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Melanesian solidarity can resist Indonesian pressure

Press Release May 13, , Melanesian solidarity can resist Indonesian pressure.
Melanesian solidarity can resist Indonesian pressure

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s visit to Papua New Guinea this week represents Jakarta’s latest heavy-handed attempt to pressure members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) into not supporting West Papua’s application for membership.

The diplomatic importance of the meeting cannot be overstated with a critical MSG meeting upcoming on 21 May. At that meeting Foreign Ministers from member states are due to discuss West Papua’s membership request submitted by the ULMWP on 5 February 2015. However, the 20th MSG Leaders’ Meeting in July is the only body charged with being able to make a final decision on any membership application.

The ULMWP anticipates that Indonesian President Widodo is travelling to Port Moresby to try and drive a wedge between Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and fellow members of the MSG. Indonesia, which is an observer member of the MSG, is opposed to West Papuan membership of the sub-regional organisation. In February, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Fiji in another attempt to suppress support for West Papua.

In advance of President Widodo’s visit to Papua New Guinea, ULMWP spokesman Benny Wenda stated:

“From one Melanesian to another, I thank Prime Minister O’Neill for his recent expression of support for the West Papuan people and to speak out on our behalf. Papua New Guinea has always been our big brother in Melanesia and across the Pacific.”

President Widodo’s trip comes hot on the heels of his visit to West Papua last week, which involved deployment of more than 6,000 security personnel.

The ULMWP urges Prime Minister O’Neill to stress to President Widodo that the Human Rights situation in West Papua remains grave. Hundreds were arrested during peaceful demonstrations on 1 May in West Papua illustrating that the systematic clampdown on freedom of expression remains.

The ULMWP particularly stresses the need for justice for the murder of four unarmed schoolboys and two men in Nabire, December 2014, who were gunned down reportedly by soldiers from 753 Battalion Arga Vira Tama (AVT) Nabire. Despite compelling evidence, an investigation by the Indonesian Commission on Human Rights has failed to identify the perpetrators.

Commenting on the atrocity, Mr. Wenda said:

“President Widodo of Indonesia has still not fulfilled his promise made during his December visit to West Papua to bring to justice the Nabire killers. His lack of action undermines his latest visit to West Papua. While the killers go free and he surrounds himself with a heavy military presence during his visit, we Papuans are still mourning the Nabire victims.”

The ULMWP will remind all MSG member countries that West Papua has fulfilled its obligations to provide a united voice for West Papua by forming the umbrella coordinating body of the ULMWP in December 2014. The ULMWP supports and reaffirms the MSG Leaders Communique of 2013 which,

“endorsed that the MSG fully supports the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination as provided for under the preamble of the MSG constitution.”

Melanesian solidarity can resist Indonesian pressure was originally published on West Papua

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To Whom it may concern, 1 May 2015

This morning I have sent this email to several major news outlets across the world to raise awareness of the plight faced by West Papuans.
Please feel free to copy and send also as together we have a louder voice.

To Whom it may concern.
(I’m very concerned)

I find that recently I am seeing more and more on social media relating to atrocities being carried out in West Papua by the Indonesian Military and Police against people supporting their right to a peaceful campaign of Freedom for West Papua. However I am seeing nothing on major news outlets condemning the actions of the Indonesian oppressors and raising awareness of these atrocities.

I see daily on the BBC news of similar but ‘one off’ police killings (such as today’s Angola story) and nothing on the continued and devastating attack on the lives and liberties of the West Papuans who are routinely killed or sentenced to 20 years in prison for Treason for standing up for their right to peaceful demonstrations, like we enjoy.

I would be very interested in hearing what you think is occurring in West Papua and why there are no articles on this subject. Only through raising awareness of this matter can we hope that things will change for the people of West Papua.

I look forward to your response.

Regards
Robert D’Hooghe

To Whom it may concern, 1 May 2015 was originally published on West Papua

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West Papua activist Benny Wenda leaves Papua New Guinea after ‘visa issue’, government says

Source: abc.net.au, By Liam Fox

Updated yesterday at 3:21pm
Benny Wenda Photo: West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda. (AFP)

Papua New Guinea’s government says a prominent West Papuan activist has been flown out of the country because he was travelling without a visa.

