Friday, September 26, 2014

Scotland the Brave (well 45 per cent)

UNITED in Maryhill!  Enthusiasm for Independence vote in working class Glasgow enough to overcome even long cherished differences, such as "whit team d' ye support".

IT'S over a week since the referendum in Scotland, and though I've seen and taken part in several discussions online, I still feel reminded of what the Chinese prime minister Zhou en Lai is said to have replied when asked what he thought had been  the impact of the French Revolution on western civilisation. Zhou, who was reputed to be a keen student of history, said that it was too soon to tell.

It's a nice little story, even though an American interpreter has rather spoilt the tale of inscrutable Oriental wisdom and reserve by saying that Zhou had not realised his guests were talking about the bourgeois revolution of 1789; he was thinking about the more recent student and worker upheaval of May-June 1968, which, though it did not result in a change of power, did shake up politics a bit.

Scotland has not had a revolution, nor even a wave of occupations and strikes. Its people have not even voted for independence, unless one believes the wildest allegations that the vote was rigged. But, despite all the thunder of establishment politicians and media, - maybe even to some extent because of it - some 45 per cent of Scottish voters defied warnings about jobs and pensions, and ignored appeals for the pound,  "our boys" and the Union Jack, and said YES to independence.

There was a time when that would have seemed a wild dream. Indeed when I first spent some time in Scotland, back in 1969, we on the Left still sneered that the Scottish National Party(SNP) were "Tartan Tories". A man in a Bathgate pub who, rather oddly I thought, mistook me for a Nationalist, said "Go and tell Wullie Wolfe that if he thinks he should run Scotland he had better start by paying his workers decent wages!"

Wullie, or William Wolfe was the owner of a local factory which made shovels. He had just become national convenor of the SNP, and he also stood as candidate for West Lothian that year, coming second to Labour's Tam Dalyell. That in itself was quite an achievement, and Wolfe is credited with helping his party acquire a modern image, and "social democratic" ideas. I don't know whether his workers' wages saw commensurate improvement.

But what is obvious from this referendum, and the upsurge in support for the SNP and other pro-independence parties that followed, is that the "YES" campaign did not depend on flag-waving demagogy and sentimentality, and nor was its appeal solely or even chiefly to the middle class.

On the contrary, the areas where the majority voted "YES" were Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbarton and Dundee.  All places hard hit by austerity, and places Labour would have normally counted on for electoral support. In Keir Hardie's North Ayrshire cradle it was close, 49% yes against 51 per cent

In contrast, the SNP was let down by many of its own voters
in places where working class consciousness is normally outweighed by patriotism, and profit.   (Though I notice also the YES vote was not high in West Lothian -that man in a Bathgate pub must have had his say!)

As for the idea - put around by some Lefties far from the scene who don't seem to have ventured north of the Border, nor much outside the M25 -that the nationalist appeal was anti-"foreigner" and akin to far Right parties scapegoating immigrants and minorities, I did not see any sign of this in the varied complexions of "Yes" campaigners or SNP representatives.  The first Scots-Asian to become a member of the Scottish parliament was Humza Yousef, the SNP MSP for the Glasgow region.

Though I'm no fan of Alec Salmond, I was interested to hear him criticise the last Labour government for decreeing that non-EU medical students who graduate here should not be allowed to work in the NHS, which was the only way many could pay for their studies. He promised to reverse this. I've not heard much said about this on the "Left", though it is obvious that in practice "non-EU" means non-white. Now which of the Parties is racialist?

A Scots friend who returned to his country after some years for the campaign was struck by the cheerful optimism he found in working class Glasgow neighborhoods, even bringing together traditional foes with allegiance to different football teams (see the photo he posted above). 

 A friend-of-a-friend whom I do not know but who, to judge from her surname was one of the YES campaign's more cosmopolitan supporters, writes: 
      " If you would have been on the ground here in Glasgow you would have seen a campaign of hope, of people actively thinking together about what type of world they want to live in believing that they can make it happen. Some of my favorite experiences were having conversations with 13 year old girls at our stall outside of Lidl, where they spoke insightfully about trident, defense policy, socialism and immigration - where they thought for themselves and refused to accept the status quo. At the polling station as people emerged so many of the yes voters were joyful, hopeful, voting for the first time, feeling a collective energy. The no voters as they came out were frequently angry, embittered, surly".

