Powes Parkop – is PNG’s Champion for West Papua Going Soft?
After Powes Parkop was elected Governor of the National Capital District (NCD) in the PNG elections in July 2007, he made the following statement to the press:
“I have a moral obligation to speak out about West Papua. I will speak on the issue of West Papua so that it is raised as a serious issue in Papua New Guinea and in the region so it can be addressed, because this is a real issue. It’s been pushed under the carpet for too long.”
For a new elected politician entering PNG’s 8’th National Parliament, it was quite a radical perspective to carry into the Haus Tambaran. Over the years not a single PNG Government has supported West Papua’s push for independence due to a number of reasons which I will not discuss in this post. What I do find very interesting is Powes Parkop’s support for the movement.
What prompted me to write this post was a brilliant legal argument I stumbled upon written by Parkop when he was Chairman of Melanesian Solidarity (I’m not too sure if he still is?). Melanesian Solidarity or simply MelSol is a PNG-based interest group that campaigns against neo-colonialism across Melanesia, including West Papua.
That legal paper is titles Reinscription of West Papua as a Colonised State and People and presents the case for West Papua as a State and as a people entitled to exercise the right to self-determination under International Law by presenting valid historical, ethno-cultural, geographical and political arguments – all of which make sense.
In 2000, as an MelSol activist, Parkop criticised then PNG Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta and his government for once again sweeping the West Papua issue “under the carpet”. Parkop went on to say:
“The government may continuously try to bury the West Papuan issue but everyone knows that it will not go away. West Papuans have unanimously called for independence and nothing will stop them. The long term solution is to facilitate the will of the people instead of turning a blind eye. Long term security of the region will be better guaranteed if the West Papua issue is put on the negotiating table and addressed to the satisfaction of the West Papuan people.”
On the international pro-West Papua front, the current NCD Governor is actually listed as being an active current member of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) which was inaugrally launched on December 1st, 2008 in London. Members of that group also include notable MP’s from the UK and Vanuatu. Mysteriously, Parkop was expected to attend the launching – but never did.
When launching the 2007 Let’s Do It PNG Media Expo, Powes Pakop challenged the PNG media to more actively address the issue of West Papua:
“I do not even know of or have heard of an organised media visit to West Papua through the Indonesia Embassy. It seems that as far as the media was concerned, West Papua was a ‘a taboo’ [subject]. It’s a domestic affair similar to how we treat domestic violence. We only highlight the facts with screaming headlines in newspapers or TV after the wife has been killed and the husband charged with murder or manslaughter.”
More recently, it is interesting to note that Powes Parkop has been responsible for using force to displace West Papuan refugees from their settlements in NCD five times within nine months. West Papuans in NCD have moved from Eight Mile to Ela Beach, then to the back of Boroko Police Station, then to residential homes near Apex Park, then to Apex Park Sports Oval, where they were eventually evicted again to Rainbow Estate at Gerehu.
So, the question must be asked, is Powes Parkop going soft on his stance regarding independence for West Papua?