Oceania Theater

Coalition backs Vanuatu case on climate justice

Some 1,500 advocacy groups from over 130 countries have formed a global alliance to support a Vanuatu government proposal seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change. The government plans to put the proposal to the UN General Assembly for a vote later this year. Prime Minister Bob Loughman said the Pacific Island nations can't survive if rich corporations and governments continue to put profits ahead of people and the planet. Addressing members of the new International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion (ICJAO) coalition, including the Climate Action Network, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and 350 Pacific, he said: "The climate crisis is a human rights crisis. Civil society and friends, this is not a crisis that I or my people will continue to accept; not before we have done everything within our powers to stop it. We, the smallest nations of the world do have power." (Climate Action Network International, Radio New Zealand)

China factor in New Caledonia independence vote

In a referendum Dec. 12, voters in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia rejected independence by an overwhelming 96%. The vote was the final of three mandated by the 1998 Nouméa Accord with the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), which had for years been waging an armed resistance. But this may not end the matter—the vote was this time boycotted by the FLNKS and its indigenous Kanak followers, who vowed to carry on the struggle. "We are pursuing our path of emancipation," Louis Mapou, New Caledonia's pro-independence president, told the New York Times.

Indonesia: 'treason' charges over West Papua flag

Indonesian police Dec. 6 arrested eight Papuan university students on charges of treason for raising the banned "Morning Star" flag in a demonstration for the independence of the Papua region. The demonstration took place at a stadium in Jayapura, capital of Papua province. The region, comprising the contemporary provinces of Papua and West Papua, was liberated from Dutch colonial occupation on Dec, 1, 1963, which is considered by many Papuans to be their "independence day." Following a UN-sanctioned referendum, the region fell under Indonesian rule in 1969. But an independence movement rejects the referendum as illegitimate, and has adopted the flag as a symbol of Papuan sovereignty.

Solomon Islands uprising in the New Cold War

Australia has dispatched some 100 police and military troops to the Solomon Islands following days of rioting and looting in the capital Honiara. Papua New Guinea has also sent in troops, and Fiji says a contingent is en route. Calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign, protesters attempted to set the parliament building ablaze, and torched and looted shops, causing millions of dollars in damages. The looting centered on the city's Chinatown, where three charred bodies have been found amid the ruins.

Pact indefinitely keeps open 'Australia's Gitmo'

A new memorandum of understanding allowing Australia to continue to indefinitely detain asylum seekers at a facility on the Pacific island of Nauru was signed on Sept. 24. Since 2012, asylum seekers arriving by boat have been barred from settlement in Australia and sent to offshore detention centers instead. The deal extending use of the Nauru facility comes just as the governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) finally reached an agreement to close the contentious Manus Island Regional Processing Center. In the deal announced Oct. 6, Australia and the PNG finalized a Regional Resettlement Arrangement in which detainees on Manus Island will either be transfered to Nauru or allowed to remain in Papua New Guinea with a "migration pathway" allowing eventual legal residency.

Vanuatu seeks ICJ opinion on climate justice

The South Pacific nation Vanuatu announced Sept. 25 its intention to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the rights of present and future generations to be protected from the adverse consequences of climate change. Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Vanuatu's Prime Minister Bob Loughman warned that the climate crisis is "increasingly eluding the control of individual national governments," and stressed the need for a global solution. The announcement set out his government's plan to coordinate the efforts of Pacific Island states and other vulnerable nations to seek clarification on the legal duties of large emitters of greenhouse gases. Its immediate goal is to establish a Pacific states coalition to drive the initiative.

Inter-American panel to hear Rapa Nui land claim

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Aug. 23 agreed to hear a complaint against the state of Chile brought by the Rapa Nui indigenous people of Easter Island, demanding recovery of their ancestral lands. The complaint accuses Chile of numerous violations of the American Convention on Human Rights, especially citing Article 4 on the right to life, Article 12 on freedom of conscience and religion, Article 21 on property rights, and Article 25 on judicial protection. More than 70% of traditional Rapa Nui lands are now classified as "state lands," from which the island's indigenous inhabitants are effectively excluded—causing "irremediable damage" to their way of life and autonomy. The complaint charges that this constitutes a violation of the 1888 Acuerdo de Voluntades (Consent Agreement), under which the Rapa Nui formally accepted Chilean sovereignty. (El Ciudadano, Chile; Pagina12, Argentina)

New Zealand settles Maori land claim

New Zealand iwi (Māori kinship group) Ngāti Maru signed a deed of settlement with the Crown on Feb. 26, resolving its historical Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) claims. Ngāti Maru is the last of eight iwi in Taranaki, a North Island region, to settle its land claims under the treaty. The Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Andrew Little, announced in a statement that the iwi, which comprises 2,800 registered members, will receive financial and cultural redress as part of the settlement, including an apology from the Crown. The financial redress is valued at NZD$30 million (about USD$20 million). The agreement also includes the vesting of 16 culturally significant sites to Ngāti Maru.

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