Thursday, December 16, 2021

Kanaky New Caledonia vote to stay with France is a hollow victory - it will only rachet up tensions

"Keeping the peace" ... French police in Noumea for the third and final independence
referendum yesterday. IMAGE: Caledonia TV screenshot APR

“Loyalist” New Caledonians handed France the decisive victory in the third and final referendum on independence it wanted in Sunday’s vote.

But it was a hollow victory, with pro-independence Kanaks delivering Paris a massive rebuke for its three-decade decolonisation strategy.

The referendum is likely to be seen as a failure, a capture of the vote by settlers without the meaningful participation of the Indigenous Kanak people. Pacific nations are unlikely to accept this disenfranchising of Indigenous self-determination.

In the final results on Sunday night, 96.49 per cent said “non” to independence and just 3.51 per cent “oui”. This was a dramatic reversal of the narrow defeats in the two previous plebiscites in 2018 and 2020.

However, the negative vote in this final round was based on 43.9 per cent turnout, in contrast to record 80 per cent-plus turnouts in the two earlier votes. This casts the legitimacy of the vote in doubt, and is likely to inflame tensions.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Betrayal of Kanaky decolonisation by Paris risks return to dark days

Flashback to turmoil in the wake of the 2018 independence referendum in New Caledonia
... is France risking more violence? IMAGE: APR screenshot ABC


AFTER three decades of frustratingly slow progress but with a measure of quiet optimism over the decolonisation process unfolding under the Noumea Accord, Kanaky New Caledonia is again poised on the edge of a precipice.

Two out of three pledged referendums from 2018 produced higher than expected – and growing — votes for independence. But then the delta variant of the global covid-19 pandemic hit New Caledonia with a vengeance.

Like much of the rest of the Pacific, New Caledonia with a population of 270,000 was largely spared during the first wave of covid infections. However, in September a delta outbreak infected 12,343 people with 280 deaths – almost 70 percent of them indigenous Kanaks.

With the majority of the Kanak population in traditional mourning – declared for 12 months by the customary Senate, the pro-independence Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) and its allies pleaded for the referendum due this Sunday, December 12, to be deferred until next year after the French presidential elections.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Raising West Papua’s banned Morning Star flag – a global act of solidarity

Dr Emalani Case speaking at the December 1 West Papuan virtual flag raising in
Wellington, New Zealand. IMAGE: APR screenshot

Asia Pacific Report

FROM Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau in Aotearoa New Zealand to Paris, France, and from Wellington Te Whanganui-a-Tara to Jayapura and far beyond, thousands of people across the world today raised the Morning Star flag — banned by Indonesian authorities — in simple acts of defiance and solidarity with West Papuans.

They honoured the raising of the flag for the first time 60 years ago on 1 December 1961 as a powerful symbol of the long West Papua struggle for independence.

One of the first flag-raising events today was in Wellington where Peace Movement Aotearoa and Youngsolwara Pōneke launched a virtual ceremony online with most participants displaying the banned flag.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Journalism education ‘truth’ challenges in an age of growing hate, intolerance and disinformation


Four months ago Papua New Guinean journalists had been warning about increasing tensions over misinformation about COVID vaccines and a lack of clear communication from health authorities.
IMAGE: Screenshot Guardian Pacific Project


IN RESPONSE to the escalating COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in mid-February 2020 came a warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Secretary-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom, who declared that “we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic”. He added that fake news “spreads faster and more easily than this virus” .

The following month, in March 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres identified the “new enemy” as a “growing surge of disinformation”. However, the term “disinfodemic” – which I much prefer – was adopted by the authors of a policy brief for UNESCO to describe the “falsehoods fuelling the pandemic”.

This disinfodemic has been rapidly leading to upheavals in many countries – including in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand in the weeks with protests, civil disobedience and attacks on health officials, medical staff and frontline workers.

