West Papua Advocates Demonstrate In New Zealand

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Greens MP says government should facilitate peace talks

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 3, 2013) – Protestors against Indonesian rule in West Papua rallied outside New Zealand’s parliament on Monday, raising the banned Morning Star flag and calling for more New Zealand Government action to support the region’s quest for self-determination.

The protest action coincided with activities in Papua itself, Vanuatu, Australia and Papua New Guinea marking the 52nd anniversary of the West Papuan declaration of independence.

Our reporter Amelia Langford attended the Wellington protest.

Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty, who attended the rally, says the New Zealand Government should be facilitating peace talks rather than sending in police advisors.

"CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: It is the Palestine of the Pacific and our Government is colluding and providing funding for police and military ties - which is unacceptable and people just don’t know and if they did know, I think they would care."

Catherine Delahunty says with no independent media allowed in West Papua, it is very difficult to get the story out and make people aware of West Papua’s plight. But she says momentum for the cause is building.

"CATHERINE DELAHUNTY: I really have seen a change in the last year around awareness of West Papua in Australasia. More and more people are setting up little local groups, holding events, every time a Papuan comes to our country now we get bigger and bigger visitor numbers to our meetings. I think it is becoming real and it is going to take a lot more for it to reach the status that East Timor had - hopefully not through more genocide."

Catherine Delahunty says a visit by West Papuan activist Benny Wenda to New Zealand earlier this year helped draw attention to West Papua’s situation. One protestor, Liz Willoughby-Martin, of Wellington, says she cares a lot about West Papua and it’s an issue a lot of people don’t know much about.

"LIZ WILLOUGHBY-MARTIN: It is a situation where there are some parallels to say Palestine or lots of other struggles across the world and it’s way closer to New Zealand than those struggles and we should be saying something about it, doing something about it, definitely more than we are doing now."

Liz Willoughby-Martin says raising the Morning Star is a great show of solidarity and the act would result in considerable prison time for anybody who took the risk in West Papua. Australian man, John Gratton Wilson, attended the rally while visiting New Zealand on holiday.

"JOHN GRATTON WILSON: Even the Amnesty International figures, which are quite conservative, say there have been 100-thousand people killed in West Papua by the Indonesian military and police in the last 50 years. And our Governments, both Kiwi and Australian, choose to look the other way because big business is involved."

New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, says his government wants to encourage police and others in authority in the Papua region of Indonesia to understand good community policing initiatives. He says that is why New Zealand has committed to a five million US dollar community policing programme in the region. Meanwhile, Vanuatu is calling for the United Nations to investigate the alleged human rights abuses by Indonesian security forces in the Papuan region and for its political status to be reviewed.

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