West Papua & Papua New Guinea, two distinct realities, one people | By Lucy Kopana

WPImagePapua New Guinea will be celebrating 44 years of independence this month.  Ive heard people ask questions about why we celebrate independence when our government systems are corrupt, when our service delivery is inefficient, when 80% of the country in rural areas still struggle with access to basic services, when our roads keep deteriorating etc…
Ive not only heard, but Ive also asked these questions myself, what are we celebrating when our country seems to be moving back instead of forward?  Comparing the past with the present, hearing stories and seeing pictures from the past made me wonder if independence was a good idea.
This year, PNGs oldest political party, Pangu turned 52 years old. Pangu strongmen Sir Peter Lus, Sir Michael Somare and Sir Rabbie Namaliu were part of the celebrations in Lae.
I had the opportunity to hear them speak about why they wanted independence 44 years ago, and much of it was because they were being treated with inferiority in our own land.
We don’t experience it now, but there were certain places, and things that us black men and women could not do or go to, and this was in our own country.  I had the privilege of interviewing Sir Michael and he talked about how Tony Voutas educated Papua New Guineans about politics and told them not to settle as second class citizens in their own country.
Sir Michael said Voutas told them that they would remain second persons all their lives if they didn’t motivate themselves to take the stand and be a Papua New Guineans.    
I thought, yeah I think receiving certain amount of education I thought we should be treated better, but we were being treated like that.
A young Rabbie Namaliu was a student at UPNG at the time when Mr. Michael and his team went to spread the idea in schools.  Of course, Namaliu having had his own experiences of being treated with inferiority, jumped at the idea. This was his step into politics.
We gained independence in 1975, and as most would know, it wasn’t much of a struggle, in fact people describe it as being handed independence on a golden plate. 
Sir Julius Chan said this must be the smoothest transition from a colony to an independent nation, by any comparison in the world.
I couldn’t agree with this statement any less.  Many countries fought blood, tooth, and nail to gain independence from their colonizers. Papua New Guinea did not.
This is what is happening right now in West Papua.
West Papua is not just a neighboring country; they are part of the Melanesian family.  We share more than a border; we share a land mass divided by an invisible line set by the colonial powers that governed us.
In the colonizers efforts to gain territories for their countries, they divided families, clans, cultures, ethnicities. They divided WAN PIPOL. People that shared the same dark skin and fuzzy hair. 
West Papua was claimed by the Dutch along with the islands that now make up Indonesia.  The Javanese had their share of fighting with the Dutch rulers and their history is no different from those countries who shed blood for their freedom. 
The Dutch gained control of the islands, waging war on the natives as they moved to claim territories in the 1800s and 1900s.  Apart from seizing Java from the Portugese in the 1700s, the Dutch claimed Pelambang in Sumatra, Bali, Aceh, Lombok and Sulawesi, including West Papua which formally became a Dutch colony in 1894.
In 1942, the Japanese invaded Indonesia during WW2 and the Dutch surrendered. The Japanese who were seen by the Indonesians as liberators. became brutal.  The Japanese surrendered in 1945 but favored independence for the Indonesians.
Sukarno declared Indonesian independence in 1945 but the Dutch were not willing to let the colony go. They later signed the Linggadjati agreement recognizing Java and Sumatra as the New republic but were still in control of the other islands.
The Dutch tried to claim Indonesia again but Indonesians used guerilla warfare and were successful. In 1949, the Dutch agreed to recognize Indonesias independence and withdrew their troops, but West Papua did not join the country.
It was evident that West Papua was geographically, culturally and ethnically different from the rest of Indonesia. In the 1950s the Dutch started preparing West Papua for its own independence.  In 1961, a congress was held to discuss West Papuas independence, and that was when the morning star was first raised.  West Papuan Independence was also said to have been declared at this time.
The Republic of Indonesia however wanted to claim West Papua to keep the former Dutch colonies. This caused a conflict between the Dutch, Indonesia and the indigenous West Papuans.
In the efforts to address this, the United Nations sponsored the New York agreement, and appointed Indonesia as a temporary administrator from 1963.  A requirement of the treaty was that the West Papuans would vote in a referendum on independence, which would be overseen by the UN.
When the vote was held in 1969, it was reported that 1,026 West Papuans out of a population of 1 million were chosen and threatened to vote in favor of remaining part of Indonesia.  What was supposed to be an Act of Free Choice was dubbed an Act of No Choice.
10 years before West Papua became a Dutch colony in 1894, the British had already established their protectorate in South-East New Guinea whilst the Germans annexed the Northern part of New Guinea.
Within a space of 10 years, the single land mass of the island of New Guinea inhabiting Melanesians with similar ethnic traits were carved up between the Dutch, British and Germans.  We were divided, and ruled by separate powers. One New Guinea became Dutch New Guinea, British New Guinea, and German New Guinea.
