West Papua Action Auckland is shocked to hear that the Government's training programme for the police in West Papua and Maluku is about to enter a new phase – a three year commitment involving two full-time police officers being deployed to Jayapura – This is the worst possible moment for New Zealand to boost the image of the police in West Papua.
Two weeks ago security forces (police and military) in West Papua opened fire on civilians killing one, this during a provocative 'sweep' operation targeting Papuans with long hair or beards. A week before that, scores were arrested for daring to demonstrate to mark International Democracy Day. And at the end of August four traditional leaders were arrested for organising a prayer meeting at which prayers were said for the safety of an Australian solidarity 'Freedom Flotilla'.
New Zealand training may be well-intentioned. However, it is unrealistic and naove to expect that our training will transform a force which has a long history of unaccountability and brutality towards indigenous Papuans. Instead the New Zealand involvement is likely to be used to give a 'ring of respectability' to the mainly migrant police force.
The timing is also terrible because right now there is a priceless opportunity for New Zealand to do something to help end decades of West Papuan oppression and suffering.
We could support the historic initiative of Vanuatu's Prime Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil who has just called at the United Nations General Assembly for the appointment of a Special Representative to investigate the litany of human rights abuse claims in the territory.
We could also take Papua's Governor Lukas Enembe up on his word. The Governor just announced that he will open up the territory for journalists and international human rights groups to visit. New Zealand should back this initiative and help arrange for parliamentarians, journalists and human rights leaders to take up the Governor's offer. There is already an Australian initiative – headed by Senator Di Natale – to make a visit to the territory.
New Zealand can be part of the solution for West Papua but not by training (and sanitising) the forces of repression.
For further information Marni Gilbert firstname.lastname@example.org or Maire Leadbeater 09-815-9000 or0274-436-957