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wp West Papua activist’s plea to govt

February 12, 2013

West Papua activist’s plea to govt

A West Papuan activist barred from speaking at parliament in Wellington has pleaded for the government to put pressure on Indonesian authorities to resolve a half-century-long battle for independence.

Independence leader Benny Wenda, who is living in exile in the United Kingdom, is visiting New Zealand as part of an overseas tour campaigning for the self-determination of West Papua, which is under Indonesian control.

He spoke at Victoria University, opposite parliament, on Tuesday after Speaker David Carter refused to allow him to speak inside, unless it was in a political party’s caucus room.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully revealed on Tuesday that two National MPs had wanted to co-sponsor Mr Wenda’s visit, alongside Labour, the Greens and Mana, but he advised them against it.

"We believe that the approach the government’s taking to human rights issues in West Papua and Indonesia is a more constructive one," Mr McCully told media.

"We have quite an active dialogue with the Indonesian authorities about human rights issues … I want to engage in that sort of diplomacy, not megaphone diplomacy, and that’s what I think was being suggested here."

Mr Wenda, who has spoken in the British and European Union parliaments, said he was disappointed by the government’s stance.

"It’s a frustration for me but the fact that I’m here and I have a lot of friends … that gives me confidence that they can no longer silence me."

He said he would like New Zealand’s government to ask Indonesia’s government to allow journalists into West Papua, to report on the conditions there.

"Journalists would make a big difference because that is our chance to tell our story … because Indonesia has silenced us for a very long time."

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr McCully told parliament that foreign affairs officials had met with Mr Wenda earlier in the day.

Mr Wenda is now free to travel having previously been issued a red notice by Interpol, after Indonesian authorities accused him of murder and arson.

Interpol later decided the case against Mr Wenda was "predominantly political".

©AAP 2012

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