Benny Wenda, spokesman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, was detained by immigration officials when he arrived in Port Moresby on Tuesday.

He had flown from the United Kingdom and had planned to visit PNG before heading to Vanuatu for a meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

“Now I’m deported,” Mr Wenda said before being taken to the international terminal at Port Moresby’s airport.

“That means I leave this country, but my spirit and the struggle, I will leave it with the people of PNG today.”

The office of Papua New Guinea’s prime minister Peter O’Neill said Mr Wenda had arrived in the country without a visa.

A spokesman for Mr O’Neill said the West Papuan independence leader was not being deported, but he was “not permitted to enter the country”.

“It’s not a political issue, it’s a visa issue,” he said.

The prime minister intervened in the case on Wednesday.

Mr Wenda, who had been released into the care of friends, flew out of PNG on Thursday afternoon.

Last month Mr O’Neill said he would start speaking out about human rights abuses in the Indonesian province of West Papua.

“I think, as a country, time has come for us to speak about the oppression of our people there,” he said.

Some observers have wondered whether Mr Wenda’s forced departure from PNG represents a backdown by Mr O’Neill.

West Papua activist Benny Wenda leaves Papua New Guinea after ‘visa issue’, government says was originally published on West Papua

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PNG Prime Minister speaks up on West Papua

9 February 2015 11:01AM, http://www.lowyinterpreter.org

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill did something remarkable last Thursday. In a wide-ranging policy speech at a leadership summit in Port Moresby, he acknowledged the oppression of the people of West Papua. It was the first time an incumbent prime minister of Papua New Guinea has spoken directly about the rights of West Papuans in a public forum:

Papua New Guinea today is a respected regional leader. After 40 years of undisturbed democracy, we are in a unique position to lead mature discussions on issues affecting our people in the region.

Our leading role in encouraging Fiji to return to a democratically elected government and voicing our concerns about the plight of our people in New Caledonia are examples of our growing influence. We have also participated in the restoration of democracy and law and order in countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

But sometimes we forgot our family, our brothers and sisters, especially those in West Papua.

I think as a country the time has come for us to speak about oppression our people. Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet we take no notice. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded. Again, Papua New Guinea, as a regional leader, we must lead these discussions with our friends in a mature and engaging manner.

O’Neill was careful not to refer to independence or greater autonomy for West Papua. He also made no reference to the latest attempt by West Papuan independence groups to seek membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. But significantly, he referred to West Papuans as ‘family’, ‘brothers and sisters’ and ‘our people.’ This is not quite the same as questioning the sovereignty of Indonesia over West Papua but is a radical departure from previous language. It is notable that in the year that Papua New Guinea celebrates 40 years of independence from colonial rule, the Prime Minister of the most populous Melanesian state has sought to identify with Melanesian populations which are not yet independent – in New Caledonia and in West Papua.

Interestingly, O’Neill indicated he was concerned about the pictures of brutality appearing on social media. If his decision to speak out now was even in part inspired by the images of human rights abuses posted by supporters of West Papua on Facebook and Twitter, this is a breakthrough moment for the influence of activists who use social media for political advocacy in Papua New Guinea. Indeed, those who post pictures on social media of brutality that women experience in Papua New Guinea will hope the Prime Minister may be paying attention to them too.

O’Neill’s remarks will be a blow to Jakarta (see here for comments from Indonesia’s Human Rights Commissioner). Indonesia has been working hard to court Melanesian states and has attended Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meetings as an observer as part of efforts to dissuade the MSG from admitting the West Papuan independence movement as a member. The then Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the guest of honour at Fiji’s Pacific Islands Development Forum meeting in Fiji last year, demonstrating the importance Indonesia attaches to influencing Melanesian countries.