The one outburst of Far-Right hooliganism and violence (though it had been preceded by individual incidents and threats) came from "NO" supporters who flooded into Glasgow's St.George's Square on the Friday night. Though not all may have realised what was afoot, this crowd included supporters of the National Front and Britain First, as well as hardline Loyalists outraged that the previous week's Orange Order march in Edinburgh had failed to do the trick of provoking sectarian strife.  In contrast to the carnival atmosphere of the YES celebrations the evidence was not of people celebrating the NO vote but of thugs out for revenge. 

"Nazi salutes and taunting and jeering a much smaller and more peaceful group of Yes supporters,  fighting, terrorising ordinary people and spreading disorder in a city which until Friday night had been a carnival of fun and hope, not a carnival of hate. "
Two men set fire to a generator belonging to the Glasgow Herald, the only paper that had supported the YES vote. 
Of course, this was not typical of the ordinary voters who rejected independence. But it did happen, and it was real, unlike the imaginary threats of fear and hatred which some of our "Lefts" opposed to independence had been dreaming up. Yet for some reason they did not notice it, or regard it as significant, and some seemed to resent me mentioning it.  

Unlike Ireland, which was England's oldest colony, Scotland has been a full, if not equal, partner in British imperialism. Although the 1707 Act of Union was described as a political "job" by critics, it gave Scottish landowners the chance to export black cattle, coal and other goods to the English market, and Glasgow merchants access to colonial trade. It was the Edinburgh bourgeois then who resented the loss of parliamentary patronage and their profitable trade in luxury imports from France, against which Britain waged economic war. Glasgow, centre of Clydeside shipbuilding and textiles industries, became the wealthy second city of Empire, for all its now notorious slums. Scottish settlers, soldiers, engineers, missionaries and bankers fanned out around the world.

For several decades now Scotland has not just seen the loss of empire, and the once strong industries of which its people were justly proud, but suffered - as have regions of England, - neglect by Westminster governments for whom the City of London's financial speculation and money-laundering activity are all that counts. Scots wondering what happened to oil wealth only had to look to Norway, not some faraway utopia, but another small country, where different policies prevailed.

Adding insult to injury, the Scottish people who contributed so much blood and sweat, as well as intellect, to Britain's greatness, have to listen to ignorant gibes from southern English airheads like Tory MP Nadine Dorries, who asked "why are we paying them to eat deep-fried mars bars"  when Britain could not get decent health care? Not that health care deficiencies are anything to do with her government, of course.

So it is not really surprising that in Scotland, social resentment of neo-liberal economics and austerity policies has taken on, at least temporarily, a national form. Besides, the opportunity to aim a kick at the Old Etonians' cabinet and coalition was too good to miss.   

Cameron's Tories, who only had one MP left in Scotland, can feel relieved that the Union has survived the vote. It is Labour, which devoted months to the 'Better Together' campaign,  drafting in members from south of the border, and even wheeling out the much-abused Gordon Brown as an authority figure, which has taken a well-deserved kick in the pants.

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, told the party's annual conference in Manchester that the main lesson of the referendum  was that "working people matter". The working class and especially young people had shown their interest in politics and how they had been "electrified" by the engagement.

Workers had turned their backs on Labour's advice in Scotland,  McCluskey, continued: "We can't say we weren't warned. Even after the SNP started winning Scottish parliament seats in the east end of Glasgow, some in the Scottish Labour Party clung to the mantra of wooing the middle classes. It took a referendum campaign to remind us that you ignore the hopes of the working people at your political peril."

We might add that when the boss of a Swiss-based company was threatening to close Grangemouth oil refinery and much of  Scotland with it, the Labour leadership was with the media pack attacking the union. McCluskey has taken stick for signing a climb-down agreement, but one wonders whether things might have gone differently had the workers been given strong labour movement backing, or boosted by the prospect of an independent government under pressure to back them taking the refinery over.