South-East New Guinea as it was called is now the Southern Region of Papua New Guinea, including parts of the Highlands region.  The Northern part that Germany annexed stretches from what is now West Sepik to Morobe, and the New Guinea Islands.
In 1906, the control of British New Guinea was given to Australia and the territory was renamed Papua.
During WW2, the Japanese invaded and occupied Papua and New Guinea but were pushed off by the Australians and the allied forces. After the war, the League of Nations and the United Nations Trust territory mandated Australia to administer Papua and New Guinea as a single territory.
In the 1950s while the Dutch were preparing West Papua for Independence, Australia set up a Legislative council, the judiciary, and the public service for its mandated colony in Papua and New Guinea.
One year after Indonesia was appointed temporary administrator for West Papua, the legislative council in Papua and New Guinea was replaced by an elected house of assembly in 1964.  In 1972, the territory was renamed Papua New Guinea.
Between 1973 and 1975, Papua New Guinea was well on its way to becoming an independent nation.  West Papuans on the other hand were facing an adversity of increased military activity against them.  This was when West Papuans started joining the Organasisi Papua Merdeka (OPM) of the Free Papua Movement.
The Indonesians invaded West Papua and seized traditionally owned land to be used as transmigrations sites.  Indonesias transmigrasi (transmigration) plan from 1984 to 1989 involved the migration of 5 million people from Java, Bali and Madura to West Papua and other provinces.   
An estimate of over 10, 000 West Papuans were said to have crossed the border to Papua New Guinea at the time.
Over the years, there have been reports of human rights violations against the Indonesian government as Indonesia’s military forces brutalized and jailed West Papuan activists, and raided villages searching for OPM members.
Pictures of men, women and children have been shared a hundred times over showing them fleeing from their homes to seek refuge in safer places. Reports of gun battles between the Indonesian militia and the retaliations by the resistance have often come from the Papua Province, particularly in Nduga – the highlands of the West Papua. 
In August, West Papuan Students in Surabaya were called monkeys and were tortured by the Indonesian forces.  This sparked a series of protests that were staged simultaneously in the cities of West Papua and across the country condemning the racial slurs that were made by the forces.
One message I received read, “Kami marah karena sudah sering mereka bilang orang Papua monyet.” – “We are angry because they often say Papuan people are monkeys.”
In Manokwari, the provincial capital of West Papua, protesters set fire to a local parliament building following the Surabaya incident, which had 43 West Papuan students detained.
The protests have continued in parts of West Papua as they demand their right to self-determination.  There have been up to 6 deaths already, including a 29-year-old student from Sorong, whilst others are being arrested. 
Whilst East New Guinea approaches 44 years of independence, West New Guinea still fights for the freedom that they long to declare.
Ask me why you should celebrate independence despite our broken down systems and Ill tell you this. 
Celebrate independence because you are not suppressed in your country.
Celebrate it because you are not being brutalized in the country that is supposed to be your home.
Celebrate it because you are not being held at gunpoint fighting for what you believe in.
Celebrate it because you are not being discriminated and tortured because of the color of your skin.
Celebrate it because you have the right to raise your provincial flag and sing your provincial anthems.
As we approach 44 years of independence, I hope you listen to the words of the Anthem as it is being sung.  Sing it not only for Papua New Guinea, but sing it for West- Papua- New Guinea because we are one people, Yumi Wan New Guinea, Yumi Wan Melanesia.
Hope for our brothers and sisters that we will one day raise the “Morning star” and sing “Hai Tanahku Papua” with pride and not with fear.
Oh Arise – PNG Anthem
Oh arise all you sons of this land
Let us sing of our joy to be free
Praising God and rejoicing to be, Papua New Guinea
Shout our name from the Mountains to sea
Papua New Guinea
We are independent, we are free
Papua New Guinea
Now give thanks to the good Lord above
For his kindness his wisdom and love
For this land of our fathers so free
Papua New Guinea
Shout again for the whole world to hear
Papua New Guinea
We are independent, we are free
Papua New Guinea
Cordell, M. (2013, August Thursday). West Papuan Independence Movement – history. Retrieved August Friday, 2019, from The Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/29/west-papua-independence-history
History of West Papua. (n.d.). Retrieved July Saturday, 2019, from Free West Papua Campaign: https://www.freewestpapua.org/info/history-of-west-papua/
Lambert, T. (n.d.). A History of Indonesia. Retrieved July Tuesday, 2019, fromhttp://www.localhistories.org/indonesia.html
Noonan, A. (2018, February Friday). Timeline of key events: Papua New Guinea’s Road to Independence. Retrieved August Monday, 2019, from mobile.abc.net.au:http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2015-09-16/timeline-of-papua-new-guinea-road-independence/6748374
Papua New Guinea -Timeline. (2018, February). Retrieved August Monday, 2019, from www.bbc.comhttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-15593238
Sands, S. (1991, June). West Papua: Forgotten War, Unwanted People. Retrieved August Thursday, 2019, from www.culturalsurvival.org:https://www.culturalsurvival.org/publications/cultural-survival-quarterly/west-papua-forgotten-war-unwanted-people

Why I joined Government| Allan Bird, East Sepik Governor

birdTo my beloved Sepik people, I make this explanation because I am accountable to you all.

