Vigil against blockade

Issue 

Vigil against blockade

By Norm Dixon

SYDNEY — Fourteen-year-old Kirrallee Gillespie, braving bitterly cold wind and rain, began a lone vigil outside the Papua New Guinea consulate on October 20.

She has vowed to remain until PNG's consul general meets her to give an undertaking that her mother, Rosemary Gillespie, will not be hurt by PNG troops as she attempts to bring urgently needed medical supplies through the blockade of Bougainville.

Rosemary Gillespie, a human rights lawyer, is in the Solomon Islands preparing medical supplies collected by the Australian Humanitarian Aid for Bougainville organisation for transport across the international border. PNG leaders have threatened that any attempt to break the blockade will be met with force.

Concerned about her mother's safety, Kirrallee visited the consulate to request an urgent appointment with PNG's consul general William Nimedn on October 19. After being kept waiting for over an hour, she was told by two officers from the Australian Protective Service that Nimedn had refused to meet with her. The APS officers were then joined by five NSW police officers. Feeling intimidated, Kirrallee agreed to leave the building but promised to continue her efforts to meet with Nimedn.

Kirrallee returned to Somare House the next day and set up camp in foyer. Police later forced her onto the footpath in unseasonably cold weather, where she has been day and night since.

Huddled under blankets, Kirrallee explained to Green Left Weekly the purpose of her vigil: "My mother is taking urgently needed medicines to Bougainville. About 5000 innocent civilians have died in the last two years because the blockade has starved them of medical supplies ... I will camp out here until the PNG government feels so pressured that they tell the army not to stop the medicines going to Bougainville and promise that there will not be violence."

Since she began her vigil, Kirrallee has received a lot of support from city workers and passers-by. She has been joined by others protesting against PNG's invasion of Bougainville. Messages of encouragement can be sent to Kirrallee by phoning (018) 549 133.