New Zealand support for West Papua grows after ‘historic declaration’ signed

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By Kendall Hutt in Auckland

Political support in New Zealand for an independent West Papua is growing after a “historic declaration” was signed during free West Papua advocate Benny Wenda’s visit to the country this month.

Several politicians from across four political parties signed the Westminster Declaration, which calls for West Papua’s right to self-determination to be legally recognised through a vote.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty with West Papua’s Benny Wenda (centre) and Pacific Media Centre members at Auckland University of Technology. Image: PMC

Green MP Catherine Delahunty – who has been a vocal supporter of West Papuan independence throughout her political career – told Asia Pacific Report the meeting at Parliament by the IPWP was “amazing”.

“We had a really amazing evening at Parliament with the Westminster Declaration. We had a number of MP’s – nine MP’s on the night – including others subsequently signing the declaration, which as you know calls for a referendum, supervised independently by the UN for West Papuans to talk about and identify their views on self-determination.

“That was a really powerful moment. Benny said it’s very important for him travelling the world that he can actually meet the politicians and that the politicians actually – from a number of parties in this case – and sign up to the declaration.”

West Papua was controversially incorporated into Indonesia through a so-called “Act of Free Choice” in 1969 – only 1,026 selected West Papuans out of a population of 800,000 voted to become a part of the country – under duress.

In 2016, politicians from across the globe signed the declaration, first launched in the United Kingdom by Labour leader and co-founder of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP), Jeremy Corbyn.

11 MPs signed up
Eleven members of Parliament from across four political parties – Greens, Labour, National and the Māori Party – have signed the declaration.

Green MPs Catherine Delahunty, Barry Coates, Mojo Mathers, Jan Logie and Steffan Browning have signed, along with Labour MPs Louisa Wall, Carmel Sepuloni, Adrian Rurawhe and National MP Chester Burrows.

Co-leader of the Māori Party Marama Fox and Labour MP Aupito S’ua William Sio have also signed.

Delahunty is certain this number will grow, as the declaration is now circulating through caucus, she said.

“Not everyone could make the event, but there are people who are keen to sign up.”

However, National MP Chester Burrows was the only member of National to sign the declaration, reaffirming Delahunty’s belief a change of government is needed for the issues in West Papua to truly gain traction politically.

“It’s frustrating because dreadful things are happening everyday and we’re not getting the political leaders of this country to take it seriously in the government.”

This is because support of West Papua would not come from National, Delahunty said, although she is hopeful.

‘Real core of support’
“We have got a real core of support for that declaration from across the House. Of course we haven’t got the government’s political support, but that’s what we’re working on.”

Delahunty said the rest of Benny Wenda’s visit to New Zealand was also “very lively”.

“In dire weather conditions, about 30 people marched to the Indonesian embassy. For the first time the embassy – the Indonesian officials – actually came out.

They came out to tell us we were wrong about our views and to hand out propaganda to the university students about how everything is great in West Papua and that West Papuans are leading their own country.

“I challenged them back pretty hard … that was quite a lively experience.”

Speaking with Asia Pacific Report earlier this month, Benny Wenda said the purpose of his visit to New Zealand was to hopefully gain the country’s commitment to West Papua independence:

“West Papua’s hope is Australia and New Zealand. This is a regional issue, this will never go away from your eyes and this is something you need to look at today. Review your foreign policy and look at West Papua.”

During his visit, Wenda also met with Ngāti Whatua, unions, aid agencies, and students while in Wellington, echoing the solidarity found at his talk in Auckland, organised by the Pacific Media Centre.

“There was a very powerful dialogue with some young Pasifika and Māori students, and some young people expressing their support,” Delahunty said.

“I think it was useful and consolidated a lot of relationships, Benny being here. I think it helped us ride a wave of growing awareness which is slow, but steady, and we do see more and more people taking stock of this issue.”

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