That might be too much to expect from an SNP funded by the likes of the Souters, of Stagecoach fame. But that's not the issue now.

 Defeated or not, pro-independence parties have received a huge wave of new members after the referendum. The SNP reports a 66 per cent increase in membership, and says those joining include not just newcomers to politics but former Labour activists who have had enough.

The Scottish Socialist Party, at a low ebb since the Tommy Sheridan scandal contrived by the Murdock press, and the Sheridan split encouraged by the English sects, has gained around 2,000 new recruits. This might tempt back some older stalwarts who had felt worn out, and be enough for the SSP to regain some Holyrood seats.

The Socialist Party in Scotland, not to be confused, nor subject of 'Life of Brian' jokes please, has emerged calling for a new "mass workers party" in Scotland. Sounds familiar? This is  the extension north of the border of the Socialist Party in England and Wales. True to previous lack of interest in the national question it interprets the YES vote in flat, economist terms, and true to previous SP involvement in Scotland it makes a call for unity specifically inviting Tommy Sheridan and his Solidarity group, and not mentioning the Scottish Socialist Party at all.

Unfortunately for this courtship, Sheridan has already called on his supporters to vote for the SNP next year, and may even be thinking of joining. Unfortunately for Sheridan, word is the SNP leadership and existing membership don't like Sheridan and would sooner do without his support. The course of true love never did run smooth.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

TUC avoids encouraging us

FULL SQUARE for the NHS. Full marks for initiative.

WE seem to be seeing off the celebrity ice bucket craze, touch wood, but an older tradition persists, of pouring cold water on anyone who shows enthusiasm for getting involved and changing things.

Some 15,000 people turned out in Trafalgar Square on September 7 for a demonstration in defence of the National Health Service that began with a group of women in the North East of England deciding to march to London following the route of the pre-war unemployed Hunger Marches. About 5,000 joined them on the final leg of their march into central London.

Next month the TUC is holding its own demonstration on October 18, which should hopefully attract much larger support, particularly with big unions and their resources to back it.  In the week leading up to it important groups of public sector workers particularly are due to take industrial action. But many trade unionists are critical of the way the TUC seems to have retreated from calls for confrontation with the government to almost ritual annual parades.

They also question the decision taken some time back by top officials that the sole theme of the October 18 demo should be "Britain Needs A Pay Rise". Some Brits, the rich and the overpaid bankers, don't need anything of the sort, they are wealthier than ever; whereas the workers who produce the wealth and provide essential services, some of them having to claim benefits even though working, don't think they are going to win a decent rise merely by walking through town asking for it.
That's not why they joined a trade union.

As the TUC leaflet for October 18 states, real wages of full-time workers in the South East of England were £2,500 a year lower in 2013 than in 2010; and in London £3,151 a year lower.  But many have also lost jobs and homes, they are being driven from the capital by soaring rents and benefit capping, they are being deprived of health services, and disabled people are facing the inquisition to try and keep their benefits.

It is necessary to defend all parts of our life, and trade unions must reach out to the unemployed and unorganised, those forced to take casual work and zero hours contacts, those struggling to get and keep a roof over their heads, the young, the old, and the disabled, some of whose own battles with callous authority have been an example in courage and audacity.

Unite community branches are one way of broadening out, and giving more people the chance to get involved, another are good old-fashioned trades councils, linking members of different unions to pursue trade unionism in the community.  In the west London borough of Ealing both Unite Community and the trades council have been active against NHS cuts, and supported protests against the closure of A&E departments at the Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals. 