Although the PNG Government has long carefully managed its relationship with Indonesia and avoided public statements on West Papua, there is much support in the PNG community and among a number of MPs for the West Papuan independence movement. Papua New Guinea’s capacity to drive international action on a human rights issues is unproven, but O’Neill will now come under domestic pressure to follow through on his statement. The decision by Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry to establish a special working group to ‘handle developments and issues relating to Papua’ might offer a window for closer engagement with Papua New Guinea on human rights issues.

O’Neill’s remarks will have surprised others in the region. O’Neill has been at odds with with Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama over a range of issues, including Fiji’s desire to reform regional diplomatic architecture. O’Neill’s statement on West Papuan human rights may now leave Fiji as an outlier within the Melanesia Spearhead Group; Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are supporters of West Papuan independence but Bainimarama has been reluctant to endorse West Papuan demands. At a time when Fiji’s government is seeking to reclaim regional leadership at the expense of Papua New Guinea’s ambitions, this will unnerve Fiji.

The move also wrong-foots Canberra. It would be naïve to imagine Canberra can comfortably stay neutral on this issue. Australia wants a stable relationship between its two nearest neighbours and therefore has an interest in averting tensions over West Papua. The Australian Government’s position in relation to West Papuan lobbying efforts has always been that it supports the sovereignty of Indonesia over the provinces of Papua and West Papua, a position shared by the Papua New Guinea Government.

Australia has also been supportive of Papua New Guinea assuming a more significant regional leadership role, consistent with the size of its population, its economy and its potential for growth. Papua New Guinea is a country of some 7 million people and its economy, the largest of the Pacific Island countries, is forecast to grow by 15% in 2015, more than any other country in the world. Canberra can hardly complain if Peter O’Neill has determined that PNG will stand a better chance of recognition as a regional leader if he stands up for the rights of West Papuans. But in so doing, he has changed regional dynamics in the Pacific, probably made them even more difficult for Australia to attempt to manage and may even add to pressure on Australia to act.

Papua New Guinea will host the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit this year. The Forum has avoided recognition of West Papua issues in its official pronouncements but discussion this year could be quite different if PNG, this year’s chair, campaigns for it.

PNG Prime Minister speaks up on West Papua was originally published on West Papua

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O’Niell Speaks Out on West Papua

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill did something remarkable last Thursday. In a wide-ranging policy speech at a leadership summit in Port Moresby, he acknowledged the oppression of the people of West Papua. It was the first time an incumbent prime minister of Papua New Guinea has spoken directly about the rights of West Papuans in a public forum:

Papua New Guinea today is a respected regional leader. After 40 years of undisturbed democracy, we are in a unique position to lead mature discussions on issues affecting our people in the region.

Our leading role in encouraging Fiji to return to a democratically elected government and voicing our concerns about the plight of our people in New Caledonia are examples of our growing influence. We have also participated in the restoration of democracy and law and order in countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

But sometimes we forgot our family, our brothers and sisters, especially those in West Papua.

I think as a country the time has come for us to speak about oppression our people. Pictures of brutality of our people appear daily on social media and yet we take no notice. We have the moral obligation to speak for those who are not allowed to talk. We must be the eyes for those who are blindfolded. Again, Papua New Guinea, as a regional leader, we must lead these discussions with our friends in a mature and engaging manner.

O’Neill was careful not to refer to independence or greater autonomy for West Papua. He also made no reference to the latest attempt by West Papuan independence groups to seek membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. But significantly, he referred to West Papuans as ‘family’, ‘brothers and sisters’ and ‘our people.’ This is not quite the same as questioning the sovereignty of Indonesia over West Papua but is a radical departure from previous language. It is notable that in the year that Papua New Guinea celebrates 40 years of independence from colonial rule, the Prime Minister of the most populous Melanesian state has sought to identify with Melanesian populations which are not yet independent – in New Caledonia and in West Papua.

Interestingly, O’Neill indicated he was concerned about the pictures of brutality appearing on social media. If his decision to speak out now was even in part inspired by the images of human rights abuses posted by supporters of West Papua on Facebook and Twitter, this is a breakthrough moment for the influence of activists who use social media for political advocacy in Papua New Guinea. Indeed, those who post pictures on social media of brutality that women experience in Papua New Guinea will hope the Prime Minister may be paying attention to them too.

