10 Mar 2017

West Papuan advocates pay tribute to Faleomavaega

3:04 pm on 10 March 2017

The East Timor Action Network, or ETAN, has paid tribute to the late Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin's work on West Papua.

Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin

Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin Photo: Free google search image

The former member of the US House of Representatives, who represented American Samoa as its Delegate in Congress for 13 terms from 1989 to 2015, passed away in late February.

As Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Faleomavaega regularly monitored events in Indonesia's Papua region

ETAN's Ed McWilliams has written that Faleomavaega was an articulate and effective advocate for human rights in West Papua and long worked for a peaceful resolution of the serious problems confronting Papuans.

"He engaged persistently with US and Indonesian Government officials toward these ends," he said.

"His travel to West Papua and extensive contact with Papuans reflected a deep sincerity and good will toward the Papuan people and the peoples of the broader region which he knew so well."

According to Mr McWilliams, Faleomavaega drew upon this knowledge and experience and the broad respect accorded him in congress and elsewhere to advise several US Administrations regarding policy toward West Papua and toward Indonesia.

In 2010, Faleomavaega convened the first hearing in the history of the US Congress to include testimony from West Papua's traditional and religious leaders. and human rights advocates.

In 2007, he traveled to West Papua. The visit's schedule was heavily restricted by the Indonesian government, including the congressman not being allowed to visit Jayapura.

Faleomavaega subsequently protested to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that the visit had been limited "to only two hours of actual meetings with the leaders and people of Biak and Manokwari due to supposedly security concerns".

During the visit, Faleomavaega "forced his way through barricades to talk with Papuans denied entry to official meetings".

He later wrote that he was deeply disturbed by the overpowering military presence, which he described as completely unnecessary.

Mr McWilliams said that Faleomavaega's interest in West Papua "derived in part from a sense of personal responsibility to carry forward the work of his Samoan relatives who are buried in West Papua and in honor of all those who have lived the struggle".

In July 2011 he was honored with the "John Rumbiak Human Rights Defenders Award" by the US-based West Papua Advocacy Team.

His passing is a loss for his many friends in the West Papuan community and those in the broader international community who support their struggle for freedom.

Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin's funeral is to be in Utah on Saturday.