By Kisha Borja-Quichocho-Calvo
DURING the closing ceremony for the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts, or FestPac, a few Chamoru activists came together to make a political statement. We sacrificed four of our official FestPac wraps and made banners with the following words on them: “Decolonize Oceania” and “Free Guåhan.” And when it was time for the Guåhan delegation to parade onto the main platform, we walked around the Paseo Stadium with these banners.
Why did we take such an action?
It must be understood that this action was necessary for a number of reasons.
First, it was necessary to demonstrate that FestPac is not just an event which highlights the beautiful cultural facets of our Pacific communities — songs, dances, chants, poetry, artwork, food, navigation. It is also an event which should remind us of the historical and political struggles of our peoples, of the social and political unrest in our Pacific Island nations (such as in the Marianas, West Papua, Hawai’i, Kanaky/New Caledonia) and the beauty in our ability to survive hundreds of years of colonialism.
Second, the action was necessary to show that we stand in solidarity with other Pacific islanders’ resistance movements.
Finally, this action was necessary to express the Chamoru situation. Guåhan remains a U.S. colony and Chamorus here have yet to vote for our political status. This is a very big deal, and others throughout the region and around the world need to know about it, and how there is a community of people who stand against the status quo.
And while there seemed to be mixed reactions toward our action (several of our mañaina or elders chanted “Biba Chamoru,” blew their kulo’ shells, and held up our island’s flag; others seemed confused; some even thought that that FestPac was not the appropriate venue for the action), it was an action that made a very clear, very bold statement: We recognize the struggles of our sisters and brothers throughout Oceania, including their movements against different colonial powers, movements regarding climate change and movements against violence toward Pacific islanders.
We stand in solidarity with the Kanaka Maoli, Kanak, Marshallese, i-Kiribati and West Papuans. We stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the region who are fighting to keep their cultures thriving, especially in places where they are the minority.
Further, we wanted to inform our local, regional and international communities of the struggle for political self-determination for the Chamoru people of Guåhan, how we have yet to exercise our rights as an indigenous people and how there is a strong movement to politically decolonize and liberate our indigenous community. As the oldest colony in Oceania, it is very important that this message be made known.
The FestPac closing ceremony could not have been a more perfect event to take action and make a political statement. FestPac is not solely a cultural event; it is very much a political event. After all, if it weren’t for the many political movements that occurred throughout the region — with indigenous languages and traditional practices, movements which were rooted in culture — then perhaps major changes in the region would not have been made.
We must stop thinking that we live in an island paradise, a utopia of peace and harmony. Because there is nothing peaceful about our indigenous peoples living on colonies, where we can’t make decisions for ourselves. There is nothing harmonious about being unable to control or even negotiate what the U.S./France/Chile/Taiwan wants to do with our lands. There is nothing utopic about the rejection of our right to decolonize ourselves.
The action that we took at the FestPac closing ceremony was necessary to make a statement, not just for Guåhan, but for the entire Pacific region. The world was watching us that night; hopefully, they heard our message, too. (*)
The author is a resident of Mangilao, Guam
PLI launch a new campus in West Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea
Vanimo, Jubi – Papua Language Institute (PLI) officially launch a new branch in West Sepik Province. A higher education service in Papua New Guinea has a similar vision with the PLI, which aims to reach educational service in all regions.
“Through our institution, we want to build collaboration to support the people of Papua and Papua New Guinea in learning English and Bahasa Indonesia,” Samuel Tabuni, the founder of Papua Language Institute told reporters in West Sepik on Friday, (13/12/2019).
Tabuni further admitted his institution has collaborated with a higher educational service in Papua New Guinea for two years before the launching. This collaboration is not only focused on language learning development but also other business.
“Papua and Papua New Guinea are families. But because of the language barrier, it hampers our communication and relationship. Therefore, we launch a branch of PLI here,” said Tabuni.
According to him, the provincial government of Papua has built good diplomatic relations with PNG. But, it needs to further transform this diplomatic relationship into an institution that can facilitate business, economy, and education. He believes that the international branch of PLI would not only launch in Vanimo, but there are also possibilities to launch in some border regions.
Furthermore, Tabuni hopes that the collaboration between the people of PNG and Papua can support the economic development of both areas and improve people’s livelihood.
