12 Jun 2018

New hub reflects NZ grassroots support for West Papua

11:49 am on 12 June 2018

A growing grassroots solidarity network has prompted the establishment of a West Papua Desk in New Zealand.

The desk was officially opened this evening in Auckland by Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and fellow MP Golriz Ghahraman.

Marama Davidson at the launch of the West Papua Desk

Marama Davidson at the launch of the West Papua Desk Photo: supplied

According to Ms Davidson, the desk would be a hub for organising events, hosting international guests and raising awareness about issues around West Papuan independence aspirations and human rights violations in Indonesian ruled Papua.

"It's to create a dedicated space for civil society activists and movements to support the cause for West Papua independence and self-determination," she explained.

She said that in recent years a strong Pacific and Māori delegation in particular had engaged on West Papua by using their community organising skills "to reach into ordinary households to get solidarity".

Indonesia's government says it is addressing historical human rights abuses in Papua, while devoting more resources to economic development in the country's remote New Guinea territory.

However Ms Davidson said serious human right abuses continued to occur in Papua, and that it was of increasing concern to people in New Zealand.

"There's been a particular rising with young Māori activism students who align the issues of self-determination that are happening here with what is happening in West Papua."

Hundreds of Māori students demonstrate support for West Papuan human rights outside New Zealand's parliament, 25 August 2016.

Hundreds of Māori students demonstrate support for West Papuan human rights outside New Zealand's parliament, 25 August 2016. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

The desk is hosted at the Onehunga offices of First Union, and is to be run by voluntary efforts by West Papua Auckland and other members of the solidarity network.

"There are posits of organising campaigns happening around Aotearoa, and they are getting so strong that we're realising that it would be efficient and strategic to have a centralising desk," Ms Davidson said.

"And that's to actually highlight more the work that is happening around different community campaigns standing in support."

The MP admitted that West Papua solidarity was a matter of sensitivity for Indonesia whose president, Joko Widodo, visited New Zealand in March.

West Papua issues did not feature prominently in the president's discussions with New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern. The talks had a focus on growing trade between the two countries.

Ms Davidson said that trade agreements tended to undermine human rights issues.

"I think what New Zealanders are coming to terms with is that that's no longer good enough, that we need to make sure that we are highlighting human rights issues, and that we do not see any trade agreements or any diplomatic relationships as an excuse to push those under the carpet."

Supporters and members of the West Papua Desk in Auckland

Supporters and members of the West Papua Desk in Auckland Photo: supplied

The desk would give "a clearer light on what is actually happening in West Papua", according to Ms Davidson, who said it was important that the solidarity initiative was being driven "from the ground".

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