In preparation for the TUC's October 18 demonstration, Ealing trades council has called a public meeting at the town hall on September 29, with speakers including John McDonnell MP, and Linda Kaucher, a campaigner against the TTIP agreements. Ealing submitted the motion adopted by this year's conference of trades union councils concerning the dangers of TTIP for the NHS.      
 (see also:

Trades union councils, trades councils to use their original and easier name, have been around since the 19th century. Though beginning with modest aims like maintaining area wage rates, their bringing together workers from different trades and workplaces also brought a broader, class outlook. It was in 1868, a year after the Second Reform Act first extended the franchise to working men, that the Manchester and Salford Trades Council called a conference at the Mechanics Institute in Manchester which  became the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Though rapidly outgrown by their offspring, the trades councils did not shrivel or become obsolete. In the 1926 General Strike, the General Council of the TUC confronted the government.  But it was the trades councils in the localities, often with constituency Labour Parties and co-ops, which became Councils of Action, conducting the struggle, sending out despatch riders, maintaining pickets and strike newspapers, and sometimes coming near to taking on the functions of government.
When it is necessary to obtain written permits from the workers' council to take a lorry across Sheffield, or when a 'workers' defence corps' is entrusted with keeping order, we have the beginnings of what historians call dual power.  

While remaining essentially rank-and-file, grass roots bodies, trades councils have not confined themselves to the parochial. Two members of the London Trades Council, George Odgar and George Howells, helped Marx start the First International, though it was Manchester and Salford Trades Council and Birmingham Trades Council which affiliated.

In 1939 it was Stepney trades council (now in Tower Hamlets) which arranged the first exhibition in Britain of Picasso's Guernica, opened by Clem Attlee, as part of its efforts to raise aid for Republican Spain.

In June 1962, Tom Durkin, secretary of Willesden Trades Council (later merged with Wembley to form Brent TUC) arranged for a young South African militant about to return home to address a trades council public meeting in the Anson Hall. It was Nelson Mandela's first big meeting here , his last before returning to capture.

Best known for its support to the Grunwick strikers, Brent trades council is much reduced in strength nowadays, as is its industrial base, but remains aware of its international responsibility, in one of the most diverse areas of Britain. Together with Asian groups we protested Brent North Labour MP Barry Gardiner's invitation of right-wing Indian politician Narendra Modi, (the visit was cancelled). Discovering we had an embassy, that of Cambodia, in our borough, we have also joined War on Want and others campaigning over the treatment of Cambodian textile workers. The adage "Think globally, act locally" might have been invented for trades councils.

Yet trades councils remain the Cindarellas of the trade union movement, short of funds and access to resources, and treated with disdain and suspicion by some full-time union officials, who do not encourage their branches to affiliate. Their attitude permeates down by stealthy whispers and asides, rather than open argument. Campaigning against cuts in west London, a colleague asked one public service branch secretary whether they'd considered affiliating. "Oh no," replied the brother, who'd evidently been briefed. "We don't want anything to do with trades councils, they are all run by Trots!"

Each year the trades councils conference is entitled to submit one motion to the TUC, and to send one fraternal, or sororal, delegate. But the delegate is not allowed to speak or vote on this or anything else, being only there in a honorary capacity. If there at all. A couple of years ago the honour fell on me to atend the TUC in Brighton.  When the chair, Paul Kenny, of the GMB, welcomed the fraternal delegate Bro.Pottins, there was slight applause, but Bro.Pottins was nowhere to be seen, having been relegated to the outer darkness of a distant balcony because I'd only been given a visitor's credential. This might have been simply an administrative mistake, but it was not remedied through the week.

I hear this year's fraternal delegate, Bridgwater postman Dave Chapple of the CWU, was slightly more fortunate,  only managing a seat in the hall because a member of the RMT delegation had not shown up.

It was the late Bob Crow of the RMT union who moved the resolution last year on behalf of the trades union councils, calling for us to be given bigger material support for  campaigning, unions to encourage their branches' affiliations, and our proper representation in the TUC.  This was passed, although TUC officials had "reservations" about the last bit, and one year later it appeared nothing had been done. So this year's trades union councils conference in Cardiff, after hearing from the TUC's Paul Nowak without quite grasping what his "reservations" were, adopted a motion essentially reiterating the call for unions' support and for the right of our delegate to participate properly, and be able to move our own motion at Congress.

Once again, after the tragic loss of Bob Crow,  it fell to the RMT to move this at the TUC, and it was seconded by Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades Union and supported by my own union, Unite.  Only a couple of smaller unions' delegates spoke against, and they appear to have been misinformed that trades council delegates are not answerable to anyone (we most certainly are) and under the misapprehension that they might somehow be overwhelmed by what is, after all, but one trades council delegate.