Such assaults and violent confrontations have taken particular nasty turns in some of our neighbouring microstates of the South Pacific – notably Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the largest countries and biggest economies in the region.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Timor-Leste’s ‘true hero’ cameraman Max Stahl who exposed Indonesian atrocities dies

In this video — one of several made while he was guest speaker at the Pacific Journalism Review’s 20th anniversary conference in Auckland in 2014 — Max Stahl talks about the betrayal of West Papua. Video: Pacific Media Centre


Filmmaker and journalist Max Stahl, 66, has died almost 30 years after capturing images of the Indonesian massacre at Santa Cruz cemetery in the Timor-Leste capital Dili, which helped accelerate the country’s struggle for independence.

By coincidence, he died on the same day in 1991 as Sebastião Gomes, the young man who was buried in Santa Cruz and whose death led to the protest that ended in the Santa Cruz Massacre.

More than 2000 people went to Santa Cruz to pay tribute to Gomes, who was killed by Indonesian-backed militia in the Motael neighbourhood.


Filmmaker Max Stahl speaking to the 20th anniversary of Pacific Journalism Review
in Auckland in 2014. Image: Del Abcede/APR

The atrocity by the Indonesian military was secretly filmed by Max Stahl and footage smuggled out of the country. International attention on East Timor dramatically changed as a result.

At the graveyard, the Indonesian military opened fire on the crowd, killing 74 people at the scene. Over the next few days, more than 120 young people died in hospital from their wounds or as a result of the crackdown by occupying forces.

Most bodies were never recovered.

Born on 6 December 1954 in the United Kingdom, journalist and documentary maker Christopher Wenner, better known as Max Stahl, began his ties to the country in 1991 when he managed to enter East Timor for the first time.

He became a Timorese citizen in 2019.

Hiding among the graves
On November 12, hiding among the graves of Santa Cruz cemetery, he filmed the massacre — one of many during the Indonesian occupation of the country. Images were circulated  around the world’s media and this changed history.

Decorated with the Order of Timor-Leste, the highest award given to foreign citizens in the country, the Rory Peck Prize for filmmakers, and several other rewards, Max Stahl leaves as a legacy the main archives of images from the last years of the Indonesian occupation of the country.

The Max Stahl Audiovisual Center in Timor-Lete (CAMSTL) contains thousands of hours of video documentary, including extended interviews with key actors in the Timorese struggle for independence.

The archive was adopted by UNESCO for the World Memory Register and has been used for teaching and research on Timor’s history under the framework of cooperation between the University of Coimbra, the National University of East Timor and CAMSTL.

The original 1991 Dili massacre footage by Max Stahl. Video: Journeyman Pictures

Stahl studied literature at the University of Oxford and he was a fluent speaker of several languages, including the two official languages of East Timor — Portuguese and Tetum.

He began his career writing for theatre and children’s television shows. However, he found his calling as a war correspondent when he lived with his family. At the time his father was ambassador to El Salvador where Stahl reported on the civil war between 1979 and 1992.

Stahl covered other conflicts such as those of Georgia, former Yugoslavia and East Timor (from 30 August 1991), where he arrived as a “tourist” at the invitation of resistance groups.

“The king is dead. With great sadness, I write to inform you that Max passed away this morning.”

— Max Stahl’s wife Dr Ingrid Brucens

Historic resistance leaders
Throughout his long ties to East Timor, where he lived until he had to travel recently to Australia for medical treatment, he interviewed historic resistance leaders such as Nino Konis Santa, David Alex and others.

Santa Cruz and the 12 November 1991 massacre made the name Max Stahl known internationally with his images exposing the barbarism of the Indonesian occupation.

In Portugal, the images made a special impact — both through the brutality of the violence portrayed and because the survivors gathered in the small chapel of Santa Cruz, praying in Portuguese while listening to the bullets being fired by the Indonesian military and police.

The 1999 referendum prompted Max Stahl to return to East Timor when he covered the violence before the referendum and after the announcement of independence victory. He also accompanied families on the flight to the mountains.

News of Max Stahl’s death on Wednesday at a Brisbane hospital quickly became the most commented subject on social media in East Timor, prompting condolences from several personalities during the struggle for independence.

In statements to Lusa news agency, former President José Ramos-Horta described Max Stahl’s death as a “great loss” to Timor-Leste and the world. He said it would cause “deep consternation and pain” to the Timorese people.

