Tribute to Former U.S. Delegate Eni Faleomavaega
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Tribute to Former U.S. Delegate Eni Faleomavaega

by Ed McWilliams

Del. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS) at 2010 Congresional Hearing on West Papua.Photo by John M. Miller/ETAN.  
The Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS), a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, passed away on February 22, 2017. Faleomavaega  represented American Samoa as its Delegate in Congress for 13 terms from 1989 to 2015.

Delegate Faleomavaega was an articulate and effective advocate for the defense of human rights in West Papua and long worked for a peaceful resolution of the serious problems confronting Papuans. He engaged persistently with U.S. and Indonesian Government officials toward these ends.

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. He drew upon this knowledge and experience and the broad respect accorded him by his Congressional colleagues and others to advise several U.S. Administrations regarding policy toward West Papua and toward Indonesia.

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.
In 2010, in his capacity as the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Del. Faleomavaega convened the first hearing in the history of the U.S. 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 was heavily restricted by the Indonesian government, including not being allowed to visit Jayapura. On his return, Faleomavaega wrote to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono protesting 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, he forced his way through barricades to talk with Papuans denied entry to official meetings. He wrote that "I was deeply disturbed by the overpowering military presence, which I felt was completely unnecessary."

During his years in Congress, Del. Faleomavaega worked with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on a number of letters and statements and legislation advocating for West Papua.

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 U.S.-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.

Note: Delegates to Congress from U.S. territories can serve and vote on committees, but not on the floor of the House of Representatives.

See also:

September 2010 hearing on West Papua, chaired by Congressmember Eni Faleomavaega (AS).  



ETAN is "A voice of reason, criticizing the administration's reluctance to address ongoing human rights violations and escalating oppression in West Papua and against religious minorities throughout Indonesia."

Noam Chomsky

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