I'm sorry to hear that the ship's officers union Nautilus and the Society of Physiotherapists were worried this way, because from what I've seen of their campaigning I think we'd be glad to welcome any members they could send to our trades councils, and they might be pleasantly surprised by how much they have in common with us.

When it came to a vote it looked as though our motion might be carried, I'm told, but then TUC President Muhammad Taj decided to have a card vote, which means that unions are awarded votes according to their paid membership. This time the motion was defeated. It appears that one or two big unions whose delegations had remained shy during the debate, and even abstained on the show of hands, decided to make sure it was defeated.

Unlike the smaller unions whom they had hidden behind, these bigger organisations know the score. They can hardly fear being pushed around or elbowed aside by the puny weight of a trades councils' delegate. Their leaders know, and maybe resent, the fact that trades council activists aren't in it for their careers or privileges.

With many of their members finding themselves in the frontline of local government and NHS cuts these unions  ought to be welcoming and reinforcing the trades councils in every area as allies in the fight, able to unite public service workers with those who depend upon  their services.
Unless of course they are not too sure they want any fight, and would sooner see their members isolated and demoralised,  than encourage unity with other workers in the trades councils, whose enthusiasm and outlook might prove infectious. 


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Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's not just 'Nasty Nick'

THE BBC's claims to fair and objective news coverage took a couple of knocks this week, along with the notion by supporters that it is "our" BBC, a voice for the people, and the Right's complaint of "left-wing bias".

Citing what should have been 'privileged' information which just happened to have come into the BBC's possession, a report that a UK Treasury source said Royal Bank of Scotland(RBS) would move its headquarters to London if Scots voted for independence,  the Beeb's political editor "Nasty Nick" Robinson asked the SNP's Alec Salmond how Scots taxpayers would make up for loss of revenue from this and other firms. 

Robinson said:
“Why should a Scottish voter believe you, a politician, against men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits?”

Indeed he might have said men who lost billions from other people's money, and were recouped by the taxpayers. Why should voters listen to someone they elected, instead?
Robinson went on to claim in his report that the SNP leader had failed to answer his questions. In fact, Salmond had answered, and in front of international media, also raising concerns about the BBC's role in a potential breach of financial regulations. He was heckled by Robinson, the BBC's supposedly unbiased reporter.  And the part of the press conference where the SNP leader  answered was edited out so as to make it look as though he could not answer.

Some reports have sided with Robinson, media people sticking together, but a less Establishment view observes:
Robinson is hard to beat when it comes to qualifications for the Westminster establishment. He was a chum of Boris Johnson at Oxford University, where he was the President of the Conservative Association. This followed his founding of Macclesfield Young Conservatives and a stint as the UK Chairman of the Young Conservatives.

Robinson does seem to have problems with opposition.

Only it is not just 'Nasty Nick' that's the problem.

Last week the Trades Union Congress met in Liverpool. Over the years, trades unions have been weakened, not just by government legislation curbing their ability to fight for their members, but by Britain's loss of jobs and industries, unemployment, privatisation and spreading casualisation and insecurity. But they still have over five million members, and some unions at least are growing. Union leaders like the late Bob Crow,  my own union's Len McCluskey, and the civil servants' union PCS's Mark Serwotka (who I'm sorry to hear is seriously ill) regularly address bigger audiences than most politicians, and are listened to with more respect.

With so many families affected by austerity and debt, no one can say that trade unionists are discussing obscure issues of no interest to the general public. Whether they represent seafarers or railway workers, airline pilots or nurses, firefighters or teachers, the delegates who speak at the TUC generally know what they are talking about, and listening to them you can get a better picture of what is happening in society than you would relying on politicians or the media.

As a trade unionist myself I have got my own criticisms of the union leaders and TUC officialdom, and I know I'm not alone. Of that more to come. Meanwhile I think the BBC should be giving the TUC more coverage, rather than less.

The TUC's general secretary is Frances O'Grady, a popular figure, very different from the old stereotypes of union leaders as boringly grey bureaucrats or grumpy old men. 