“Someone like Max, with a big heart, with a great dedication and love for East Timor … [has been] taken to another world,” he told Lusa.

Dr Ingrid Brucens, Max Stahl’s wife, and who was with him and the children in Brisbane, announced his death to friends.

“The king is dead. With great sadness, I write to inform you that Max passed away this morning,” she wrote in messages to friends.

Antonio Sampaio is the Lusa correspondent in Dili.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Behind the scenes investigation of Bougainville struggle for independence tops Pacific Journalism Review

Pacific Journalism Review investigation poses questions about the “silence” in Australia
over the controversial Bougainville documentary Ophir that has won several
international film awards in other countries. IMAGE: Ophir still

Pacific Journalism Review

A FRONTLINE investigative journalism article on the politics behind the decade-long Bougainville war leading up to the overwhelming vote for independence is among articles in the latest Pacific Journalism Review.

The report, by investigative journalist and former academic Professor Wendy Bacon and Nicole Gooch, poses questions about the “silence” in Australia over the controversial Bougainville documentary Ophir that has won several international film awards in other countries.

Published this week, the journal also features a ground-breaking research special report by academics Shailendra Singh and Folker Hanusch on the current state of journalism across the Pacific – the first such region-wide study in almost three decades.

Griffith University’s journalism coordinator Kasun Ubayasiri has produced a stunning photo essay, “Manus to Meanjin”, critiquing Australian “imperialist” policies and the plight of refugees in the Pacific.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Two decades on from 9/11 and a Pacific newsroom sense of dread

Reflections on 9/11 from a Fiji newsroom ... warnings about scapegoats and the media.
IMAGE: Al Jazeera screenshot APR

FLASHBACK TO 9/11: By David Robie

WHEN I arrived at my office at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji on the morning of 12 September 2001 (9/11, NY Time), I was oblivious to reality.

I had dragged myself home to bed a few hours earlier at 2am as usual, after another long day working on our students’ Wansolwara Online website providing coverage of the Fiji general election.

One day after being sworn in as the country’s fifth real (elected) prime minister, it seemed that Laisenia Qarase was playing another dirty trick on Mahendra Chaudhry’s Labour Party, which had earned the constitutional right to be included in the multi-party government supposed to lead the country back to democracy.

Stepping into my office, I encountered a colleague. He looked wild-eyed and said: “It’s the end of the world.”

Monday, August 23, 2021

Davey Edward, a Rainbow Warrior campaigner at Rongelap who cared and never gave up

Greenpeace campaigner Davey Edward ... in the workshop on board the bombed
ship Rainbow Warrior when he was chief engineer in 1985. IMAGE: David Robie/APR


A former Rainbow Warrior campaigner and Greenpeace International technical manager, Davey Edward, has died in Perth, Australia. He was 68.

Edward had a long history with Greenpeace. He started sailing with the global environmental movement in 1983 and was chief engineer on board the first Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed by French secret agents in Auckland in 1985.

Earlier that year, he had been part of the Rainbow Warrior mission to relocate the Rongelap Atoll community in the Marshall islands who had suffered from US nuclear tests.

After that UK-born Edward sailed as chief engineer on several expeditions, including the Antarctic.

Since his sailing career, Edward returned several times to Greenpeace, and left Greenpeace in the early 1990s.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Open season again for Indonesian military trolls and ‘fake news’ campaign on West Papua

Censured or punished? Conflicting reports about the alleged punishment of the two
Indonesian Air Force military policemen who stomped on the head
of young Papuan Steven Yadohamang at Merauke last week. IMAGE: Yumi Toktok Stret
By DAVID ROBIE in Asia Pacific Report

IT IS open season again for Indonesian trolls targeting Asia Pacific Report and other media with fake news and disinformation dispatches in a crude attempt to gloss over human rights violations.

Just three months ago I wrote about this issue in my “Dear editor” article exposing the disinformation campaign. There was silence for a while but now the fake letters to the editor – and other media outlets — have started again in earnest.

