Rebel groups seeking independence for Indonesia’s West Papua announced formation of a new united army under a single command. Three major factions have come together as the West Papua Army, under the political leadership of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). The ULMWP’s UK-exiled leader Benny Wenda appealed for international support: “We welcome any assistance in helping us achieve our liberation. The ULMWP is ready to form an independent West Papua. Politically and militarily we are united now. The international community can now see without a doubt that we are ready to take over our country. Indonesia cannot stigmatize us as separatists or criminals any more, we are a legitimate unified military and political state-in-waiting.” (Photo via Radio New Zealand)
The mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch have left at least 49 dead and some 20 wounded, many gravely, including children. The attacks took place when the mosques were packed for Friday prayers. An Australian-born man named Brenton Tarrant has been arrested as the gunman, and three suspected accomplices also detained. Marking a new extreme in depravity, Tarrant live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, with a camera mounted on his head. The video has been removed from the web. Alas, so has his lengthy manifesto, in which he laid out his motivations for the attack. The removal is ill-considered, as being ignorant of the rhetoric employed to justify mass murder only makes potential recruits more vulnerable. CounterVortex was able to review the document before it was scrubbed from the web, and it is a study in Red-Brown politics—employing populist phrases appropriated directly from the left and wedding them to a white-supremacist ideology. (Photo via Ma'an)
The Solomon Islands' Prime Minister Rick Hou is threatening to "blacklist" the companies involved in a 100-ton oil-spill near a UNESCO World Heritage Site. "The impact on the marine life and the coral is already massive with much of it irreversible," he said. The bulk carrier MV Solomon Trader ran aground a month ago off Rennell Island, while loading bauxite ore in a cyclone. Because of the storm, it took salvage crews several days before they could reach the stricken craft. Compounding the damage, Indonesian-owned Bintan Mining, which chartered the vessel, continued to operate as the oil flowed into the sea, with other ships maneuvering around the wreckage, churning up the oil. Rennell Island, known locally as Mugaba, is home to some 1,840 people, who overwhelmingly rely on fishing for their livelihood. The World Heritage Site covers the world's largest coral atoll. (Photo via Radio Australia)
Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples signed an agreement with the Pacific Island state of the Marshall Islands aimed at increasing bilateral exchanges to promote Austronesian culture. The agreement seeks to promote cooperation between Taiwan's indigenous communities and the linguistically related people of the Marshall Islands, particularly in the fields of language and preservation of traditional wisdom. The agreement, signed last month, coincides with the opening of the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, which acknowledges to the critical state of many indigenous tongues, and seeks to promote their protection and use, both at national and international levels. (Photo of Bunum people via Mata Taiwan)
In an independence referendum that drew record numbers to the polls, voters in the South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia voted 56 to 44 percent to remain a French territory. The referendum was the fruit of a 1988 peace accord with the armed Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS). However, the referendum was repeatedly postponed amid controversies over whether only native residents or also French colonists and their descendants would get to vote. Under terms of the 1998 Noumea Accord, only French colonists and descendants already in the territory by that point would be eligible. The indigenous Kanaks now represent only 40% of the territory's population. However, the future of the archipelago is still uncertain. French law allows for a possible second or third vote if the first goes against independence. (Photo: NurPhoto/Getty via SBS News)
The 18 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum held their 49th summit in Nauru, issuing a statement asserting that "climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific people." Leaders at the Forum urged all the world's countries to comply fully with their commitments to mitigate emissions. Among the projects discussed at the summit was redrafting the 2000 "Biketawa Declaration" on regional security in the Pacific as a "Biketawa Plus," with a greater emphasis on environmental security and climate-related disasters. Under the slogan "We are not drowning, we are fighting," community leaders across the Pacific Islands have been pushing for world action on climate change and adherence to the 2015 Paris Accords. (Photo: 350.org)
Amid all the hype over North Korea's threats to fire a nuclear missile at Guam, just a few media accounts have made note of how Guamians themselves are reacting. Guam is usually seen in the US only as a strategic Pentagon outpost. But with a referendum on independence in the offing, growing sentiment on the island holds that the only thing Guamians are getting out of their current US territorial status is being made a nuclear target.
The push to re-open a controversial copper mine on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville was halted after indigenous residents blocked roads to prevent officials from reaching the site.
Australia is using the island of Nauru as an "open-air prison," putting refugees and asylum seekers through an abusive processing system as a means to prevent immigration.
The International Court of Justice refused to hear a claim by the Marshall Islands that the UK, India and Pakistan have failed to fulfill treaty obligations to halt the nuclear arms race.
Australia announced plans to close the controversial Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea following reports of rights abuses—but no time frame was given.
Papua New Guinea's Supreme Court ruled that Australia's detention of refugees on Manus Island is illegal—but Canberra stood by its policy of intercepting migrants at sea.