Addressing the TUC, Frances O'Grady spoke of the need to defend public services and trade union rights, and also warned that the Tories were dragging the country backward to a class-ridden "Downton Abbey-style society, in which the living standards of the vast majority are sacrificed to protect the high living of the well to do? Where the blame is heaped on the most vulnerable – migrants and claimants – while the powerful and the privileged sit pretty"

BBC viewers did not get to hear the rest of what she had to say. Whether to shut her up, or to underline her point, 'Auntie' Beeb decided that the representative of five million trade unionists should be cut off to announce that the Duchess of Cambridge was expecting another child.

Well, that's us put in our place. Let's tug our forelocks and bless the Duchess. And be thankful we can pay our license fees.

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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Papuans Struggle for Freedom, but Big Business Scrambles for Profits

  BURNING VILLAGE. Indonesian troops bringing 'order' to West Papua.

The late Billie Holiday sang about the racism and lynchings in America's South,  in Abel Meeropol's song Strange Fruit. Maybe some West Papuan singer will yet record a song about the strange things fished from the sea off their brutally occupied country.

The body of Martinus Yohame was found in a sack floating in the sea near the city of Sorong, West Papua on August 26. Yohame, head of the Sorong branch of the West Papua National Committee, KNPB, had been mising since August 20.
See Report by Amy McQuire in Australia.

It's not hard to guess who might have been responsible his disappearance and death. The island of Papua/ New Guinea was carved up in colonial times.  The eastern side, having been under British and German rule, became an Australian-administered territory, but today is the officially independent state of Papua New Guinea.  Though its people remain poor and their country undeveloped, the mineral wealth beneath it have made it one of the world's fastest-growing economies in recent years. 

West Papua remained under Dutch control until Indonesian troops invaded it in 1961. With UN connivance the people's right to self-determination was ignored, in favour of a rigged plebiscite of  tribal elders selected by the Indonesian military. West Papua became a province of Indonesia, initially as West Irian Jaya. With US and British arms, the Suharto dictatorship suppressed the people, and brought in settlers from Java. 

An estimated 500, 000 Papuans were killed by Indonesian forces.  But then that's about the same as the number of Indonesian worker and peasant communists slaughtered after the CIA-backed coup which brought Suharto to power in Indonesia.

The end of Suharto's rule brought some easing of political tyranny in Indonesia proper, and West Papua regained its own name, but the Indonesian occupation remains, and Papuans can be severely punished simply for raising the flag of independence. Indonesia's rulers are intent on developing and exploiting west Papua's resources in partnership with Western business corporations.

Martinus Yohame was one of those opposing Indonesian rule of his country. Amnesty International  said his disappeance coincided with the detention of another independence activist in the lead-up to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to the region. Yudhoyono was to attend a sailing event in Sorong.Yohame had reportedly staged a press conference in Sorong the day before he disappeared, opposing the President’s visit and raising the issue of illegal logging.

The KNPB were reportedly planning demonstrations, including the raising of the banned “Morning Star” flag, an act for which others have been jailed by the Indonesian government. Two school students were arrested earlier this month for painting pro-independence slogans. Amnesty says Robert Yelemaken, 16 and Oni Wea, 21, were beaten by the arresting police officers, and forced to roll in dirty water and drink paint. Yelemaken has been released but Wea is still incarcerated and facing charges of “incitement”.

Villages Burned
A new video sent out by West Papuans from the Pirime District of the Lanny Jaya Regency in West Papua shows scores of West Papuan villagers in hiding after the Indonesian military burned down their houses in a military operation.

Foreign journalists are banned from reporting from West Papua, and two French journalists are being held by the Indonesians, accused of "espionage".

This can hardly excuse the kind of fawning report published in one Australian newspaper:
"Indonesian president-elect Joko Widodo has promised to build a presidential palace on the shores of West Papua's picturesque Lake Sentani as a sign he will pay more attention to the resource-rich but troubled region.

The plan, which includes regular meetings for dialogue with Papuan leaders, has met a mixed reception from senior local figures.