O’Neill’s remarks will be a blow to Jakarta (see here for comments from Indonesia’s Human Rights Commissioner). Indonesia has been working hard to court Melanesian states and has attended Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meetings as an observer as part of efforts to dissuade the MSG from admitting the West Papuan independence movement as a member. The then Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the guest of honour at Fiji’s Pacific Islands Development Forum meeting in Fiji last year, demonstrating the importance Indonesia attaches to influencing Melanesian countries.

Although the PNG Government has long carefully managed its relationship with Indonesia and avoided public statements on West Papua, there is much support in the PNG community and among a number of MPs for the West Papuan independence movement. Papua New Guinea’s capacity to drive international action on a human rights issues is unproven, but O’Neill will now come under domestic pressure to follow through on his statement. The decision by Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry to establish a special working group to ‘handle developments and issues relating to Papua’ might offer a window for closer engagement with Papua New Guinea on human rights issues.

O’Neill’s remarks will have surprised others in the region. O’Neill has been at odds with with Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama over a range of issues, including Fiji’s desire to reform regional diplomatic architecture. O’Neill’s statement on West Papuan human rights may now leave Fiji as an outlier within the Melanesia Spearhead Group; Vanuatu and Solomon Islands are supporters of West Papuan independence but Bainimarama has been reluctant to endorse West Papuan demands. At a time when Fiji’s government is seeking to reclaim regional leadership at the expense of Papua New Guinea’s ambitions, this will unnerve Fiji.

The move also wrong-foots Canberra. It would be naïve to imagine Canberra can comfortably stay neutral on this issue. Australia wants a stable relationship between its two nearest neighbours and therefore has an interest in averting tensions over West Papua. The Australian Government’s position in relation to West Papuan lobbying efforts has always been that it supports the sovereignty of Indonesia over the provinces of Papua and West Papua, a position shared by the Papua New Guinea Government.

Australia has also been supportive of Papua New Guinea assuming a more significant regional leadership role, consistent with the size of its population, its economy and its potential for growth. Papua New Guinea is a country of some 7 million people and its economy, the largest of the Pacific Island countries, is forecast to grow by 15% in 2015, more than any other country in the world. Canberra can hardly complain if Peter O’Neill has determined that PNG will stand a better chance of recognition as a regional leader if he stands up for the rights of West Papuans. But in so doing, he has changed regional dynamics in the Pacific, probably made them even more difficult for Australia to attempt to manage and may even add to pressure on Australia to act.

Papua New Guinea will host the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit this year. The Forum has avoided recognition of West Papua issues in its official pronouncements but discussion this year could be quite different if PNG, this year’s chair, campaigns for it.

This article was first published by the Lowy Interpreter 

O’Niell Speaks Out on West Papua was originally published on West Papua

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West Papuan Meetings Barricaded, Indonesia Indicates War, Vanuatu Adamant

Image: Del Abcede/PMC
West Papua Media’s Nick Chesterfield … training for “safe witness” journalism.

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Pacific Media Watch, December 4, 2014

The Chiefs’ Nakamal in Port Vila, Vanuatu – the scene of closed-door meetings.

The West Papuan reconciliation and unification conference being hosted in Port Vila for the different separatist groups from West Papua has gone into stealth mode as the delegates have barricaded themselves in the Chiefs’ Nakamal to deliberate and make recommendations for a way forward.

No member of the local media or public have been allowed entry into the Nakamal.

These restrictions are a precautionary measure to avoid Indonesian spies infiltrating the meetings.

The various groups represented in the closed-door meetings are here to find common grounds on which they can be allowed member status into the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a regional body that supports the interests of Melanesians.

Indonesia, West Papua’s current colonizer, has been granted “observer” status in the MSG while West Papuans have so far been denied representation. The main speculation regarding this would be due to the fact that West Papua is not a sovereign state so it cannot be represented in an organization formed by Melanesian sovereign states.

There are several separatist factions claiming to fight for West Papua’s right to self-determination. This conference aims to bring these factions together to formulate a common ground on which they can move into the MSG as full-time members.

Meanwhile, Indonesia has threatened to cut all diplomatic ties to Vanuatu for meddling in its internal affairs. Radio New Zealand reported that Jakarta’s Acting Ambassador to Vanuatu, Imron Cotan has indicated that there could be war.

“Indonesia is ready to go to war in order to maintain Papua within our territory so we are indeed serious about Papua. Nobody I believe should take it lightly. Indonesia will be more than prepared to freeze anything if our sovereignty over Papua is questioned. That is definitely a no go in Indonesia.”

Vanuatu, however, is adamant with its stand to support West Papua. It has always been a staunch supporter of the “Free West Papua” movement and has championed the cause for self-determination for years.

Fr Walter Lini, the foremost father of this nation famously declared that “Vanuatu is not free until all Melanesia is free.”

It is with this attitude that Vanuatu will not give in to Indonesia’s threats, but will remain a strong supporter of West Papua. This support has gone as far as seemingly “meddling” in Indonesia’s internal affairs so that West Papuans’ voices can be heard in the MSG.

West Papuans are predominantly Melanesian. When their Dutch colonizers left in the 1950s to 1960s, West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia through a rigged vote called the “Act of free choice” in 1969. Ever since then, the West Papuans have faced increasing human rights abuses.

These abuses have been one of the reasons why Vanuatu will always support the West Papuans’ fight for self-determination.

West Papuan Meetings Barricaded, Indonesia Indicates War, Vanuatu Adamant was originally published on West Papua

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Radio New Zealand : International : News : Pacific : Indonesian intent critical in determining West Papua genocide

Radio New Zealand : International : News : Pacific : Indonesian intent critical in determining West Papua genocide.

Indonesian intent critical in determining West Papua genocide

Updated at 6:24 pm on 9 October 2013

An Australian academic says West Papuans have been subject to a slow-motion genocide and the United Nations should step in.

Jim Elmslie, of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, is the co-author of a just-released report titled ‘A Slow-Motion Genocide – Indonesian Rule in West Papua’.

Dr Elmslie says the report concludes the Indonesian Government has intentionally carried out genocidal policies for the past 50 years.

Under the United Nations Genocide Convention, the classification of an act as ‘genocide’ requires proven intent.

Amelia Langford asked Jim Elmslie about the findings of the report.

JIM ELMSLIE: We believe that a slow-motion genocide is and has been occurring in West Papua. It’s a very deep-seated and difficult problem for everybody involved, including Indonesia. And it’s a problem I think needs a lot more attention because it’s festering away, getting worse, and the Papuans are suffering quite badly now, or they have been for many decades.

AMELIA LANGFORD: What do you mean by ‘slow-motion genocide’?

JE: Well, it’s a term that was first used by a man called Clemens Runawery, who’s deceased now, who was a West Papuan who thought about what was happening to his country and his people, and he compared it with disasters like had happened in Rwanda, where a large number of people were killed quickly in a sort of turmoil, a catastrophic series of events. In West Papua, the situation has gone on for decades, and over that period, cumulatively, many thousands of people have died, but not in a short, sharp burst that many people tend to associate with the word ‘genocide’. So that’s why we’ve used that term, that it’s a process that’s unfolded over decades, but it’s a genocide in the sense that the killings fall within the definition of the UN convention on genocide.

AL: And tell me about the paper’s findings and what you set out to find or explore.

JE: Well, we set out to explore the whole issue of genocide, really, that many West Papuan people – leaders right down to the grassroots people – often describe what’s happened to them since the Indonesians took over the place as a genocide. And that word has a pretty specific meaning under the international convention. And there’s various acts that fall into the definition of ‘genocide’, including the intentional killing of members of a group or conflicting conditions that make life difficult. And most of those acts have been carried out there, people would agree they’ve been carried out. But then the other aspect of fulfilling the criteria of being called a genocide is there’s some element of intentional government policy or there’s intent – the word ‘intent’ is the critical word.

