Activist in Fiji calls for leaders to speak up over West Papua
A human rights organisation in Fiji says Pacific nations need to support the West Paupan freedom movement instead of keeping quiet to keep Indonesia happy.
A human rights organisation in Fiji says Pacific nations need to support the West Papuan freedom movement instead of staying quiet to keep Indonesia happy.
The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre was asked by Fiji police during the weekend to remove a banner displaying the words 'Free West Papua'.
The embassy has since provided a statement to the Fiji Times, saying it saw the banner and informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of Fiji.
The centre's co-ordinator, Shamima Ali, told Amelia Langford the centre may have taken the banner down but it still made its point.
SHAMIMA ALI: We had visits by two lots of police officers over Thursday and Friday and they asked us if - they thought something was going on here because of the posters - whether there was a breach of peace and so we asked them about the law, whether we were breaking any laws or something and they said 'no, nothing'. We had a call from our police force down the road, a visit, and then one from the CID headquarters. And then they left and then I was asked by a senior police officer on Saturday whether I would kindly remove it and once again I asked him if there was a law being broken and I was told that the Indonesian Ambassador had asked, had requested that, and that the Fiji Government had recognised the Indonesian Government and therefore if we could kindly remove it. So, we said we would remove it when the time is right.
AMELIA LANGFORD: And why did you decide to remove it if it wasn't breaking the law?
SA: We run these campaigns because the crisis centre is also the chair of the NGO Coalition for Human Rights so you know, we are a human rights organisation for both Fiji and the Pacific and we pick up issues of human rights around the Pacific and also other countries where we have partners, who are part of our network. So this was one of the campaigns, a week long one, and also it was to coincide with the visit of the Indonesian President and delegation from Indonesia last week. But I should make it clear there was no pressure put on us but we were very gently asked whether we could use our judgement on this matter and things like that but we took it down when we wanted to and we did not do it immediately over the weekend. So these sort of things do happen in the country and we are getting pretty used to it and also the closeness of the Indonesian Government to the Fijian Government and I think that is a big aspect of it. You know, we have been supporting the West Papua Freedom movement for a long time as we did East Timor you know we also support the Free Tibet movement and so on. But particuarly in the Pacific for West Papua we've had several visits recently from West Papuans, we have read about it, there have been articles over the internet and through email about what is actually happening there, the alleged human rights violations and particuarly what is happening to women and this is right in our backyard, this is a Pacific country. And our Pacific Island leaders don't seem to care about the people, they seem to care a lot more about the Indonesian Government and what it can give to us, towards our development and so on. For us it is a form of prostitution, whereby we keep quiet about what is happening to our own brothers and sisters as long as the relationship with Indonesia stays firm.
The Indonesian Embassy in Fiji has said West Papua is an internal matter for Indonesia.
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