27 Oct 2017

Papuan Liberation Movement appeals to NZ's Ardern

11:09 am on 27 October 2017

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua says it hopes New Zealand's new prime minister will take up the issue of Papuan self-determination.

Jacinda Ardern is sworn in as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern is sworn in as Prime Minister of New Zealand. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Movement's Secretary-General, Octo Mote, has written a congratulation letter to Jacinda Ardern on forming New Zealand's new government.

In it he said Papuans were humbled by Jacinda Ardern's stated commitment to having a government "driven by principle not expediency and opportunity, not fear".

He said they looked forward to such "messaging on important matters" in the region in as far as the decolonisation of the Pacific was concerned.

New Zealand governments have consistently supported Indonesia's territorial claim to West Papua.

But Mr Mote hoped the prime minster could revisit attempts made by the last Labour-led government to facilitate dialogue between West Papuans and Indonesia.

These attempts were rebuffed by Jakarta.

The Secretary-General of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Octo Mote.

The Secretary-General of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Octo Mote. Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

Regional decolonisation

Mr Mote said that in Ms Ardern's coming term as prime minister the Pacific region would address several outstanding issues of decolonisation.

He cited pending independence referendums due in both the French territory of New Caledonia, before the end of 2018, and Papua New Guinea's autonomous region of Bougainville in 2019, alongside increasing diplomatic efforts by West Papuans to finally gain their freedom after a half-century under Indonesian rule.

"Our hope is that Aotearoa New Zealand will stand by its principles and ensure that the preparations for and the outcomes of these two referendums are transparent and fair," he said.

"The people of West Papua also hope that Aotearoa New Zealand will add its important voice to the growing number of countries of the Pacific region and elsewhere calling for an immediate cessation of human rights violations against us and for the United Nations General Assembly to take up the issue of West Papua's long-denied act of political self-determination," wrote Mr Mote.

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

Labour Party MPs such as Louisa Wall, Su'a William Sio and Carmel Sepuloni have shown strong support for West Papuan human rights. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

He pointed out that West Papuans now have greater representation under the Liberation Movement at regional organisations such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Islands Forum, and also recognition by countries in the Caribbean and in Africa.

"The time may be right for another attempt at dialogue," he explained.

"We believe that Aotearoa New Zealand is a nation seeking to right the wrongs of great historical injustice. West Papua is clearly such a case."

Jacinda Ardern breaks with tradition and addresses the public in her first move as Prime Minister.

Jacinda Ardern's new cabinet has a strong Pasifika component. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

NZ coalition's West Papua indicators

One of the Labour-led government's senior MPs, David Parker, who is now Attorney-General, spoke about the party's policy on West Papua early last month.

"When Labour becomes the Government we will take the opportunity to review the policy with regard to West Papua, with a view to exploring a greater degree of autonomy for the people of West Papua in line with the wishes of the people," said Mr Parker.

One of Labour's two main coalition partners, the Green party, supports the Westminster Declaration for a Free West Papua, which was signed in the New Zealand Parliament in May this year by eleven MPs from four different parties.

The Greens leader, James Shaw, last month said his party would take every opportunity to advocate for and support a peace dialogue between Indonesia and the West Papua coalition of leaders the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

He pledged to also urge Indonesia "to cease state sanctioned human rights abuses and the imprisonment and torture of political activists".

Green Party leader James Shaw.Green Party leader James Shaw.

Green Party leader James Shaw. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The party has a long history of support for West Papuan human rights and self-determination, with the new generation of Green MPs carrying on the work of former MPs Keith Locke and Catherine Delahunty.

"We take this opportunity to thank you most kindly for your unwavering support towards the struggle for self -determination of our people of West Papua," said Mr Mote in a separate letter to James Shaw.

What's less clear is the policy regarding West Papua of the other major coalition partner, New Zealand First. No information about West Papua is available on the party's website.

However New Zealand First's leader Winston Peters has been appointed Foreign Affairs minister, a role he had in the previous Labour-led coalition government. During that stint in the role, Mr Peters did not veer into action on West Papua.

But among his parties' 15 core principles is the aim to be a "reliable neighbour in our region".

Winston Peters

Winston Peters Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

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