Jim Elmslie says parties to the Genocide Convention have a responsibility to look into genocide claims.

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Wild ideas of revisiting an untamed world

Feral, by George Monbiot Source: Supplied

WHEN George Monbiot lived among the Maasai in Kenya, he made a friend, something that hadn’t happened during similar stints with indigenous people in West Papua and Brazil.

Toronkei was on the eve of adulthood, when he would be expected to take on the responsibilities of marriage, fatherhood and leadership. For the moment, though, he and his cohort of young men were revelling in the derring-do of physical endurance and wild expeditions: taking a lion by the tail, running 50km straight to visit a friend in another village, rustling cattle and just getting away in a hail of bullets.

“Danger to them was a delicacy,” Monbiot writes in Feral: Searching for Enchantment on the Frontier of Rewilding. “They were volatile, passionate, impetuous, open to everything.”

This isn’t the long sigh of rose-tinted nostalgia of many who write about vanishing ways of life. Monbiot appreciates sanitation, vaccinations, antibiotics, surgery, optometry and the permanent availability of good and nutritious food that settlement brings.
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He also appreciates that behind the glamour lies harshness: the brutality and brevity of life that has not been ameliorated by the invention of sovereign law. Strong bonds of love among the Maasai warriors didn’t stop knives flashing out when arguments grew heated. And the Kikuyu, he points out, did not appreciate having their cattle raided and their warriors speared. “The freedoms the Maasai enjoyed at the expense of others – thrilling as they were – are rightly being curtailed,” he admits.

And yet, and yet. Monbiot knows he struggles with something indefinable that the young Maasai men tapped into. “Had I, as an embryo, been given a choice between my life and his – knowing that, whichever I accepted, I would adapt to it and make myself comfortable within it – I would have taken his,” he writes.

Some may call it a midlife crisis; Monbiot calls it “ecological boredom”: knowing, somewhere deep down, that our survival skills, honed by evolution, are atrophying. A life in which loading the dishwasher presents an interesting challenge, and the focus of a hunting animal is brought to bear on opening a tricky ring-pull tin, cannot be all there is.

Monbiot, an English writer, environmentalist and political activist, makes two bravura arguments, closely intertwined, in Feral. One is this attempt to describe the psychological need for wildness that lies just below the civilised surface of all of us. He quotes JG Ballard: ” … the suburbs dream of violence. Asleep in their drowsy villas, sheltered by benevolent shopping malls, they wait patiently for the nightmares that will wake them into a more passionate world.”

The other is an extension of it and the core purpose of the book: a call for the rewilding of parts of the world. Again, the most quixotic of his views are balanced by realism and he is no blind follower of orthodoxies. He supports nuclear power, for example, precisely as an environmental measure. He acknowledges the world’s needs for farmed food, and landowners’ rights to dispose of their property as they will. But his call for rewilding in places that can be sequestered from all those demands is urgent.

He is not a conservationist. He criticises those in Britain who would preserve the “romantic” moors, for example, with their scrubby groundcover of grasses and heather. He describes them as deserts, not wildernesses, the result of ravaging by introduced species that killed the primeval forests, richly stocked with many varieties of plant and animal life, which existed a few thousand years ago. Playing on Rachel Carson’s terrifying notion of a “silent spring”, he envisages the “raucous summer” their revival would bring.

Conservationists are often hostage to “shifting baseline syndrome”, he writes. They fight for the survival of the conditions they grew up with, even if those conditions – such as the moors – are the result of an earlier ecological catastrophe. In the case of the Cambrian “desert”, near his home in Wales, it was sheep that ravaged the land, altering the ecology as effectively as a clear-felling operation. In Scotland, deer hunting, promoted on the estates of wealthy landowners, tipped the ecological balance.

A chapter is devoted to a man named Ritchie Tassell. One of Tassell’s bugbears, apparently, is hearing soundtracks of American birds during films set in the British countryside: the fact it passes unnoticed by cinema-goers is a grim indication for him of the level of disengagement from the natural world.

