Issue 2, August 2009
deadline for Fiji
has been given a final chance to agree to hold early elections or face
suspension from the Commonwealth.
Commonwealth ministers meeting
in London in July spent seven hours
debating whether to suspend Fiji
immediately amid deepening concern at the decision by the nation’s military
regime, led by CommodoreFrank Bainimarama, the self- appointed interim Prime
Minister, to put back the election timetable to 2014.
However, the nine-member Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which addresses serious breaches by member
nations of the organisation’s democratic values, gave the Pacific nation until
September 1 to commit to elections.
has already been excluded from all Commonwealth meetings. The Commonwealth
wants Fiji to
hold elections no later than October 2010.
The military regime, which
seized power in a 2006 coup, had promised to hold elections last March.
Since then, the situation had
“deteriorated strongly”, the group said. It deplored the abrogating of the
constitution in April, the “further entrenchment of authoritarian rule outside
the constitution and the rule of law, the ongoing violation of human rights
including the freedom of speech and assembly, arbitrary detention of opponents
of the military regime, and the undermining of the independence of the
judiciary and the legal system”.
If a positive reply is received from
Suva, the group has authorised its
Chair and Secretary-General to consult with Fiji
and report at its next meeting in New York
on Sept 26.
The group comprises Britain,
New Guinea, St
Lanka and Uganda.
The Pacific Islands Forum reaffirmed its suspension of Fiji
The Outrigger Issue 52, Spring
Lords Papua plea
THE Government was urged in a
Lords debate in February to step up efforts to persuade Indonesia
to put an end to the abuse of human rights and torture of political detainees
in West Papua.
THE proportion of indigenous
Melanesians in West Papua is expected to drop from 96 per cent of a 900,000
population in 1971 to around 15 per cent by 2030, the House of Lords was told
in a recent debate.
“Papuans are becoming a minority
in their own country”, said the Rt Rev Lord Harries, the former Bishop of
Oxford, quoting a UN source as describing West Papua as being among those
countries whose population were “at risk of extinction”.
Leading the debate on Feb 26, he
said that human rights abuses in West Papua were “very
grave”. The systematic brutality was in support of the 1969 “act of no choice”
when a handpicked 1,000 Papuans voted under military pressure to remain part of
instead of seeking independence.
He wanted the Government to work
for an international presence in West Papua to ensure
that those who are raising human rights issues could do so “without the present
fear of intimidation, torture and death”.
Speakers referred to
international reports alleging brutality by army, police and paramilitary units
in stamping out peaceful protests, and the widespread use of torture of
detainees, and extra-judicial executions.
Lord Archer of Sandwell said that history would not understand how human
suffering on such a scale continued year after year while the world looked on
complacently. He urged the Government to go to the Security Council.
Baroness Cox said that the
conflict was primarily a struggle for West Papuan independence or self-
The Lib-Dem spokesman, Lord
Avebury, who is a former president of TAPOL, the Indonesian human rights
campaign, asked for pressure to be applied to Indonesia
to train the judiciary and police, and Lord Astor (Cons) wanted the Government
to get Indonesia
to try to achieve a basic standard of human rights.
“Torture is a central pillar of
Papua rule,” he said.
For the Government, Lord
Malloch-Brown acknowledged that Lord Harries had raised issues that were not
was a country that had changed enormously in the past decade, including making
significant improvements in human rights.
recognised the shortcomings of Indonesia
but “we believe that the way forward is an internal dialogue between the people
of Papua and the Government of Jakarta”, he said.
Solomons can have a bright future,
AFTER a visit to the Solomons,
Michael Howard MP, former leader of the Conservative Party, said the Island
“enormous potential” and, given the right political and physical
infrastructure, could develop into a unique tourist destination.
“Apart from the usual attributes
of South Pacific Islands, the country has an
extraordinary legacy of the Second World War in terms of underwater wrecks and
islands on which President John F Kennedy was shipwrecked and from which he was
rescued during that conflict,” he told The Outrigger.
Mr Howard went to the Solomons
with Baroness Golding, the Labour peer, when he led a British parliamentary
delegation to the South Pacific last year. The delegates spent a week in New Zealand
before splitting up into small groups to see the Islands - Elliot Morley
(Labour MP for Scunthorpe) and Andrew Tyrie (Conservative, Chichester) went to
the Cook Islands; and David Crausby (Labour, BoltonNorth East) and Lindsay Hoyle
(Labour, Chorley) to Samoa.
The visit, arranged by the
branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, was to discuss climate
change, subsidy-free agriculture in New Zealand,
governance matters, the role of the CPA and, in the Solomons, development
Mr Howard and Baroness Golding
also saw for themselves the tsunami-struck areas around Gizo, where 52 people
died after an underwater earthquake, measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale,
unleashed a l6ft wall of water through the western Solomons. More than 36,000
people and 6,300 homes were affected.
During the CPA’s visit to Gizo,
Mr Richard Lyne, the British high commissioner, and Mr Howard handed over 60
sewing machines to women survivors in the emergency tented camp to provide them
with income for their families.
All elements of the visit were a
great success. In all the countries the delegates enjoyed excellent access to
parliamentarians and ministers.
Zealand, much time was spent on climate
The MPs agreed that the mission,
particularly to the Islands, was of much value. It gave
them a big insight into the challenges faced by the small Island
In the Cook Islands,
behind the outward façade of a South Pacific paradise, there were major
infrastructure challenges regarding potable water supply, drainage, sewage and
waste disposal and in Samoa, there was much interest in
climate change issues.
governance issues were discussed together with the tsunami relief funds from
the UK, which
at the time of the delegation’s visit, had not been disbursed some months after
the April disaster. Delegation members were disappointed that reconstruction
work still needed to be done on Gizo.
donated SI$250,000 (about £18,000) to the disaster fund. In addition, Britain
helped bilaterally with small recovery projects in Gizo, Vella Lavella and
South New Georgia as well as funding repairs to a crucial wharf at Nusatupe
airfield in Gizo.
The British Government also
helped to ensure the EU provided 550,000 Euros (about £380,000) from ECHO, its
humanitarian arm. ECHO’s work is largely focussed on water and sanitation work
as well as child welfare through the French Red Cross and the UK Save The
Children Fund, which is represented on the ground by the Australian branch.