1 Aug 2016

NZ elaborates on ambassador's Papua trip

12:16 pm on 1 August 2016

Concerns about freedom of expression and assembly were raised by New Zealand's ambassador to Indonesia in his recent visit to West Papua.

Jayapura Harbour, Papua Province, Indonesia.

Jayapura Harbour, Papua Province, Indonesia. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Trevor Matheson was among several regional ambassadors to visit Papua region in June at the invitation of Indonesia's Co-ordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Luhut Panjaitan.

Ambassadors from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji also took part in the visit.

Although the PNG Ambassador Peter Ilau was forthcoming about his trip, little information has been made available so far from the New Zealand government about Mr Matheson's visit.

However, Wellington has now elaborated slightly on the trip.

A New Zealand Foreign Affairs ministry statement said the visit provided the ambassador the opportunity to observe Jakarta's approach to addressing human rights and development challenges in Papua.

Recently, Indonesia's Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence, or KONTRAS, said rights abuses in Papua remained rampant.

KONTRAS' co-ordinator Haris Azhar said that in the past year his office had over 1,200 reports of rights abuses in Papua - mainly abuses by security forces against Papuans for exercising their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and movement.

As well as freedom of expression and assembly, political prisoners and access for foreign media to Papua were areas of concern raised by Ambassador Matheson, according to the ministry.

The ministry however would not divulge on Indonesia's response, citing sensitivities around the relationship between the two governments.

It said that New Zealand followed developments in Papua closely, and welcomed the opportunity to engage with all stakeholders on Papua-related issues, including central and local government actors, civil society and independence advocates.

John Key and Indonesia President Joko Widodo on the balcony of the Indonesian Presidential palace.

John Key and Indonesia President Joko Widodo on the balcony of the Indonesian Presidential palace. Photo: RNZ/ Chris Bramwell

Two weeks ago, New Zealand's prime minister John Key discussed Papua with Indonesia's government in Jakarta during his state visit.

Mr Key said Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and his officials raised the issue of human rights and West Papua before he did.

"They did raise the point quite specifically about human rights and said, look, if there are specific issues with human rights, then they take up the issues, they investigate them and they make sure that they are not repeated.

He indicated that President Widodo and his officials have been fostering more openness about the situation in Papua in a bid to create "greater understanding".

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs