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March 8, 2021
News Pacific

The Pacific is Not Free if West Papua is Not Free

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by Serah Aupong – EM TV News, Port Moresby

The Pacific is not free if West Papua is not free. That is the message a coalition of civil society organisations will bring to the Pacific Islands Forum next week, to be held here in Port Moresby.

This message comes after two days of shared experiences among the civil society organisations, where the West Papuan cause was given special attention.

Donatus Karuri took part in the gathering as the founder and leader of a West Papuan cultural performance group in Port Moresby.

He was educated and worked in the cultural commission in Indonesia. In 1984, he had to leave for PNG after a close friend and colleague died. 

“My family told me, you must go. Go to PNG where you can continue to promote West Papua culture,” he said.

It is estimated that there are over 7,000 West Papuans now living throughout Papua New Guinea. Around the world, there are thousands more.

After the event of the 1960s leading up to the ‘Act of Free Choice’, many West Papuans sought refuge around the world.

After struggling with support for his work in PNG, Karuri moved to the Netherlands for four years to seek support.

He said he met with many West Papuans living there and he spoke to them about the importance of promoting their culture.

“If the way you promote our culture gets international support, support our struggle.”

The struggle he speaks of is for a free and independent West Papua from Indonesia. In the Pacific, the strongest political voice and action is coming from the people and government of Vanuatu, where recent political events show there is a unanimous support for the liberation of West Papuans.

Closer to home, Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, made an historic statement at February’s PNG leaders summit.

“Time has come for us to speak about the oppression of our people there, pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet we take no notice,” he said at the time with rousing applause from the audience.

Next week the leaders of 14 pacific island states will meet in Port Moresby to discuss development issues in the Pacific.

As a lead up to this meeting, a group of civil society organisations across the region met to discuss recommendations they will bring to the Pacific leaders.

Emele Duituturanga, Executive Director of the Pacific Association of Non-Government Organsations (PIANGO), said following their meeting “we are asking our leaders to send a fact-finding mission [to West Papua], we are also calling on the re-inscription of West Papua in the decolonisation list of the United Nations.” 

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