Police in Fiji, Solomon Islands urged to stop interfering with peaceful protests
July 18, NY: Police in Fiji and the Solomon Islands should stop interfering with peaceful protests, including the right to raise West Papua flags, says PFF, the Pacific Freedom Forum.
"Seizing flags once again shows some of our police have no respect for freedom of speech," says PFF Chair Titi Gabi. He also said: "Such freedoms are guaranteed under the constitutions of both countries."
Fiji media reported this week that police seized a West Papua flag from the private property of the Suva-based Pacific Conference of Churches. Police acted after a complaint to the Fiji ministry of Defence, from the embassy of Indonesia.
Late last week, a similar complaint was made to Solomon Islands police by an Indonesian consular officer, over a banner hung at the international airport.
"We support campaigners in the Solomon Islands describing this action as shameful," says Gabi.
PFF is calling on the governments of Fiji and Solomon Islands to instruct police not to interfere with citizen rights to peaceful protest.
PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller says that police must stay outside of politics, and protect citizen rights, not harm them. "Pacific countries have rightfully rejected political bullying from Australia and New Zealand in the past," says Miller. "We must also resist undue influence sought by Indonesia over our rights to protect and promote freedoms of speech for all Pacific people."
In Fiji, the flag was rehoist after a peaceful protest.
In the Solomon Islands, officers from the Criminal Investigation Department moved to remove a West Papua banner, hung in a hut outside the main terminal.
Indonesia also pressured the Fiji Museum to shut down an art display by the Youngsolwara activist group, supporting self-determination for West Papua.
Police interference in Fiji and Solomon Islands protests occurred at the same time as hundreds of arrests took place in Indonesia, as protesters gathered to await a decision from the Melanesian Spearhead Group on full membership for West Papua.
Thousands marched in capitals across the Pacific in support of the MSG membership bid, including in Suva, Honiara, and Port Moresby.
The Oslo Times International News Network