The latest four lengthy letters emailed to APR canvas the following topics — Jakarta’s controversial special autonomy status revised law for Papua, a brutal assault by Indonesian Air Force military policemen on a deaf Papuan man, and a shooting incident allegedly committed by pro-independence rebels – and they appear to have been written from a stock template.

And they all purport to have been written by “Papuan students” or “Papuans”. Are they their real names, and do they even exist?

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Outrage over Indonesian officers for stomping on disabled Papuan teen’s head

Two Indonesian Air Force military policemen stomping on the head of a deaf
Papuan teenager, Steven Yadohamang, in the Merauke region on 26 July 2021.
IMAGE: Screenshot from video


Shocking video footage showing a brutal and inhumane assault on a deaf Papuan teenager named Steven Yadohamang has emerged from the Merauke region of Papua and sparked outrage.

This assault occurred on Monday, July 26, 2021, around Jalan Raya Mandala, Merauke (Jubi, July 27).

The video shows an altercation between the 18-year-old and a food stall owner. Two security men from the Air Force Military Police (Polisi Militer Angkatan Udara, or POMAU) intervened in the argument.

One of the officers grabbed the young man and pulled him from the food stall. The victim was slammed to the pavement and then stomped on by the Air Force officers.

The two men, Serda Dimas and Prada Vian, trampled on Yadohamang’s head and twisted his arms after knocking him to the ground. The young man was seen screaming in pain, but the two men continued to step on his head and body while the officers casually spoke on the phone.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

1981 Springbok tour protests retrospective – and now Palestine is the new struggle


1981 Springbok tour protest leaders Ripeka Evans (left) and John Minto speak
to the protesters 40 years on at the restrospective exhibition at the Hamilton Museum -
Te Whare Taonga o Waikato. IMAGE: David Robie/APR


AFTER his release from prison in South Africa and he became inaugural president of the majority rule government with the abolition of apartheid, Nelson Mandela declared in a speech in 1997: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Founding Halt All Racist Tours (HART) leader John Minto invoked these words again several times in Hamilton on Sunday as veterans and supporters of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour anti-apartheid protests gathered to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic events.

Starting at the “1981” tour retrospective exhibition at the Hamilton Museum – Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, the protesters gathered for a luncheon at Anglican Action and then staged a ceremonial march to FMG Stadium – known back then as Rugby Park – where they had famously breached the perimeter fence and invaded the pitch.

The exhibition features photographs by Geoffrey Short, Kees Sprengers and John Mercer of that day on 25 July 1981 when about 2000 protesters halted the second match of the tour.

Friday, July 23, 2021

NZ nuclear-free activists, campaigners back Tahiti’s Mā’ohi Lives Matter rally

Three generations of Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific activists crossing paths
- Hilda Halyard-Harawira, Ena Manuireva, and India Logan-Riley - asking for reparations
for the damage caused by nuclear testing and fighting for a better future
for the next generation. IMAGE: Jos Wheeler

By Asia Pacific Report

Moana activists, campaigners, scholars, researchers and Green MPs gathered last Sunday in a show of solidarity for Tahiti’s Ma’ohi Lives Matter rally at Auckland University of Technology and vowed to work towards independence for the French-occupied Pacific territory.

A live feed from the Tahitian capital of Pape’ete was screened and simultaneous events happened across the Pacific, such as in Fiji.

Many of the Auckland participants were stalwarts from the early days of the Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific (NFIP) movement from the 1970s and 1980s and declared their support for pro-independence Tahitian leader Oscar Temaru.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Carmel Budiardjo - TAPOL founder, human rights defender, Papuan champion and beloved mentor

Human rights defender Carmel Budiardjo ... many lives "touched - and sometimes transformed
- by her passionate and determined campaigning for human rights, justice and democracy
in Indonesia, East Timor, Aceh and West Papua". IMAGE: TAPOL

By Asia Pacific Report

BRITISH and Indonesian human rights defender Carmel Budiardjo, founder of TAPOL watchdog and the movement’s driving force for many decades, has died peacefully aged 96.

TAPOL said in an announcement that she had died on Saturday and would be greatly missed by an extensive network of people whose lives had been “touched — and sometimes transformed — by her passionate and determined campaigning for human rights, justice and democracy in Indonesia, East Timor, Aceh and West Papua”.

