The progress of human society, has in different ages, presented abundance of horrors and abundance of vices, which in treating history properly, we are obliged to pass over gently, and often to conceal; but, nevertheless, if we neglect or suppress these facts altogether, we injure the truth of history itself, almost to the same manner as we should injure a man’s health by destroying some of the nerves or muscles of his body. (Richard Payne Knight, 1865)
There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. (Hosea 4:2, New International Version)
What the aforementioned quotes have in common is that they represent two aspects of humanity, the propensity of humans to commit crimes to further their own interest, coupled with humanities propensity to then attempt to conceal the magnitude of those crimes. When I was undertaking a pre-seminary course with Father Beader during Years 11 & 12 we often discussed what Hosea 4:2 meant. During those discussions we agreed that Hosea 4:2 was saying that where there is no truth there will be lies and perjury; for false swearing is brought in to confirm lying statements. And when there is no mercy, killing, slaying, and murders, will be frequent. And where there is no knowledge of God, no conviction of his omnipresence and omniscience, private offenses, such as stealing, adulteries, etc., will prevail. These, sooner or later, break out, become a flood, and carry all before them.
In later life when I converted to Judaism for reasons of matrimony and to keep the in-laws happy, I began reading the Bible from a different perspective and realised that while Hosea 4:2 is speaking of the ills that will befall society in the absence of truth and integrity. It is also speaking of what Christianity, at least in the early days, brought to the “savages” of the Pacific, a bequest that still haunts all of the indigenous peoples of the region.
During the recent PIF West Papuan issue became a non-event. When asked about human rights abuses in Fiji and West Papua UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the issue of human rights was something that should be discussed with the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, adding that it could deal with any country regardless of whether it was an independent state or self-governing territory. Adding that:
“And when [the issue] comes again, whether you are an independent state or a non-self-governing territory or whatever, the human rights is inalienable and a fundamental principle of the United Nations. We will do all to ensure that people in West Papua [that] their human rights will be respected.”
The young journalist from PNG Henry Yamo who first raised the issue of West Papua with Ban Ki-moon then asked:
“Will a human rights fact-finding mission be dispatched to West Papua at some time?”
BKM: “That is the same answer [to a previous question on Fiji] that should be discussed at the Human Rights Council among the member states. Normally the Secretary General acts on the basis of a mandate given by inter-governmental bodies.”
Throughout the conference, human right groups from West Papua and Fiji were protesting outside the Forum venue at Sky City, calling for the United Nations to give recognition to the issues of human rights in their respective countries.
Groups protesting in Auckland to attract attention from the United Nations included the Free and Democratic Movement of Fiji, based in New Zealand as well as members of the West Papua National Coalition for liberation (WPNCL) and the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee.
Representatives of the two groups said they would take their call further to the United Nations General Assembly that would be held later this month.
Difference in media treatment of the West Papuan versus the Fiji protests
In spite of West Papuan protests outside the Forum opening and at the summit hotel, the media seemed to be only interested in the parallel protest against the Fiji military regime. The Forum communiqué from the PIF failed to mention West Papua. While the PIF has already granted New Caledonia and French Polynesia associate member status, and Timor-Leste (another former Indonesian former colonial possession) observer status and is granting American Samoa the same privileges, it remains silent about the atrocities and human rights violations in a Melanesian territory of the Pacific.
The difference between the West Papua and Fiji, at least from the perspective of ‘white’ neo-colonialists, is that multi-national miners such as Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold and others have unlimited access to West Papuan resources while it remains a province of Indonesia while Fiji and its resources remain closed to western exploitation.
How can those who claim to be Christian and to believe in the sanctity of all humanity sit ideally by and watch the false swearing, lying statements, killing, slaying and murders that are the lives of most indigenous West Papuans today? This is hypocrisy of a high order and serves to reinforce the blatant corruption and racism that informs modern ‘white’ society in its relations with the world’s indigenous peoples. But, the hypocrisy does not stop there!
Gender based violence
The issue of Sexual and gender-based violence against women was cited in the final PIF communiqué again this year. What is remarkable about this is the fact that the ‘white’ dominated media took so little notice of it. Amnesty International collected a petition of 21,000 signatures and to his credit, President Anote Tong, accepted this while no other Pacific leader did.
The ‘white’ dominated media took even less interest, in the presentation by Jocelyn Lai of the Young Women’s Christian Association who presented harrowing case studies of violence against women and girls in the Solomon Islands, violence that goes unpunished because of a culture of silence, impunity and stigma. A report about Solomon Islands slums which detailed the appalling state of sanitation and personal safety in them went unreported by the self-interested ‘white’ media. Surely a situation in two thirds of women and girls aged between 15 and 49 had experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners and other family member’s warrants media attention!
Given the appalling state of personal safety in the SI, an issue that was raised at the PIF, yet ignored by the media, brings into question the supposed successes and justification for RAMSI and reinforces a point I have been making for some time now – who really benefits from RAMSI – is it the people of the SI, or the owners of the RAMSI related companies? As the old saying goes, the proof of the pudding… and the RAMSI pudding is very sour indeed.
In fact, the Forum’s engagement with community issues was dismal. While PIF leaders recognised that many of the issues impacting on the wider community were already on the regional agenda. It was rhetoric and no action. Female representation, or rather lack of it, is nothing short of “scandalous”. There are ten countries in the modern world that boast of female free legislatures, six of these are in the Pacific – way to go RAMSI!
Little will change politically in the Pacific region without more women and a greater diversity in parliamentary representation. Yet women’s and certain minority groups remain marginalised, if not actually excluded, by the Australian funded and supported PIF establishment. Next year in the Cook Islands an actual “dialogue” is needed between the region’s political leaders and the NGOs.
An independent think tank, the Pacific Policy Institute based in Vanuatu, was excluded from the PIF. While the conservative Australian-based Lowy Institute enjoyed a privileged position, including having a day-long conference in an Auckland hotel just two days before the Forum opened and had the opportunity to launch a controversial Fiji opinion poll, its opposite number – a real Pacific think tank, was being denied any accreditation.
It is believed that this is because of its policy on Fiji of seeking “positive engagement”.
What all this says is that RAMSI and its major sponsors Australia and New Zealand have a long way to go if it is really their intention to bring the ‘rule of law’ to the “savages’ of the Pacific. Finally on the point of “savages” what could be a higher indicator of inhumane savagery than to sit ideally by watching innocents being slaughtered in a near neighbour – West Papua in the name of the all mighty god – Mammon?