11 May 2017

West Papuan leader sees solidarity grow in NZ

4:38 pm on 11 May 2017

International support for West Papuan self-determination cause is growing, according to a Papuan independence leader.

Benny Wenda is in New Zealand this week, raising awareness about the Indonesian-administered region of Papua, or West Papua, which he fled in 2003.

Benny Wenda the leader of the West Papauan Freedom Movement.

Benny Wenda the leader of the West Papauan Freedom Movement. Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins

Last night in Wellington he addressed a group of MPs, after which eleven members signed a declaration by the International Parliamentarians for West Papua.

This international organisation of MPs is calling for an internationally supervised self-determination vote in Papua.

New Zealand MPs sign the International Parliamentarians for West Papua declaration as Benny Wenda the head of the West Papua Freedom Movement looks on. Wellington 10-05-2017.

New Zealand MPs sign the International Parliamentarians for West Papua declaration as Benny Wenda the head of the West Papua Freedom Movement looks on. Wellington 10-05-2017. Photo: RNZI/ Koroi Hawkins

Mr Wenda said momentum was being driven by the Pacific Coalition on West Papua, chaired by the Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare.

"So the Manasseh Sogavare leadership is bringing a big impact on the West Papua issue. And the seven countries (of the coalition) I joined. It is bringing the West Papua case in United Nations level," he said.

"So this is a big thing to change now. So we also got support from African, Carribean and the Pacific. So this is a growing number and solidarity around the world."

Mr Wenda said West Papuans as a people had been through many grave challenges in the last five decades of Indonesian rule, but that they remained ever hopeful.

A growing solidarity network in the Pacific was giving them hope.

"The parliamentarians today.... Catherine Delahunty (New Zealand Green Party MP) lead a lot of MPs, bringing them in to sign their support.

"This is the best medicine, I think, for the people of West Papua. That's why their spirit is alive even (though) they're suffering under the Indonesian illegal occupation."

New Zealand MPs pose with the West Papua Freedom Movement's Benny Wenda after signing the International Parliamentarians for West Papua Declaration.

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

According to Mr Wenda, West Papuans were united under the United Liberation Movement for West Papua.

Indonesian government officials have characterised the Liberation Movement as a group of Papuans living abroad which lacks legitimacy to represent Papuans.

Mr Wenda dismissed this, pointing out that the leadership of the Liberation Movement is based both in and, out of necessity, outside Papua.

West Papuan grassroots support for the organisation within Papua was massive, he said.