28 September 2020
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern,
Hon Winston Peters,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Dear Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters,
West Papua Action Auckland and Canterbury are extremely concerned about recent events in West Papua, where the local people are even more isolated from the international community than in pre-Covid times.
On Saturday, 19th of September well-respected Pastor Yeremia Zanambani from Hitadipa District, Intan Jaya was killed. Pastor Zanambani was found dead near his pig pen, 300 meters from his home, with bullet and stab wounds. However, Church sources are reporting that his death was at the hands of the Indonesian military. The military have denied this suggesting instead that an armed group was responsible for the Pastor's death.
We are appealing to you to raise this matter with the Indonesian authorities and to call for an independent investigation into this tragic death, so that the perpetrator/s can be brought to account.
Prominent Baptist Church leader, Socratez Yoman, has pointed out that the death of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani is the third killing of a religious leader in the territory in recent years. The other two were Geyimin Nirigi and Elisa Tabuni, and both are believed to have been victims of extrajudicial killings.
In New Zealand we are in a good position to understand and respect the importance of the Christian Church in the lives of Pacific peoples. Where there has been conflict and repression, the Church and its leaders often provide important leadership in promoting peaceful negotiation and in advocating for the rights of their flock. So the killing of three religious leaders with no one held accountable is a very serious matter indeed.
In West Papua there is ongoing impunity for serious crimes and killings dating back to the early 1960s. This has been the foundation for an ongoing cycle of violence. We remind you that there has been no independent investigation into the March death of New Zealander, Graeme Wall, a Freeport employee. Nor has there been any resolution of the case of the four students killed on 8 December 2014 in Paniai, where military and police fired on the students as they conducted a demonstration against police violence.
Since the death of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani a military operation has been underway and local residents have been forced to flee to find refuge in nearby towns. There have also been some 200 arrests of peaceful demonstrators who were calling for an end to the Special Autonomy Law and a referendum on independence.
New Zealand cannot stand by while our West Papuan neighbours are subject to extra-judicial killing, repression of peaceful expression of dissent and internal displacement. We urge you to do all you can to urge the Indonesian authorities to investigate this latest killing and to release all who have been detained for peacefully voicing their political aspirations.
Rev. Brian Turner
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