For many, she had been a great mentor as well as a beloved friend, TAPOL said.

TAPOL stands for “tahanan politik” or “political prisoners” in Indonesian.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Mā’ohi Nui’s search for nuclear justice – the French ‘reset’ button still to be reset


A younger Tahitian leader Oscar Temaru (centre) leads an anti-nuclear protest in
Pape'ete during the height of the demonstrations against three decades of French
nuclear testing at Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls. Image: RT
By Ena Manuireva and Tony Fala

On 27 May 2021, a significant event took place in Rwanda where French President Emmanuel Macron asked for forgiveness from the people of Rwanda after admitting for the first time that France bore a “terrible responsibility” for the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the 1994 genocide.

This is how President Macron’s wording appeared in The Guardian:

“France played its part and bears the political responsibility for the events in Rwanda. France is obligated to face history and admit that it caused suffering to the Rwandan people by allowing itself lengthy silences at the truth exam …”

On the other hand, the French government assumes no liability for the genocide and ecocide perpetrated in Mā’ohi Nui (French Polynesia)- the "crown jewel" of France’s overseas territories.

The French administration is living in denial concerning its responsibility to the Ma’ohi Nui people vis-a-vis the impact of nuclear tests in the region.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

How the 'voice of the voiceless' kaupapa became derailed at the Pacific Media Centre


Screenshot from the Pacific Media Centre video The PMC Project
by former student project editor Alistar Kata.

COMMENT: By DAVID ROBIE, founding director of the Pacific Media Centre

It really is bizarre. After 26 months of wrangling, stakeholders’ representations and appeals by the Pacific Media Centre participants to Auckland University of Technology management, in the end the innovative unit remains in limbo.

In fact, sadly it seems like a dead end.

In my 28 years as a media educator across four institutions in four countries I have never experienced as something as blatant, destructive and lacking in transparency as this.

Six weeks after I retired as founding director of the centre last December, the PMC office in AUT’s Sir Paul Reeves building was removed by packing up all the Pacific taonga, archives, books and files supporting student projects without consulting the stakeholders.

And then the award-winning staff running the centre on a de facto basis were apparently marginalised. 

As former Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty noted: “I am really shocked that a vibrant well developed centre is being treated like this - what is wrong with this institution?”

Sunday, June 6, 2021

West Papua, Palestine and other critical issues – why is NZ media glossing over them?


Indonesian police carry a body in the current crackdown against pro-independence Papuans
near Timika, Papua. IMAGE:


International reporting has hardly been a strong feature of New Zealand journalism. No New Zealand print news organisation has serious international news departments or foreign correspondents with the calibre of such overseas media as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

It has traditionally been that way for decades. And it became much worse after the demise in 2011 of the New Zealand Press Association news agency, which helped shape the identity of the country for 132 years and at least provided news media with foreign reporting with an Aotearoa perspective fig leaf.

It is not even much of an aspirational objective with none of the 66 Voyager Media Awards categories recognising international reportage, unlike the Walkley Awards in Australia that have just 34 categories but with a strong recognition of global stories (last year’s Gold Walkley winner Mark Willacy of ABC Four Corners reported “Killing Field” about Australian war crimes in Afghanistan).

Aspiring New Zealand international reporters head off abroad and gain postings with news agencies and broadcasters or work with media with a global mission such as Al Jazeera.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Days of Fiji ‘banana republic’ protests remembered in Bavadra reunion

Coalition for Democracy chair Adi Asenaca "Dia" Uluiviti and Jo Elvidge do an
impromptu reenactment of a "banana republic" protest - complete with balaclava mask -
by Fiji democracy protesters in Auckland during 1987 at last night's Bavadra
memorial reunion. IMAGE: David Robie/APR


Bananas, balaclavas and banners … these were stock-in-trade for human rights activists of the New Zealand-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji who campaigned against then Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka’s original two coups in 1987 and the “banana republic” coup culture that emerged.

