Government must give credence to West Papua leader

West Papua leader John Ondawame is arriving in New Zealand on Saturday at a time when his people are suffering in violent clashes with Indonesian authorities.

The latest round of violence in the region, which was forcibly annexed by Indonesia after Dutch and then UN withdrawal in the 1960s, is reported to have started after the Indonesian military moved in to remove pro-independence flags in the town of Wamena a few days ago.

Mr Ondwame will address public meetings and brief politicians.He will meet Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke next Wednesday. The visit is organised by the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign and other groups.

“In some respects West Papua – formerly called Irian Jaya by the Indonesians- is in the position East Timor was a few years ago,” Mr Locke said today.

“I am very concerned that New Zealand does not make the same errors with West Papua as we did on East Timor so many years ago – taking a pro Indonesian line that failed to address both the extent of human rights abuses by Indonesia, and the legitimate call for independence from local people.”