NZ steps up focus on West Papua
West Papua under the spotlight in New Zealand where parliamentarians have called upon the new President of Indonesia to commit to genuine media freedom in West Papua.
A visit to New Zealand last week by two West Papuans has brought the plight of the indigenous people of Indonesia's eastern region under the spotlight. One of them, Victor Mambor, who is the editor of the West Papuan newspaper Tabloi Jubi, has been discussing media freedom in his homeland at various events in Wellington and Auckland. He was also keynote speaker at today's 'West Papua - The Pacific's Secret Shame' seminar at Auckland University. Mambor has spoken of a disconnect in the coverage of events in West Papua, where claims of rampant human rights abuses by Indonesian security forces are often dismissed by military and police chiefs. He cites comments by the Solomon Islands delegate in a recent Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Ministers' trip to Papua province, that West Papuans are in charge of their own affairs and doing well, as being a misportrayal.
VICTOR MAMBOR: It's not fair if the foreign minister says that because they were only four hours in West Papua. It's a political thing. Indonesian government bring over the MSG foreign ministers, and see Papuan people working there and think they're involved in economic development but it's not true like that.
Victor Mambor's visit coincided with a resolution in New Zealand's parliament to call upon the new President of Indonesia to commit to genuine media freedom in West Papua. The resolution, which was put forward by the Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty, gained cross-party support.
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: I move that this House call upon the new President of Indonesia to commit to genuine media freedom in West Papua including the right of local and international journalists to report on the political situation there without risk of imprisonment or harassment by the Indonesian state. (The NZ parliament then passes the motion)
Outside access to Papua and West Papua provinces remains restricted for foreign journalists as well as international humanitarian agencies and NGOs. The other West Papuan in New Zealand this week, activist Paula Makabori of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation, says the President-elect Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, must make good on a promise to allow Papua region to be opened up.
PAULA MAKABORI: As he promised during his Presidential election campaign in West Papua, he will let West Papua will be open for everyone to come. So I think for him to keep his promise to all international journalists who can come and see for themselves for themselves, the beautiful land, the beautiful people... who are crying for self-determination.
Meanwhile, Paula Makabori says New Zealand must not abandon the indigenous people of her homeland. While Wellington has been reluctant to interfere in Indonesia's affairs, Ms Makabori says they should encourage Jakarta towards recognising West Papuan self-determination rights.
PAULA MAKABORI: Politically, they cannot just abandon the rights of West Papuans. It is also stated in international conventions on civil and political rights. It is also protected by United Nations declarations that every nation has the right to be free.
Paula Makabori says New Zealand's previous success in brokering an end to the Bougainville conflict shows the peace mediator role that it can play.
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