Monbiot’s description of the scrap of land Tassell is allowing to return to the wild in sheep-ravaged Cambria is lyrical. Birch boletes, or orange toadstools, looked like “soggy breadrolls”; the “big soft leaves of foxgloves flopped on the ground”; an aspen, “its leaves the shape of the domes on a Russian Orthodox church, never quite still, shivered in the cool bright light”.

The point of rewilding, Monbiot writes, is something far more radical than conservation. It about is setting up the environment to approximate as closely as possible what it would have been thousands of years ago, then stepping back and letting it develop as it will. It is not about land management, but the very opposite. The operational concept is “wild”.

He describes successful rewilding efforts in Europe, where the return of native predators – including scary ones at the top of the food chain, such as wolves, boars and bears – is reversing the trophic cascade that shredded the original web of natural co-existence. Although the book is mainly about Britain, chapters devoted to developments in Poland and Romania that are more far-sighted – forwards and back – than anything being done in Monbiot’s homeland, are exciting and eye-opening. Bears and lynx and wisent are returning slowly to their original lands. Might elephants, Monbiot muses, eventually return?

Monbiot frames his detailed research in euphoric descriptions of the natural world. Some readers, and women in particular, may prefer to do without the more gung-ho description of his close shaves with the elements, but all is forgiven when the passage segues into another ravishing riff on nature.

His ideas are so idealistic they seem almost crazy at times, but are all the more inspiring for that.

Feral: Searching For Enchantment on The Frontier of Rewilding
By George Monbiot

Allen Lane, 317pp, $39.99 (HB)

Miriam Cosic is a Sydney-based writer and critic.

Filed under: Media & Analysis, ,

The Economist: Indonesia’s last frontier

http://www.economist.com/node/16274331?story_id=16274331

Jun 3rd 2010 | TIMIKA

THE hotel provides free mosquito repellent and closes its pool bar before dusk to prevent guests from contracting malaria. The former Sheraton still offers the best accommodation in Indonesia’s little-visited province of Papua, catering mainly to employees of its owner, Freeport-McMoRan, an American mining giant. Freeport protects its staff from more than malaria. Since July 2009 a spate of mysterious shootings along the road linking the hotel in Timika to the huge Grasberg mine up in the mountains has killed one employee, a security guard and a policeman and wounded scores of others. Workers are now shuttled from Timika to the mine by helicopter.

Before the pool bar closes, a jolly crowd of Freeport employees have their beers stored in a cool box. They take it to one of the—mostly dry—seafood restaurants in town. As in the rest of Papua, all formal businesses are run by Indonesian migrants who are predominantly Muslim. The mainly Christian Papuans sit on the pavements outside selling betel nuts and fruit.

“We are not given licences to run a business,” says a young Papuan independence activist who does not want to be named. He sits in a car with two bearded guerrilla fighters of the West Papua Revolutionary Army, the militant wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). For more than 40 years the OPM has fought a low-intensity war to break away from Indonesia. Partly because of restrictions on reporting it, this is one of the world’s least-known conflicts. It is getting harder to keep secret.

Unlike its independent neighbour, Papua New Guinea, which occupies the eastern half of the vast island, the western part used to be a Dutch colony. During the cold war the United Nations said there should be a plebiscite to let Papuans decide their future. But Indonesians, the Papuans say, forced roughly 1,000 Papuan leaders at gunpoint to vote unanimously for integration into their country. This “act of free will” has been contested ever since.

The two bearded rebels drive around town to evade security forces. “Indonesia might be a democracy, but not for us Papuans,” says one. “They gave us autonomy which is a joke. We are different from those Indonesians. Just look at our skin, our hair, our language, our culture. We have nothing in common with them. We beg President Obama to visit Hollandia when he comes to Indonesia in June to witness the oppression with his own eyes,” says the other, using the colonial name for Papua’s capital, Jayapura. (America’s president is due to visit the country on June 14th.) In the 1960s indigenous Papuans made up almost the whole population of Indonesia’s largest province; since then immigration from the rest of the country has reduced their share to about half.

