operations in Wamena.  The possibility  that all this could turn into a widespread, government supported ethnic cleansing in the guise of a religious war is now very real.

While Indonesian sovereignty should be respected, the aspirations of a people who feel oppressed and have suffered more than 50 years of brutality and racism must be heard.

The United Nations can right the wrongs of the 1969 Act of Free Choice by urging Indonesia to allow an independence referendum  for the people of West Papua.

We must avoid an East Timor style break down of law and order where people were massacred by Indonesian backed civilian militia. We cannot allow that to happen in West Papua by civilian groups  who now have a legal right to raise paramilitary forces.

Papua New Guinea is unprepared for an escalation of violence in West Papua which will trigger a flood of refugees into Vanimo, Weam, Green River, Tumolbil and all our border posts.  We do not have the resources or the manpower to contain and manage any influx.

Our concerns must be voiced as per our 1986 Non-Aggression Pacts with Indonesia. We must use the avenues for dialogue to raise our concerns before we end up with a situation that will affect our internal security as well.