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Call for NZ government to prioritise West Papuan struggle

Radio New Zealand International - December 3, 2018

Supporters of West Papuan self determination gathered for the province's symbolic independence day over the weekend.

December 1st marked 57 years since West Papuans first raised their Morning Star flag as the symbol of forthcoming independence from Dutch colonial rule.

Dominic Godfrey caught up with the movement's supporters outside New Zealand's parliament.


A year after the Morning Star was first flown, Indonesia annexed the territory. The flag is now a symbol for indigenous West Papuans' struggle for independence from a country where the flag is outlawed.

A small but vocal crowd of academics, politicians, students and activists showed their solidarity in Wellington and flew the Morning Star, calling for an end to Indonesian occupation and colonisation of the territory.

The Green Party MP and spokesperson for Human Rights, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Golriz Gharaman, says she was exercising her freedom to stand with West Papuans who couldn't speak out.

"What the people of West Papua are suffering is such grave injustices, such grave human rights breaches, you know, arbitrary detention. Their resource is not available to them because of corporate access being prioritised."

The coordinator of Peace Movement Aotearoa, Edwina Hughes, says a hundred-thousand West Papuans have been killed since Indonesia took control of the former Dutch colony in 1963.

"For people in West Papua flying their flag, they're often imprisoned or tortured or sometimes killed and that's why there's an international solidarity movement who fly the Morning Star around the 1st of December every year."

Ms Hughes organised this year's event and says it marked a first for demonstration, with apologies being received from government ministers acknowledging the event but not being able to attend.

One Labour MP who could attend was Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki. "In support of the West Papua fight for freedom. We all enjoy it here in Aotearoa and this is a place where we come to voice our opinion or stand up for things we believe in."

While having New Zealand government ministers acknowledging the event may have been a first, Golriz Gharaman, herself a member of the coalition government says New Zealand has to take a harder line with the government of Indonesia.

"We actually have to stand strong on this in our dealings with Indonesia. The New Zealand government has to take this on seriously because we can't sort of prioritise trade over something as egregious as the atrocities that are happening in West Papua."

Ms Gharaman says the Indonesian colonisation of West Papua is about economics and resource extraction. She says New Zealand is complicit in the subjugation of West Papuan aspirations as trade with Indonesia still takes priority over the human rights of the territory's indigenous people.

Others at the Morning Star flag raising had their own reasons for being there.

"I went to West Papua in 2014 and saw a situation that needs to change, that's why I'm here."

"I'm here out of a spirit of solidarity and I love seeing that there's other people that really care for this."

"I'm here every year waiting for our government to make a stand and a call for action to some of the atrocities that are happening in West Papua.

"I'm from Estonia, a formerly occupied country and the struggle for independence has been a really big part of our history, our identity even, so I'm here out of solidarity for other countries who have to go through the same."

"I'm a Kanak student from New Caledonia and I grew up hearing about West Papua. This is my first time coming and yeah, Kanaky stands in solidarity with West Papua."

And they were united in their call for freedom. "Papua... merdeka! Papua... merdeka! Papua... merdeka!"

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/programmes/datelinepacific/audio/2018673729/call-for-nz-government-to-prioritise-west-papuan-struggle