Many of the activists, politicians, trade unionists, civil society advocates and supporters of democracy in Fiji gathered at an Auckland restaurant in Cornwall Park to reflect on their campaign and to remember the visionary Fiji Labour Party prime minister Dr Timoci Bavadra who was ousted by the Fiji military on 14 May 1987.

Speakers included Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who was New Zealand foreign minister at the time, and keynote Richard Naidu, then a talented young journalist who had emerged as Dr Bavadra’s spokesperson — “by accident” he recalls — and movement stalwarts.

The mood of the evening was a fun-filled and relaxed recollection of coup-related events as about 40 participants — many of them exiled from Fiji — sought to pay tribute to the kindly and inspirational leadership of Dr Bavadra who died from cancer two years after the coup.

Participants agreed that it was a tragedy that Dr Bavadra had died such an untimely death at 55, robbing Fiji of a new style of social justice leadership that stood in contrast with the autocratic style of the current Fiji “democracy”.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Time for NZ to speak up clearly for Palestinian rights and international law


Palestine, West Papua and Western Sahara are places where the indigenous people
are struggling for freedom and human rights. CARTOON: © Malcolm Evans


WHEN Nanaia Mahuta was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, there were hopes for a change in government thinking towards the struggles of indigenous people. The minister said she hoped to bring her experience and cultural identity as an indigenous woman to her role on international issues.

Palestine, West Papua and Western Sahara are places where the indigenous people are struggling for freedom and human rights and early on there was hope New Zealand would join the 138 member states of the United Nations that recognise Palestine.

However the hope has faded and Mahuta finally spoke on Tuesday, via a tweet, saying she was “deeply concerned” about the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem and Gaza. She called for a “rapid de-escalation” from Israel and the Palestinians, for Israel to “cease demolitions and evictions” and for “both sides to halt steps which undermine prospects for a two-state solution”.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Branding armed Papuan resistance as ‘terrorists’ angers rights groups, sparks media warning

The Morning Star flag ... symbol of West Papuan independence and
freedom and "illegal" in Indonesia. IMAGE: CNN Indonesia


Branding armed Papuan resistance groups as “terrorists” has sparked strong condemnation from human rights groups across Indonesia and in West Papua, some describing the move as desperation and the “worst ever” action by President Joko Widodo’s administration.

Many warn that this draconian militarist approach to the Papuan independence struggle will lead to further bloodshed and fail to achieve anything.

Many have called for negotiation to try to seek a way out of the spiralling violence over the past few months.

Ironically, with the annual World Press Freedom Day being observed on Monday many commentors also warn about the increased dangers for journalists covering the conflict.

Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy chairperson Hendardi (Indonesians often have a single name) has criticised the government’s move against “armed criminal groups” in Papua, or “KKB)”, as the Free Papua Movement (OPM) armed wing is described by military authorities.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Gagged West Papuan envoy blocked again from raising self-determination issue at UN

West Papuan envoy John Anari
West Papuan envoy John Anari in New York ... "moral and legal obligation" for the UN
over West Papua. IMAGE: John Anari FB


A WEST Papuan envoy who was gagged while addressing the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues two years ago has been blocked again while trying to speak out.

For six years, John Anari, leader of the West Papua Liberation Organisation (WPLO) and an “ambassador” of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), has been appealing to the forum to push for the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian region to be put on the UN Trusteeship Council.

He was speaking for the two groups combined as the West Papua Indigenous Organisation (WPIO), or Organisasi Pribumi Papua Barat, when he attempted to give his address at the forum last Thursday.

The West Papua letter to the UN Secretary-General
West Papuan envoy John Anari’s petitioning letter to the UN Secretary-General. IMAGE: APR screenshot

Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Palestinian prayer for Ramadan: May the voices of the oppressed be heard

The struggle of the Palestinians is integral to a larger struggle for fundamental human rights
that can be witnessed throughout the Middle East. IMAGE: France 24


COVID-19 cases in Palestine, especially in Gaza, have reached record highs, largely due to the arrival of a greatly contagious coronavirus variant which was first identified in Britain.

