History recorded that on Friday, 19 April 2013, Pacific parliamentarians spoke inside New Zealand’s parliament house.
It is a big deal according to Samoa’s member of parliament, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi.
“The important thing for us was having the chance to speak inside New Zealand parliament,” he told the New Zealand Pacific.
“This is their highest court, it’s the people’s court.”
Their participation in Wellington was based on a personal invitation and therefore, Pacific issues were debated based on their opinions, and not on behalf of their governments.
And that suited Papua New Guinea’s, Mr Gary Juffa, the Governor of Oro Province. It allowed him to speak about two important issues, not only in his region, but for the whole Pacific.
“First I want to thank the New Zealand parliament for the opportunity to come and speak meaningfully without having to make diplomatic or flowery statements that really have no meaning,” he told the New Zealand Pacific.
The two issues he talked about were the acts of atrocities committed against West Papuans, and the potential negative impacts to Pacific countries of free trade agreements.
West Papuans are Pacific islanders said Mr Juffa. There are more than three million of them and they are being terrorized in their country as a result of an act made by the United Nations (U.N.).
“In 1969, the United Nations committed a huge act of injustice by handing West Papua to Indonesia,” he said.
“And they did that for corporate interests, because of the vast natural resources of that island which the western world wanted to exploit through an Indonesian government that they could control,” he alleged.
He told members of parliament that while in Wellington they can make the most elaborate and flowery speeches, “talk about the great Pacific Plan, about trade liberalization and freeing the Pacific and so forth until the cows come home, but, we cannot ignore West Papua.”
He pointed out how the world rushed to give condolences to Bostonians and people of the United States as a result of the bombings there last week.
“The global media and countries, including the Pacific, condemned what happened in Boston. But what is invisible in our own backyard, for more than fifty years, are acts of terrorism that are happening in West Papua every day,” said Mr Juffa.
“Every month, scores of people are being killed, raped, mutilated, murdered, maimed, you name it. But where’s the media? Where is New Zealand and Australia? Where are we?”
The U.N. said Mr Juffa, must be made to correct the mistake it committed in 1969.
“As a Pacific leader that is what I want. I want this information to get out so that every Pacific leader knows what is happening and for all of us to rise up together and demand Indonesia stop this brutality.
“That includes Australia and New Zealand, who are always claiming to be fighting for the best interests of the Pacific. Well here is their chance to truly voice their concern about democracy.”
Mr Juffa highlighted New Zealand’s been lobbying the Pacific vote in order to win a seat in the U.N’s security council.
“If New Zealand wins and becomes a member, will it perform its responsibility to the people of the Pacific including West Papua?”
As far as Mr Juffa’s concerned New Zealand must do the right thing.
“I want New Zealand to demand that the brutality stop. I want them to demand for the people of West Papua to be taken back on board by the U.N. That they must go back to 1969 and re-examine what happened.”
Mr Tavita Pue from Tokelau supports the stance by Mr Juffa.
“As a Pacific Islander, I feel for them. It’s about time that the world sees what is really happening in West Papua,” he said.
“We as islanders need to support this call.”
“Mr Juffa is right. This is happening in our backyard and we cannot ignore that any longer. I strongly support his views.
“The people of West Papua are Pacific islanders, they share the same values as us and we’re bonded as the Pacific family. We must help.”
The issue of ‘Free trade agreements’ according to Mr Juffa is “the re-colonisation of the Pacific.
“The end result of free trade agreements is that we will become spectators in our own country, watching our resources cut down. We will end up standing on the outside looking in, begging bowl in hand or waiting underneath the table to feed on crumbs from resources that we own.”
He is adamant free trade agreements “is the recolonisation process taking place all over again. We will end up being relegated to fruit pickers and subservient cargo boys.”
Trade liberalization he pointed out, specifically targets the removal of customs duties.
As PNG’s former Customs Commissioner, he knows what he’s talking about.
“When you do away with customs duties you are doing away with a significant portion of a nation’s budget. So how are you going to meet that shortfall?
“Well it usually means imposing a type of GST or VAT. But when that happens, you are simply transferring the responsibility from the company to the people. That means the people are going to pay more.
“And that’s the crux. Where there is an additional shortfall that cannot be met by the people then obviously the larger economies are going to come back with their cheque books and exercise ‘cheque book diplomacy’ again and cultivate our dependency through aid and so forth.
“That is us, Pacific islanders recolonized all over again. And that is not what we want. We are supposed to be a free Pacific and how are we going to be free if we are constantly economically dependent?”
In his opinion, the best way to stop the West Papuan atrocities, and negative potential of free trade agreements is for Pacific nations to band together and have a united voice.
“We need to tell these large corporations that we own our own land, many of us are self sufficient, let us maintain that self sufficiency sustainability.
“And if we are to have any engagement with trade then we must consider:
- our environment
- health of our people
- consider the economic benefits to our people and
- most importantly, consider our future generations. Where will our children be tomorrow? Will they be participating in the development of their economies? will they be masters of their own destinies, or will they be slaves, be subservient recolonized people merely following the wishes, the will and whatever it is imposed upon them by either New Zealand, Australia, or the western world.”
It is time for the Pacific to stand up said Mr Juffa.
“In the past we have always loved to share, open our doors to strangers, bring out our ukulele perform the sing songs and treat visitors as royalty.
It is time to stop being ‘too Pacific’, and be more assertive said Mr Juffa.
“We must think about our children tomorrow. Where will they be, what will they be doing? Will the beautiful Pacific ocean still be ours? The bountiful land and wonderful mountains with their lush forests – will they still be ours?
“We must ask ourselves these questions and then determine our own future strategically and tactfully.”
As for the Pacific parliamentary forum, “If New Zealand really wanted to hear us, well we have spoken.”
- NZ Pacific