2 Dec 2011

MPs, NGOs urge NZ govt to take action over West Papua issue

10:08 am on 2 December 2011

Morning Star flag raising ceremonies have been held in Auckland and Wellington to mark a significant anniversary for West Papuans.

December 1st is the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence from Holland by West Papua in 1961, a year before Indonesia annexed the territory.

While ceremonies to raise banned Papuan nationalist flag have been taking place amid tight military and police scrutiny in Indonesia's eastern-most region, New Zealanders have been free to express thei views on the West Papua issue.

Johnny Blades went along to the ceremony outside New Zealand's parliament.

With around forty people in attendance, the Wellington protest was considerably larger than in previous years.

Among them was a scattering of MPs, mostly from the New Zealand Greens party which won around eleven percent of the vote in the national election last weekend.

The Greens co-leader, Russel Norman, says the country's silence on the issue cannot continue.

"The people of West Papua are suffering the most terrible human rights abuses in having their right to self-determination suppressed and surely it's the role of New Zealand and the New Zealand government to speak out about it. West Papua should never have been included as part of Indonesia and the West Papuans have made that very clear over many decades, that they don't wish to be part of Indonesia, and they should have the opportunity to choose their own destiny. So they should be given the opportunity to have a referendum about their own future."

Another of those present at the Wellington protest, the co-ordinator of Peace Movement Aotearoa, Edwina Hughes, says there are two important steps the government should take.

They should make an outright condemnation of the violence that's been seen particularly in recent weeks around the Third Papuans People's Congress and the other really important thing is that West Papuan representatives have repeatedly asked the government for assistance to bring about peaceful negotiations between West Papuan leaders and the Indonesian government, and that's something that the New Zealand government could usefully be doing as they did for Bougainville.

Richard Archer of Pax Christi New Zealand says that the government could do more to address the issue, and he doubts that many MPs adequately understand the situation in West Papua.

But he says the government's position is complicated by its efforts to promote trade with Indonesia:

But it's all tied up with trade and developing a new approach to trading rather than letting, if you like, or coming from grassroots, it's now becoming very much business orientated. A business model is being used now, it appears, that this particular government wants to promote. Whether that's good or bad, I suppose only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Russel Norman says they will push for New Zealand to review its interests in Papua region, including sovereign wealth fund shares in the Freeport mine and a police training proramme with Indonesia.