Gaza has always been vulnerable to the deadly pandemic. Under a hermetic Israeli blockade since 2006, the densely populated Gaza Strip lacks basic services like clean water, electricity, or minimally-equipped hospitals. Therefore, long before covid-19 ravaged many parts of the world, Palestinians in Gaza were dying as a result of easily treatable diseases such as diarrhoea, salmonella and typhoid fever.

Needless to say, Gaza’s cancer patients have little fighting chance, as the besieged Strip is left without many life-saving medications. Many Palestinian cancer patients continue to cling to the hope that Israel’s military authorities will allow them access to the better equipped Palestinian West Bank hospitals.

Alas, quite often, death arrives before the long-awaited Israeli permit does.

The tragedy in Gaza - in fact in all of occupied Palestine - is long and painful. Still, it ought not to be classified as another sad occasion that invokes much despair but little action.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Future of AUT’s Pacific Media Centre under spotlight following director’s departure

AUT City Campus. Image: AUT

One of AUT’s Pacific research centres has been without a director since the end of last year and a lack of clarity around its future is causing division among staff and supporters. Teuila Fuatai reports for The Spinoff.  

SINCE 2007, AUT’s Pacific Media Centre has built a considerable portfolio and solid reputation for its research and reporting on issues throughout the Asia Pacific region, and as a training ground for Pasifika journalists and academics.

However, a month after veteran Pacific correspondent and researcher Professor David Robie retired as director late last year, the centre was packed up without any formal notification or explanation to the remaining AUT staff members associated with it.

The move prompted a social media outcry among supporters and regional journalists, who raised concerns about the centre’s closure and the lack of communication from the university.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Dear editor, we have you in our sights for reporting ‘the truth’ on Papua

A security forces surveillance camera "eyes" on Papuans outside a Malang
police station in East Java. Image: ULMWP

By David Robie, editor of Asia Pacific Report

ASIA PACIFIC REPORT, the Auckland-based independent news and analysis website, has been increasingly targeted by Indonesian trolls over the past three months, involving a spate of “letters to the editor” and social media attacks.

One of the most frequent letter writers, an “Abel Lekahena”, who claims to be a “student” or “writing on behalf of the people of Papua”, has accused APR of “only taking the separatists’ narrative as they played the victim”.

Sometimes he is purportedly a student living in “Yogyakarta”, West Java; at other times he is a migrant from East Nusa Tenggara “currently living in Manokwari, West Papua”. He has written to Asia Pacific Report 10 times in the past eight weeks – twice in one day on December 29, 2020.

“Lekahena”, if that is even his real name, claims in his latest “template” letter on Monday that since January, “the armed separatists prowled in Intan Jaya” and burned a missionary plane on January 6 and he has cited several clashes between pro-independence militants seeking independence for West Papua and the colonial Indonesian security forces.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Nine Lives of Kitty K, by Margaret Mills - the launch


Author Margaret Mills speaking at the launch of The Nine Lives of Kitty K
at Waiheke Library today. IMAGE: David Robie

Introduction for the book launch of The Nine Lives of Kitty K by Margaret Mills
Waiheke Library, Waiheke, 27 February 2021

AUTHOR Margaret Mills and I go back a long way. All the way back to 10 July 1985 (and a bit before) when a certain environmental ship sank in Auckland Harbour in outrageous circumstances that sent shocked headlines around the world.

The fateful bombing of the Rainbow Warrior by French secret agents has etched its memories deeply into our lives - and the lives of many activists on Waiheke Island. This is how I first came to get to know Margaret as a journalist on board the Greenpeace flagship when researching one of my own books, Eyes of Fire: The Last Voyage of the Rainbow Warrior.

As it turned out, while it might have been the last voyage of the original Warrior, two more campaigning ships of the same name came in its wake.

As we all know, You can't sink a Rainbow!

Thursday, February 25, 2021

West Papuans reject Jakarta plan for extension of special autonomy


Papuan students demonstrating against extenson of the special autonomy law for Papua
and provincial expansion plans in front of the Ministry of Home Affairs
in central Jakarta on Monday. IMAGE: APR special

A West Papuan correspondent has compiled and translated this special article for Asia Pacific Report and Cafe Pacific drawn from Papuan news media.

