By Elizabeth Ah-Hi in Apia
The Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Dame Meg Taylor, has promised protesters that their voice on West Papua will be heard by the leaders attending the 48th Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders meeting this week.
West Papua may not have had a seat at the Pacific Leaders Forum table this week but they were not forgotten by Samoans who showed up to demonstrate on their behalf.
The protest was led by prominent lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu.
Between 30 to 35 members of the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union, Samoa First Union, Pacific Climate Warriors and Free West Papua supporters joined forces to demonstrate outside the PIF meeting.
Dame Meg came out to personally acknowledge the protesters before heading into the Sheraton.
Supporters of the moment chanted “Freedom for West Papua” and sang songs from the Mau, making a connection back to Samoa’s ancestors struggle for independence and sovereignty against New Zealand colonial authorities.
Message loud, clear
The demonstrators made their message loud and clear to the delegates, leaders and onlookers this morning as PIF members made their way to the Sheraton to begin the first day of official talks after last night’s opening.
The group was later asked to disperse an hour into their demonstration by police spokesperson Sala’a Sale Sala’a.
The group did not have a permit to protest.
Jerome Mika from the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union spoke with Sala’a and agreed to leave the area until a permit could be processed.
The Free West Papua supporters were satisfied with their efforts today.
“We call on the other Pacific Island heads of state to join the seven countries pushing to re-list West Papua with the UN Decolonisation Committee. Samoa as a nation through our forefathers fought for self-determination, and we should stand together with West Papua. Lest we forget,” the group said yesterday.
Protests at the Forum come after West Papua action groups last week urged leaders to continue their support and take decisive action, Pacific Media Watch reports.
Elizabeth Ah-Hi is a reporter with the Samoa Observer.