“We hope there would be further collaboration in other sectors. Therefore, we can achieve better development and address poor communication, told Tabuni.
A student of PLI, Samuel Womsiwor, acknowledge the launching of PLI branch office in PNG. According to him, this international branch would enable students in PNG to exchange learning information with Papuan students to improve their intellectual skills.
“It’s very beneficial to improve the livelihood of people in Melanesian region as well as in Pacific,” said Womsiwor (*).
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
Pacific Forum countries urged to follow up on West Papua
Papua, Jubi – A West Papuan human rights defender has called for more Pacific islands countries to speak up internationally about human rights abuses in her homeland.
Rosa Moiwend, who has been visiting New Zealand this week, said it was important that Pacific Islands Forum countries advanced this issue to reflect widespread, grassroots concern for West Papua in the region.
At the 2015 Pacific Forum summit, leaders agreed to push for a fact-finding mission to Papua.
Indonesia is yet to allow such a mission to visit, but Ms Moiwend said forum members must follow this up.
“Because otherwise it’s just lip service from the forum,” she said.
“Members of the Pacific Islands Forum are also UN members, so we need more and more Pacific Island countries to speak about the human rights situation in West Papua.”
According to Ms Moiwend, while several small Pacific countries have raised Papua at the UN, bigger countries such as Australia and New Zealand should support them.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s infrastructure development drive in Papua is proving traumatic for remote indigenous communities, Ms Moiwend said.
Its centre-piece is the Trans-Papua Road project which is being built through some of Papua’s most remote terrain.
The project is also at the heart of heightened conflict in Papua’s Highlands since the West Papua Liberation Army massacred at least 16 road construction workers last December.
While conceding that opening up access to Papua through the project had its benefits, Ms Moiwend said it also brought outsiders and development that local Papuans were not prepared for.
“It will also open a space for more and more military and police posts along the road, because of the security reason that they will say.
“And it’s actually threatened people’s lives because for West Papuans people are traumatic with the presence of the military.”
Ms Moiwend’s family are customary landowners in Merauke in Papua’s south where rapid oil palm and agri-business development is underway.
“Customary land is actually affected by these big projects – food project and oil palm plantation,” Ms Moiwend explained, adding that indigenous communities had little say in the development
“I think government needs to discuss with the people. You can’t just come and (start) plotting the land and then invite the investor to come and invest their money because people rely on our land.
“The land is the source of our food. So if they want to replace with something else, then how can they provide food for our people?” (*)
Port Moresby evicts West Papuan refugees from city settlement
Papua, Jubi – About 250 West Papuans have been served notices of eviction to leave their settlement in Port Moresby, reports The National.
National Capital District Commission officials, escorted by police officers, handed the settlers demolition orders last Thursday and told them to leave their home in the suburb of Rainbow where they had lived for 11 years.
Communal leader Elly Wangai said that some of them were now PNG citizens after former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill allowed them to gain citizenship without paying the K10,000 application fee.
“But unlike other PNG citizens, we don’t have any land to go to. When we were given citizenship, the government did not give us land to settle. And this is the fifth time we have been evicted since 2007.
“We were first evicted from 8-Mile settlement and we settled outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Office at Ela Beach.
“Then we moved to the Boroko Police station. Then to Apex Park at Boroko and now to here.”
Wangai said they were willing to move from the settlement.
“This is a drainage area and we know that and we will move. But we want NCDC to provide land for us.
“If NCDC can evict other PNG settlements from 2-Mile and resettle them at 6-Mile, they should do the same for us.”
Wangai said they had once been given land at Red Hills in the suburb of Gerehu.
“But when we went there, developments were already taking place.
“So we had to return here. Since we were given eviction notices, our children were traumatised and did not attend school.
“Our mothers who are involved in small economical activities like selling doughnuts and ice blocks have stopped.
“They are finding it hard to earn money to look after their family. If we are given land to move, we will be confident to live our daily lives.”
According to ABC, Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop was unaware of the move to serve the demolition orders or what had prompted it.
A vocal supporter of the West Papua cause, Parkop said he would work to stop – or at least stall – the process to carry out the demolition orders, and fulfill his promise to find the settlers a permanent home.
“I hope I can sort it out soon and get proper allocation of the land so they’ve got security and can build a future.” (*)
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