Locke returns from West Papua with request that Papuan rights be put back on Pacific Islands Forum agenda

Green MP Keith Locke returned today from a three-day trip to West Papua conveying a request from Papuan leaders that New Zealand champion their cause at the Pacific Islands Forum.

“I received a clear message that West Papua’s ‘special autonomy’ is not helping the people or protecting them from the Indonesian military,” said Mr Locke, Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson. “The people’s desire for independence from Indonesia is as strong as ever.

“The Papuan Parliamentarians I met are frustrated that four years of ‘special autonomy’ has produced so little for their people. They welcome President Yudhoyono’s recent initiative that an indigenous Papuan People’s Council be part of the provincial structure, but are concerned that it could end up being a toothless advisory body.

“The political strings are still being pulled in Jakarta, and Papuans who challenge that are suffering at the hands of the military. I saw real fear when I visited the highland town of Wamena. ‘Special autonomy’ has not stopped the military killing, arresting and harassing people there.

“The military are no longer confronting an armed rebellion. The leaders of the Papuan Presidium Council, the main representative body of the Papuan people, assured me that they are pursuing a peaceful path towards independence.”

Papuan leaders asked Mr Locke if New Zealand could put their issue back on the agendas of the Pacific Island Forum and the United Nations.

“The hopes for ‘special autonomy’ expressed in the Forum communiqué two years ago have not been realised, and Pacific leaders need to return to the issue when they meet in Port Moresby later this year.

“We also need to take up the West Papuan cause at the United Nations, which bears a moral responsibility for overseeing the forced incorporation of the territory into Indonesia in the 1960s. Papuans want the UN to review the bogus 1969 ‘Act of Free Choice’ and set in train a new process of self-determination for the West Papuan people.”