16 Dec 2016

NZ-bound Indonesian diplomat on a mission re Papua

2:48 pm on 16 December 2016

The man selected by Indonesia's government as its new ambassador to New Zealand says it's his mission to relay accurate information about West Papua.

Tantowi Yahya, formerly a well known TV presenter and country singer, has been endorsed by President Joko Widodo for the Wellington role which also covers Tonga and Samoa.

The Jakarta Post reports Tantowi as claiming people in New Zealand are unaware of the improved conditions in Papua and West Papua provinces.

He noted that issues around human rights in Papua have been intensely debated in New Zealand, including rallies at the Indonesian Embassy, in public spaces and university campuses.

West Papuan solidarity demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington.

West Papuan solidarity demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy in Wellington. Photo: RNZI

But the Golkar Party politician claims the situation in Papua region is significantly different now due to government efforts to develop the regions.

His comments come after more demonstrations by Papuans calling for self-determination, including a rally attended by at least 6,000 people in Wamena last Saturday.

Tantowi says it is not true that Papuans yearn for independence.

He says that while the protest movement remains small, Indonesia still has the responsibility to address the issue, "especially since they cite outdated information that no longer reflects the reality on the ground".

Tantowi was quoted in Indonesian media in February this year warning against allowing foreign journalists to enter Papua.

President Widodo's move in 2015 to lift restrictions on foreign media access in Papua was widely welcomed internationally, but Tantowi pushed for the decision to be reviewed.

The ambassador-elect, when cleared for duty, is expected to be officially sworn in by March next year.

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