Protesters challenge Pacific Forum Leaders

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, has promised protesters that their voice on West Papua will be heard by the leaders attending the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting this week.

Dame Meg delivered the promise when she personally appeared before protesters in front of Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel yesterday.

Led by Jerome Mika and Unasa Iuni Sapolu, members of Samoa First Union and Pacific Climate Warriors demonstrated in a passionate display of solidarity with West Papua - a country that has been occupied by the Indonesian government since 1963 and whose people have experienced brutal abuse by its military police.

Between 30-35 members of the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union, Samoa First Union, Pacific Climate Warriors and Free West Papua supporters, joined forces to demonstrate outside the P.I.Fs meeting.

Unasa had a message for Pacific Leaders and in particular Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.

 “Honourable Prime Minister of Samoa, stand up,” she said. “Stand up for the future of millions of people who are being oppressed in the Pasefika. 

“Okay we might get a few dollars for not standing up because we’ve got to go with the mainstream donors but that’s not going to get us anywhere. 

“It’s not going to get the people’s human rights anywhere. You know how we sang the song earlier on about the Mau? Well, we are now fighting for the other members of the Pasefika family.”

The memory of the Mau movement was not far from peoples minds and the Free West Papua movement were not going to let people forget it either as the group sang “Tamasese” and chanted “Free West Papua” ,“Samoa mo West Papua” to stunned on lookers. 

As Pacific leaders come together this week to engage in talks of cooperation that enhance Pacific security and prosperity, the Samoan wing of the West Papua movement wanted to remind and urge P.I.F members that freedom for all Pacific Islands should be at the top of their priority list.

And they did get the attention of someone very important earlier than they expected

In a bold move, the Secretary General Dame Meg came out to personally acknowledge the demonstrators and assure them that their voices would be heard. The demonstrations continued once Dame Meg returned to the Forum

Jerome Mika, a representative from the New Zealand Dairy Union explained that it was important for Samoa, a nation who understands the path of struggle for Independence to add their voice in demanding the de-colonisation of West Papua.

“I think it’s really important even as a nation of Samoa,” he said. 

“We’ve enjoyed our independence since ’62 and the whole thing with West Papua is, they have been colonised since 1963. 

“So it’s a really important thing that we stand with them. We enjoy our independence but we should also be standing up for our Pacific brothers and sisters of West Papua. 

“We are calling on Samoa to add their voice to the decolonisation of West Papua. We think it’s important that there are some issues around the world to deal with but we should be looking after our Pacific cousins in our background.”

Many Samoans waking up and going to work may have been confused by yesterday’s energetic disruptions.

But both Mika and Unasa thought it was necessary to spread awareness within our communities all the way up to the national and international governments.

 “We have got to put pressure on the Pacific Forum,” said Unasa.

“They are the ones who are at the height of discussions of these sorts of issues. Don’t just talk about money, don’t just talk about jobs let’s talk about the freedom of all Pacific islands. 

“For Melanesians and for the Micronesians who have been battered by military and obviously Korea with Guam. Lets just stand up collectively as the people of the Pacific, don’t just sit back and relax and have a holiday in Samoa.

 “There are deeper issues at hand, the issues of Indigenous freedom and we’ve got to fight for those freedoms.”

The Free West Papua Group was asked to disperse due to being unable to produce a permit for demonstrating in a public space. 

Spokesperson for Police, Sala’a Sale Sala’a warned the group that their demonstration was unlawful under the Crimes Act .

They were asked to apply for a permit for another demonstration that the group had scheduled at 4pm. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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