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Wenda NZ Visit Exposes Sensitivity Over Papua

New Zealand MPs pose with the West Papua Freedom Movement's
Benny Wenda after signing the International Parliamentarians for West Papua
Declaration. Photo: RNZI/Koroi Hawkins
This week's visit to New Zealand by a West Papuan independence leader has thrown the polarisation around his cause into stark relief.
Benny Wenda visited New Zealand to meet MPs, Foreign Affairs officials, trade unionists and the general public to raise awareness about his homeland.
The international spokesman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda fled the Indonesian-administered region of Papua, or West Papua, in 2003.
This week's visit to New Zealand by a West Papuan independence leader has thrown the polarisation around his cause into stark relief.
Benny Wenda visited New Zealand to meet MPs, Foreign Affairs officials, trade unionists and the general public to raise awareness about his homeland.
The international spokesman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, Benny Wenda fled the Indonesian-administered region of Papua, or West Papua, in 2003.
Tellingly, while he was in Wellington, Mr Wenda was not required to provide background for a parliamentary select committee considering a petition calling for action by New Zealand's government on rights abuses in Papua.
Instead, he had a brief meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where officials politely heard his pleas for more action on Papua, then saw him on his way.
The government has appeared reluctant to push Jakarta too hard on Papua, even though it did mention concern at Indonesia's UN periodic human rights review this month.

Kelburn fracas

The sensitivity around West Papua was evident during Mr Wenda's time in Wellington.
He participated in a protest march to the Indonesian embassy in Kelburn where demonstrators gathered in the rain to call loudly for West Papuan freedom.
Proceedings became tense after the embassy front door opened and an Indonesian official stepped out to meet the protest.
Firdauzie Dwiandika, a Minister Counsellor for Political Affairs, stood near where Mr Wenda and the New Zealand Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty addressed the crowd.
Indonesian official Firdauzie Dwiandika (hand on chin, wearing cap)
 listens to a protest the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington before
having verbal altercations with protestors about West Papua. May 2017
 Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins
After listening for a while to the two, Mr Dwiandika told them they were wrong about human rights in Papua, and that people in Papua knew the truth.
"You can no longer hope that we will buy the story," Ms Delahunty retorted. "You have tried to marginalise these indigenous people, you have tried to lock them inside their border, you have starved their children, you have ignored their health crisis, you have taken their resources!"
But "Papua has changed," said Mr Dwiandika, ascending back up the steps to the embassy door.
It's rare to have an Indonesian official fronting at such protests, which themselves have become fairly frequent.
Yet it's common for Indonesians to attend West Papua solidarity events, as was the case last night when Mr Wenda addressed a public meeting at Wellington's Victoria University.
One of the Indonesians in the crowd who repeatedly challenged Mr Wenda's take on the Papua situation felt compelled to leave as local students launched into a passionate haka.
The somewhat heated exchange demonstrated how deeply Māori and Pasifika students in particular have taken on the Papuan cause.

Trust issue

"There is zero trust between Jakarta and Papuans," Mr Wenda explained.
Yet he admitted that Jokowi, as Indonesia's President is known, had spent far more time in Papua than previous Indonesian leaders.
Jokowi, who was in Papua this week inspecting new infrastructure projects, has shown commitment to his 2014 election promise to improve living conditions for Papuans.
"But the reality is, the governments are controlled by military," said Mr Wenda, "so the current president does not have power to change the situation in West Papua."
With the divisiveness of the Papua issue exposed, Mr Wenda flew out of New Zealand and on to the next stop on his seemingly never-ending global lobbying tour.
Listen to Full Interview With Benny Wenda on Dateline Pacific

# 10am World, Pacific and Sports News for 12 May 2017

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