27 Mar 2015

Wenda flown out from PNG for lack of visa

8:11 am on 27 March 2015

The Papua New Guinea government says a prominent West Papuan activist was flown out of the country because he was travelling without a visa.

Benny Wenda

Benny Wenda Photo: AFP

Benny Wenda, spokesman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, was detained by immigration officials when he arrived in Port Moresby on Tuesday.

He had flown from the United Kingdom and had planned to visit PNG before heading to Vanuatu for a meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The office of PNG's prime minister Peter O'Neill said Mr Wenda had arrived in the country without a visa.

A spokesman for Mr O'Neill says the West Papuan independence leader was not deported, but was "not permitted to enter the country", adding it's not a political issue but a visa issue.

In a statement, Benny Wenda said his deportation was the result of a misunderstanding.

He said he respected the wishes of the PNG government, describing the visa issue as a technical matter that he was confident could be resolved in order for him to return to PNG.

The Post Courier reports that the prime minister intervened in the case and met with Mr Wenda and PNG immigration officials.

Mr Wenda, who had been released into the care of friends, flew out of PNG yesterday bound for Brisbane where he is due to meet with Australian and New Zealand solidarity groups.

His statement indicated he would be joined by the ULMWP's General Secretary Octo Mote, and other leading secretariat members Jacob Rumbiak and Rex Rumakiek, before continuing his Melanesian tour.

The ULMWP is applying for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Last month Mr O'Neill said he would start speaking out about human rights abuses in the Indonesian province of West Papua.