27 Aug 2016

Maori students in NZ march for West Papua

5:17 am on 27 August 2016

Hundreds of Māori students marched to New Zealand's parliament on Tuesday calling for freedom for West Papua.

The march was met at the steps of parliament by MPs from various political parties, who spoke of their concern about Indonesian state oppression in the Papua region.

Maori protestors at West Papua rally, Wellington

Maori protestors at West Papua rally, Wellington Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The students gathered in the capital for the annual conference Te Huinga Tauira o Te Mana Ākonga ,this year hosted by Ngāi Tauira, the Māori Students' Association at Victoria University of Wellington.

A co-president of Ngāi Tauira, Raimona Tapiata, said the hundreds gathered felt strongly about the plight of West Papuans, from which they drew many parallels with how Māori experienced colonialism.

He said for instance Māori can relate to the marginalisation of West Papuans' indigenous language under Indonesian rule.

"Especially having come from similar backgrounds, similar cultural beliefs, similar values and what our culture is all about, all those types of connections between all Pacific nations is another element that comes into play, " he said.

NZ Green MP Marama Davidson

NZ Green MP Marama Davidson Photo: RNZI

Addressing the crowd, the MP Marama Davidson said West Papuans' struggle was their struggle.

"We are standing up for up for the people of West Papua, we are standing their mana whenua. We are standing up for their tino rangatiratanga," she said.

"But we're also standing up for all of us and the better world we are trying to create by supporting eachother, because the oppression, the colonisation, the abuse of human rights, it all breathes the same oxygen."

David Tua (left) and Labour's Pacific Vice-President Jerome Mika (right) march on parliament for West Papua freedom.

David Tua (left) and Labour's Pacific Vice-President Jerome Mika (right) march on parliament for West Papua freedom. Photo: RNZI/Johnny Blades

Motion tabled in parliament

As the students marched New Zealand Labour Party MP Su'a William Sio tabled a Notice of Motion in parliament in support of the indigenous people of Indonesia's papua region.

The motion moved that parliament acknowledge and express sympathy for the 117 people who were injured or arrested at rallies in West Papua and Jakarta on Monday 15 August 2016.

New Zealand MPs (from left) Louisa Wall, Su'a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni.

New Zealand MPs (from left) Louisa Wall, Su'a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

It also moved to show support for the West Papuan call for an independent, fair and internationally supervised referendum that will allow West Papuans to determine their own government.

Speaking to the rally, Su'a said Pacific people were becoming widely aware of the oppression of Papuan rights.

"We know of the violence that is happening there and the only way that those things will change, the only ways governments are moved, is when the people stand up, when you stand up, when you stand in solidarity with others."

Mr Sio said he hopes numbers will grow as the campaign continues.

Te Whaiora Harrison-O'Connell. Permission to use this photo was granted by the boy's mother, Tere Harrison, 26 August 2016.

Te Whaiora Harrison-O'Connell. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

In the wake of Thursday's march, the Indonesian embassy in New Zealand admitted Indonesia still faces obstacles in protecting the human rights of her citizens.

The Minister Counsellor at the embassy, Wanton Saragih, said Jakarta was addressing rights abuses.

"Recently President Widodo instructed relevant government agencies to take actions to settle past human rights cases, including those related to Papua, and to put in place safeguards to prevent future incidences."

But he noted that Papua's incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s was sanctioned by the United Nations.

He said no referendum on Papua was planned or ever would be planned.