20 Mar 2006

Activists call for New Zealand to lobby Indonesia over deaths in Papua

3:36 pm on 20 March 2006

An activist group is calling for New Zealand to lobby Indonesia for an independent investigation to be held into the deaths of 4 people in the province of Papua.

Three policemen and an airforce officer are reported to have been killed during violent clashes with protestors demanding the closure of U.S. company Freeport's giant mine in Papua.

Several students are also believed to have been shot when police opened fire on the demonstrators.

The New-Zealand based Indonesia Human Rights Committee says the New Zealand government should lobby for an independent investigation, advocate for the opening up of Papua to independent journalists, and for a fact-finding mission of MPs to go to Papua.

The Committee's Maire Leadbeater says New Zealand talks about being engaged in its own neighbourhood so it's time to show it's serious about this.

And, she says the U.N. also needs to be involved.

"We have to face the fact that the Indonesian military and police do not hold their own accountable, and the government doesn't do that either. So, there must be some kind of independent investigation into what happened. I would preferably like that to be under a U.N. umbrella but there are alternatives, and one of those perhaps would be Indonesia's own Human Rights Commission."

Maire Leadbeater from the Indonesia Human Rights Committee.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the separatist Free Papua Movement, or OPM, has called on the Melanesian Spearhead Group countries to take note of the violence in Jayapura.

Its spokesman, John Ondawame, says atrocities in Papua are continuing to be ignored by the MSG and the international community as whole.

He says as long as the government of Indonesia does not take the appropriate steps for a dialogue with the leadership of the OPM, the conflict is likely to continue.