Saturday, March 18, 2017

Grief, repression, life and death in West Papua’s Highlands

Bonnie Etherington reading from her new book The Earth Cries Out at the Women's Bookshop in Ponsonby,
Auckland, this week. Photo: Del Abcede
THE Auckland launch of Bonnie Etherington’s thrilling debut novel, The Earth Cries Out, on grief, repression and life in another world -- the Highlands of West Papua -- this week was intriguing.

Along with the usual literati at events like this, were the human rights activists with “Free West Papua” emblazoned on their chests and the media freedom advocates intent on exposing the constant gags imposed on the West Papuans by the Indonesian military killing machine in defiance of an empty “open door” policy proclaimed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in 2015.

The “Free West Papua” movement, fuelled by inspired and continuous social media exposes and debate, has been growing exponentially in recent years.

But you wouldn’t know that if you merely relied on the parochial New Zealand media, which doesn’t seem to have woken up to the human rights catastrophe happening on its Pacific doorstep. (Instead, global news services such as Al Jazeera English, or local services such as Asia Pacific Report and Radio NZ International are having to do the job for them).

Speaking at the Women’s Bookshop in deepest Ponsonby – a world away from the mountain jungle near Wamena in West Papua, Nelson-born Etherington gave three readings from her book, which she says is aimed at a more nuanced understanding of West Papua, one of them a chilling rendition of the fate of a woman accused and slain as an alleged “witch”.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

West Papuan students stage anti-Freeport protests in Indonesia

KBR audio report on the Jakarta protest in Bahasa. Audio: KBR/Asia Pacific Report

From the Pacific Media Centre's Asia Pacific Report.

West Papua is the ongoing Pacific human rights story that the mainstream New Zealand media ignores. Freeport in West Papua is the copper and gold mine - the world's second largest -- that the $20 billion NZ Superannuation Fund was forced to pull out of in 2012 after sustained protest about its "unethical" investment in the company.

PROTESTERS from the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and religious pupils from an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) have faced off against each other at the Malan city hall in East Java.

Both groups held the protests on Friday under tight police security, as West Papuan protests over Freeport took place at several other places across Indonesia.

Scores of demonstrators from the AMP and the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) unfurled banners and conveyed a number of demands, including the closure of the PT Freeport gold and copper mine in Papua.

They also brought banners with demands such as, “A joint action to support the Papua problem at the United Nations Human Rights Council” and “Close and Expel Freeport”. Protesters took turns in giving speeches.

The spokesperson for the AMP and FRI-West Papua, Wilson, said that the action represented Papuan society’s anxiety saying there are so many violations at PT Freeport that it was creating ever more misery in the land of Papua.

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