New Zealand activist group speaks out on West Papua

by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online

New Zealand activist group West Papua Action Auckland is pressuring their government to take more action in preventing ongoing violence in Indonesia’s Papua region.

Spokesperson for West Papua Action Auckland, Marie Leadbeater spoke to Radio New Zealand about Indonesia’s responsibility for decades of human rights abuses, and said the West Papuan people want self-determination. Leadbeater also called out New Zealand, a regional leader, for not taking a stance for its Pacific neighbours.

“We’re on the Security Council, we’ve a got high international profile and to some extent we are seen as a country with an independent foreign policy,” she said.

“We have these opportunities that we seem to just let slip in favour of quiet diplomacy and good relations with Indonesia.”

Leadbeater further said that New Zealand should make a significant statement of disapproval towards the ongoing violence and abuse.

“Our military ties with Indonesia are not great. They are very small so it wouldn’t be a huge issue really, just to cut them off altogether as a strong statement of our disapproval for the ongoing abuses committed by the Indonesian military and their failure to call to account those responsible for decades of documented human rights abuses against the West Papuan people.”

Leadbeater said independent investigations must be made into cases of human rights abuse, including the incident in mid-December last year when Indonesian authorities opened fire on a peaceful protest in Paniai, Papua, killing five school students and injuring 20 others.

“The government should be openly, in a megaphone kind of way, calling for a truly independent investigation of the events that took place in Paniai. That’s the kind of thing I would like to see them do much more strongly.”

Leadbeater’s thoughts had been echoed previously by New Zealand Greens MP Catherine Delahunty, who told Radio New Zealand in December that the New Zealand government would do well to sever military ties with Indonesia.

“We’re really asking our New Zealand government to put pressure on Widodo. The time has come for everybody to realise, this is actually the Sharpeville of the West Papuan issue.

“When children are being shot, when students are being shot – that is what happened in South Africa. People have got to realise they can’t go on killing with impunity and they must challenge the Indonesian government to change their ways.”

When he took office last October, President Joko Widodo pledged a refreshing stance on the West Papua issue.

“I want to give special attention to West Papua,” he said in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, pointing out plans to firstly address issues of social and economic disadvantage.

According to the Jakarta Post, Indonesian Police Chief General Sutarman has appointed Brigadier General Paulus Waterpauw as the new police chief of West Papua.

General Waterpauw is now the first chief of West Papua police – a new division separated from police based in Manokwari, West Papua.

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