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Activists call on NZ govt to do more for West Papua

Radio New Zealand - December 2, 2023

New Zealand's government should confront Indonesia over its alleged human rights violations in West Papua, human rights activists and West Papua independence activists in Aotearoa say.

The UN Human Rights Council has reported the human rights situation in West Papua has deteriorated, citing reports of torture and mass displacement.

"We know the violence that West Papuans are having to endure is getting increasingly worse," Green Party spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said at a Morning Star flag raising ceremony in Auckland on Friday.

"It's become clear that New Zealand government after government has prioritised its relationship with the bigger nation Indonesia over the rights and safety of West Papuans... it is shameful.

"I would like to see our government say it... will divest from buying goods and timber if it originates from West Papua, and to use all international forums, whether it's the UN or in direct trade talks with Indonesia to raise the issue of the rights of West Papuans and to push for decolonization."Golriz Ghahraman at Morning Star flag raising, 1st December 2023.

December 1st marks the day the Morning star flag – the West Papua independence flag – was first raised in 1961 by native West Papuan leaders. Flag raising ceremonies are held by activists around the world to mark the event.

The region was a colony of Indonesia before it fell under Indonesian administration in 1963. Since then, the independence movement has been heavily suppressed with widespread reports of killings, intimidation and torture.

"New Zealand has never taken a strong stance for the self-determination of the West Papuan people since Indonesia took over," prominent pro-independence activist Maire Leadbeater said at the flag raising event.

"We will never let our government forget that it has gone the wrong path in regards to West Papua."

In Indonesia, raising the Morning Star flag is banned unless it is raised alongside the Indonesian Flag and at a lower height. In September last year, seven people were arrested and jailed in West Papua for raising the flag.

"It's criminalized for West Papuans to express any form of independence or self-determination," Ghahraman said.

"Events like this are important to raise awareness of the situation in West Papua... what we're saying is that we see you and we know your rights are being violently breached.

"We keep talking about China, we keep talking the United States and how we can support our superpower allies, when actually it should be about raising the voices of the people of [the] Pacific such as the West Papuans."

An armed conflict between separatists of the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) and the Indonesian military recently escalated following the kidnapping of New Zealand pilot Phillip Mehrtens in February this year. Reports and footage of battles were released by both sides.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/503741/activists-call-on-nz-govt-to-do-more-for-west-papu