When the events of 2011 came about, I was outspoken against it. Since 2011, the economic climate in PNG has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate.

ESPG was particularly punished from 2011 – 2017 because of the position taken by Sir Michael Somare. Our grants were cut consistently by more than 80% during that period. This was unjust, uncalled for and vicious way to treat the Sepik people.

I stood against PNC and it’s vindictive and punitive practice and policies in 2017 and won elections on that basis. Over the past two years we fought the PNC government. During the VONC, we tried to depose PNC with the help of the Marape splinter group. We worked hard to remove PNC. Things didn’t work out well but we kept pushing.

After PMJM was installed, our fight with PNC seemed over except that they were still there working in the background.

When I was in the US, I received information of a possibility of another Parliamentary coup to remove Marape and elements within PNC and others were behind it. I objected strongly and said I would not be a part of such a move.

PNC and it’s leaders have now been ejected by PMJM to join the opposition.

When the opportunity to help the country arose for some of us to assist the government, we took it.

My fight was against PNC and it’s repressive policies. I have no argument with the Marape government unlike the O’Neil government.

In opposition we operate as a team, I am sad that we had to split up the team but I didn’t get elected for position or power. I got elected because I wanted to help Sepik and our country ultimately.

One of our MPs has the opportunity to help the country in Treasury, myself and others are in government to help him perform that role. Ultimately, if the country collapses we all pay the price. So if we have the opportunity to work with a good PM and save our country then I want to do that.

It wasn’t an easy thing to do to leave the opposition. My friends are there. But some of my friends are now in government and I want to support the new Treasurer so he can contribute to putting our nation back on track.

Finally, I will remain as Governor because we have much to do at home. We have the massive EU Grant Program and others that are earmarked for us. I want to protect those investments from those who want to derail the good works we intend to do at home.

PMJM wants us to build the economy of Sepik to support the country. His views are consistent with mine and I want to work with him for all our benefit.

Maulu tumas na God bless

Life after #Marape: PNG’s political ‘glass men’ still trying to work out what’s next

marapeThe last 48 hours has  had Papua New Guinean  forums have been buzzing with excitement.

Before  James Marape, announced his resignation,  very few people expected a crack  in the PNC ranks that high up.

Marape  said he was leaving  because Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, had lost trust him and that the PM’s associates  contributed to it.

Until Thursday this  week,  James Marape was one of the  top men in the Prime Minister’s inner circle.   As Finance Minister,   he was  a major player in the formulation of six national budgets and oversaw various  finance related policies by the O’Neill-Abel Government.

While on the surface things appeared smooth, there was a turbulent undercurrent largely kept under wraps until this week.  His  exit has also  given a glimpse into the inner workings of PNG politics.  The open secret of cultural ties and the non-elected  political influencers that  remain hidden from public eye.

Marape revealed  publicly what many other  Members of Parliament  had previously expressed – that the faceless  political hangers-on  had a hand in  affecting and influencing political decisions in the country.

Marape said he had lost trust of the Prime Minister and part of  it was because ‘associates’ of the government  contributed to that distrust.

“The decision is not easy to make and despite the cultural  and personal ties, the level of trust between the Prime Minister and myself is at the lowest after his office and associates continue  to send negative signals on the lack of trust on me,”  Marape said.

With talk of a  vote of no confidence,  the political ‘glass man’  peering into the murky crystal balls of Waigani   attempting to  interpret  James Marape’s resignation  are  coming up with  different results.  Marape’s resignation is certainly a blow,  but how damaging  is it?

Behind the scenes, insiders say the numbers  on the fringes of the coalition appear fluid while the core remains largely intact.

The Prime Minister was in New Ireland  on Thursday when  James Marape  announced his resignation in Port Moresby.  Attempts to get a response from the PM were delayed by a few hours.  A close aid, sent a text message saying the PM would release a statement  after meeting with  other members present at the meeting in New Ireland.

Just before 6pm, his office send  a short  statement in which the PM acknowledged  Marape’s resignation.

“I have not heard from the Minister today, as a matter of protocol, I expect that he will be in contact soon to convey his intentions.”

Like many political statements,  Marape’s  has to be also  read in between the lines. He said  his disagreements with the PM stem from various, what he called, work related matter including concerns over the amount of  participation  Papua New Guineans had in the resource sector.

He went  on further to echo what other ministers like  Planning Minister Richard Maru, has repeatedly raised previously – that agreements and legislations governing  the resource sector are  not configured to  allow the people and the country  to generate wealth.

Marape’s resignation comes  days after the signing of the Papua  LNG project – a deal that fanned more dissatisfaction when the media reported  that landowners would get just 2 percent of the USD13 billion project. Weather  that contributed directly to his resignation is a question Marape is yet to answer himself.

Like most political situations  involving numbers on the floor of parliament,  it’s best to read between the lines, study the undercurrent, and listen to what politicians aren’t saying.