The efforts by West Papua to become a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) received a boost today with strong support coming from Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
In a pro-Melanesian media statement published today, the veteran politician and founding father of the MSG, said the leaders must approve the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s application for full membership to the MSG.
This was made prior to the 23rd MSG Special Leader’s Summit in Honiara today.
Last year the West Papuans were granted observer status to the MSG following their bid as a united front under the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.
Sir Michael said it is encouraging the progress already made in recognising West Papuans at the MSG, and called for consensus despite some complex and sensitive issues.
These are obviously welcoming words from the veteran political leader towards the West Papuan struggle for recognition and independence.
While there is recognition and a push happening in the regional political scene, in Port Moresby West Papuan refugees are asking for the same, but also for more immediate practical needs.
Section 3, Allotment 33 in Hohola has become an informal refugee camp for West Papuans, one of several in Port Moresby.
Most of the 53 inhabitants have registered to become PNG citizens, something they look forward to, but they face a more immediate problem. They are being evicted.
Following a dispute over the title of the property, a court order was issued last year for them to voluntarily vacate the premises and now they live in fear of being evicted anytime.
Donatus Karuri has been living in PNG for over 30 years. He first moved into the Hohola residence in 1993 with his family. Over the years, the residence has turned into something of a cultural hub for them.
“Em ba mipla go we? Sapos polis kam rausim mipla, em bai mipla silip lo rot o mipla bai still stap insait until government mas painim wanpla hap blo mipla,” he said. (Where will we go? If the police come to evict us, we will sleep on the streets, or we will stay here until the government does something.)
Because there is no official residence for West Papuan refugees in Port Moresby, they have no choice but to squat in illegal settlements. With the city’s growth and rush for land to build properties, illegal settlements are being demolished. West Papuans are finding themselves among those left without homes after an illegal settlement demolition.
Hans May, who is currently living at Hohola has experienced such an eviction once before.
“Government been salim dozer go insait na rausim olgeta haus blo mipla lo Raunwara (8 Mile), mi nogat we lo move, sampla family go lo Renbo na wokim haus lo hap arere lo drain na mi wanpla kam stap lo hia. Nau disla eviction order, em mi facim problem tupela taim.” (The government sent bulldozers and demolished all our houses at Raunwara 8 Mile. I had nowhere to go. Some families went to live at Renbo while I came here. With this eviction order, I am facing the same problem again.)
With the court order, they say they have a case but they don’t have the authority and the resources to defend themselves.
Donatus questions why there has been no government support to help them in their plight.
“Mipla stap aninit lo immigration na foreign affairs. How ol lusim mipla olsem tasol? Mipla nogat money lo baim lawyer, bill blo lawyer kam, K10,000, K20,000, life blo mipla hard, how ba mipla kisim disla money lo baim lawyer?” (We are under immigration and foreign affairs. Why have they forgotten us? Lawyers’ bills have amounted to K10,000, K20,000. Our lives are hard, where will we find the money to pay the lawyers?)