The two rebels do not want to take responsibility for the shootings along the road to the Grasberg mine, but leave no doubt either about their sympathies or their intentions. “The Indonesian shopkeepers, the soldiers and the staff of Freeport are all our enemies. We want to kill them and the mine should be shut,” they say. “Grasberg makes lots of money but we Papuans get nothing. When we achieve independence, we shall kick out the immigrants and Freeport and merge our country with Papua New Guinea.”

The car draws up in front of the seafood restaurant where the Freeport staff are becoming ever more cheerful, unaware that rebels are watching them. Freeport is the biggest publicly traded copper company in the world, and the Grasberg mine remains its main asset. The complex, the world’s largest combined copper and gold mine, is enormously profitable. It provided $4 billion of Freeport’s operating profit of $6.5 billion in 2009. The mining facilities are protected by around 3,000 soldiers and police which were supported by Freeport with $10m last year, according to the company. In December 2009 the police shot dead Kelly Kwalik, one of the OPM’s senior commanders, whom the police blamed for a series of attacks on Freeport’s operations, a charge he repeatedly denied.

Foreign journalists are restricted in their travel to Papua. Your correspondent was lucky enough to slip through the net. In the towns, it is clear that the guerrillas generally keep a low profile. But in the central highlands they are free to operate more openly. This is their heartland. Anti-Indonesian feelings run high because of the sometimes brutal suppression of the OPM by the army.

A well-hidden rebel camp in the Baliem valley—home to a Stone Age tribe discovered and disturbed by outsiders only in the 1930s—lies a few kilometres from a small army base. The guerrillas conduct military training with villagers who use spears, bows and arrows, all without metal heads. Students with mobile phones and video cameras teach the farmers revolutionary rhetoric. They have lost faith in peaceful means of protest and hope to provoke a bloody confrontation that will push Papua on to the international agenda. So far the government has refused to talk to the fractious OPM. Unless it changes its mind, it risks being unable to prevent the young radicals from kicking off a revolution.

Filed under: Opinion

25 Percent of Papua's forests felled

Wednesday, 5 May 2010, 3:52 pm
Press Release: Scoop Coverage of West Papua    

25% of Papua’s forests felled; annual money for kampungs in Yahukimo has not been paid

Suara Pembaruan, 29 April 2010

The Director for Forestry Protection and Conservation at the Department of Forestry has warned that the area covered by forests in Papua and West Papua has fallen by 25 percent since the era of reformasi (the post Suharto so-called ‘reform era’ which started in May 1998).

This is because of the large-scale illegal logging that has occurred as well as the felling of forests to make way for roads, housing, food production, and the rapid creation of new districts and sub-districts in both provinces. The area under forests has fallen from 31.5 million hectares to 23 million hectares.

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An official, Darori that illegal logging was taking place on a massive scale even though these forests were the last primary forests remaining in Indonesia, and have been changing their role in the economy. Most of the timber cut is being exported to China.

A special team set up to combat illegal logging by the president is to be sent to Papua and other regions to conduct a study of this problem. The team includes personnel from the forestry department, the attorney-general’s office, the police and the Commission to Combat Corruption.

Members of the team recently had a meeting with the Minister of Forestry, Zulkfli Hasan , who told the team that while waiting for the team’s report, he hoped to receive reports about violations against forestry protection from the governors of the provinces, in response to a letter he sent them two months ago.

Governors should prepare cases against those responsible for illegal logging in their regions.’Hundreds of cases have been reported but in most cases, those involved had been treated leniently, and very few had been punished,’ he said. ‘If no firm measures are taken, it will be virtually impossible to halt all this illegal logging.’ Another official said that a special force will examine certificates that have been unlawfully issued and seek a solution to the problem.

The minister also said that he had been sending letters to Freeport since 2004 warning of incorrect procedures (about the use of land?) but as yet he has not issued any recommendations on the matter.

The matter was also raised with the Department by the environmental organisation, WALHI during a recent meeting with the Minister of Forestry.

ENDS

Filed under: Media & Analysis, , ,

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