A low-level armed separatist movement has racked West Papua since the 1960s, prompting a huge security presence in the province. Foreign journalists are virtually banned from going there, ostensibly for security reasons, and rampant corruption and discrimination impoverishes the Melanesian-Christian ethnic majority.

Read more:
That's from the Fairfax-owned Sydney Morning Herald.

And Tory Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said West Papuan freedom campaigners are not welcome in Australia.

But then as one Aussie comments:
"The Federal Government on behalf of all of us Australian taxpayers (which does not incidentally include the super-rich, for whom tax paying is an optional activity) gives Indonesia (read the Javanese Empire) something between $600M and $605M per year, labelled as 'aid'."

And it would seem the government and business interests are less interested in attaching human rights strings to that 'aid' than in making sure they get their money's worth (even if it is not their money) in the shape of business deals, contracts and mining concessions in Indonesia and its colony of west Papua.  

Fortunately, many Australians, and many people in Pacific island states, are taking a different kind of interest in West Papua, and supporting its people's rights.

See also:

Benny Wenda’s Statement on murder of Papuan leader Martinus Yohame

September 1, 2014
Free West Papua Campaign founder Benny Wenda in Vanuatu, 2013 Photo: Humans of Vanuatu
Free West Papua Campaign founder Benny Wenda in Port Vila, Vanuatu, 2013  Photo: Humans of Vanuatu
A public statement from Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Free West Papua Campaign founder, Benny Wenda

Dear friends, supporters and fellow Papuans.

It brings me great sadness to learn that last week, our dear friend and brother, Martinus Yohame was found murdered after being kidnapped by the Indonesian security forces in West Papua.
It is an act of extreme evil to abduct and kill someone just because they are peacefully speaking out for their human rights to self-determination and on behalf of the Free West Papua Campaign I fully condemn his murder and demand that those responsible be brought to justice.
I would like to thank Amnesty International for joining the call in demanding justice for his case and in helping to further defend the rights of our people.
Martinus Yohame was a true freedom fighter of the West Papuan people who died not for himself but for the whole nation. He will be missed by us all.
Martinus was the Chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in Sorong and always mobilised the Papuan people to resist Indonesian State oppression.
On 20th August 2014, he gave a press conference, declaring that the people of West Papua refused the Indonesian president (who was arriving near the Sorong Region).
Martinus always called publicly for a Free West Papua and strongly condemned Indonesia’s destruction of our natural environment.
Just for making such comments, Martinus was kidnapped by suspected members of the Indonesian security forces the next day.
His body was found on 25th August, floating in the sea after he was tied up and shot several times, with his face smashed in.
How can the Indonesian government claim to be a democracy when they commit such evil brutality against peaceful activists?
When I hear about the murders of more and more of my people, I am always full of sadness and grief.
How can they do this to human beings?
Tomorrow, the Free West Papua Campaign will be holding a protest outside the Indonesian Embassy in London, United Kingdom to demand justice for the murder of Martinus Yohame and an end to all the killings of our people.
We will meet at 12:00 outside the Indonesian Embassy at 38 Grosvenor Square and call for a Free West Papua.
I urge all supporters around the world to also hold similar demonstrations against the killings and in support of justice and freedom for West Papua, in memory of the life and vision of Martinus Yohame.
We lost a great freedom fighter and our hearts are full of grief but we remember that his death was never in vain and that his vision will continue to inspire the new generation of young West Papuans to stand up and struggle for freedom as he did.
On behalf of the campaign, I give my sincerest and deepest condolences to the family of Martinus Yohame, who never got to see him in a Free West Papua.
In your hearts and our hearts, he lives on today and his dream is the dream of all our people.
It was not fulfilled in his lifetime but with his spirit, and the spirit of every Papuan; we will continue to struggle on until the dream of a Free West Papua becomes a reality.
Today we cry, but I am certain that one day we will celebrate together in a Free West Papua and remember the sacrifices of the brave martyrs like Martinus, who died for our freedom.
Farewell Martinus Yohame, you have given the ultimate sacrifice for our people, dying for the freedom of West Papua.
May you rest in peace. Your struggle is our struggle and we will always remember you as we continue this campaign for a Free and Independent West Papua, once and for all.

Benny Wenda

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