THE INDIGENOUS people of West Papua have rejected the extension of special autonomy and the planned expansion of new provinces announced by the central government of Indonesia.

The rejection comes from grassroots communities across West Papua and Papuan students who are studying in Indonesia and overseas.

Responding to the expansion of a new province, Mimika students demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara, central Jakarta, this week.

Representing Mimika students throughout Indonesia and abroad, about 30 students who are currently studying in Jakarta, took part in the protest on Monday.

A statement received by Asia Pacific Report said that the Mimika regency students throughout Papua, Indonesia, and globally rejected the division of the Central Papua province and return the provincial division to the MRP and DPRP of Papua Province, and return the customary institutions (LEMASA & LEMASKO) to the tribal and Kamoro indigenous communities in Mimika regency.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Concern grows over PMC after shock office ‘closure’ and no director

The Sepik storyboard plaque marking the 2007 opening of the Pacific Media Centre
by then Pacific Affairs Minister Luamanuvau Winnie Laban  – gone, relocated?

February 16, 2021

PACIFIC journalists, media researchers, students and other stakeholders have expressed concern about the future of New Zealand’s Pacific Media Centre after more than two months without a director and a recent shock “closure” of the centre’s office.

The centre, founded in 2007 and described by an external review as a “jewel in the AUT crown”, had worked in its current Communication Studies office in the Sir Paul Reeves Building at the Auckland University of Technology’s city campus since it opened eight years ago.

It was abruptly emptied earlier this month of more than a decade of awards, books, files, publications, picture frames and taonga, including a traditional carved Papua New Guinean storyboard marking the opening of the centre by then Pacific Affairs Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban in October 2007.

The official line is that it is a “move” for the centre but there is confusion over the actual location of any replacement space.

It is understood that none of the centre’s staff or the PMC Advisory Board members were consulted, nor were they notified before the removal took place. None were present at the removal.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Politicians, educators, advocates blast Fiji’s ‘barbaric’ deportation of USP academic head

USP's Australian Professor Pal Ahluwalia ... deported today on a flight to Brisbane.
Image: PMW
By Pacific Media Watch

POLITICIANS, educators and civil society advocates around the region today condemned the “barbaric” and “shameful” detention and deportation of the regional University of the South Pacific’s vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife.

Reformist Professor Ahluwalia, an Australian, and his wife, Sandra, were detained by Fiji authorities at their Suva home late last night and deported on a flight to Brisbane this morning.

The USP Council is due to meet in Suva tomorrow and the chancellor, Nauru Lionel Aingimea said today a statement would be made later.

In Rarotonga, the director of USP’s Cook Islands campus, Dr Debbie Futter-Puati, said the university’s independence was under threat in Fiji.

Responding to questions from The Fiji Times, she questioned how the university’s vice chancellor’s deportation would advantage the Fijian government.

“The University is a private, independent educational facility owned by 12 member countries who must surely take exception to this action,” she said.

“I sincerely hope member countries make a strong and united stance back to Fiji government on this aggressive and inappropriate action.”

‘Outrageous’ act
Human rights activist and former human rights commissioner Shamima Ali described the forceful removal and deportation as “shameful, outrageous and not the Pacific way”.

National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad said at a time when Fiji should be supporting victims of cyclones Yasa and Ana, government was “instead focused [on] its own petty jealousies”.

Social Democratic Liberal Party leader Viliame Gavoka condemned the arrest and deportation of Professor Ahluwalia and his wife as “barbaric treatment”.

The University of the South Pacific Staff Union and Association of USP Staff issued a joint statement today expressing “grave concern and disgust at the FijiFirst government’s” action.

“We are alarmed by the way that the government of Fiji broke into the vice-chancellor’s residence in the middle of the night (03.02.21) and orchestrated the removal of VCP Pal and his wife,” the unions said.

“The manner in which the VCP and his wife were removed is a violation of human rights and due process.

“Given the seriousness of the decision, we demand the Fiji government … provide the justification for this Gestapo tactic.”

The unions said USP was a regional organisation like Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, SPREP, FFA, SPC and demanded the same respect given to any regional organisation.

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