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The local West Papua action group in Dunedin has met Taieri MP Ingrid Leary and raised human rights and militarisation issues that members believe the New Zealand government should be pursuing with Indonesia.

Leary has a strong track record on Pacific human rights issues having worked in Fiji as a television journalist and educator and as a NZ regional director of the British Council with a mandate for Pacific cultural projects.

She is also sits on the parliamentary select committees for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, and Finance and Expenditure.

Leary met local coordinator Barbara Frame, retired Methodist pastor Ken Russell, and two doctoral candidates on West Papua research projects at Otago University’s National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPCS), Ashley McMillan and Jeremy Simons, at her South Dunedin electorate office on Friday.

She also met Dr David Robie, publisher and editor of Asia Pacific Report that covers West Papuan issues, and Del Abcede of the Auckland-based Asia-Pacific Human Rights Coalition (APHRC).

New Zealand’s defence relationship with Indonesia was critiqued in an article for RNZ National at the weekend by Maire Leadbeater, author of See No Evil: New Zealand’s Betrayal of the People of West Papua.

‘Human rights illusion’
“The recent exposure of New Zealand’s military exports to Saudi Arabia and other countries with terrible human rights records is very important,” Leadbeater wrote.

“The illusion of New Zealand as a human rights upholder has been shattered, and we have work ahead to ensure that we can restore not only our reputation but the reality on which it is based.”

West Papua group with MP Ingrid Leary
The West Papua action group with Taieri MP Ingrid Leary in Dunedin … retired Methodist pastor Ken Russell (from left), Otago University doctoral candidate Jeremy Simons, group coordinator Barbara Frame, MP Ingrid Leary, Ashley McMillan (Otago PhD candidate), Dr David Robie (APR) and Del Abcede (APHRC).

She cited Official Information Act documentation which demonstrated that since 2008 New Zealand had exported military aircraft parts to the Indonesian Air Force.

“In most years, including 2020, these parts are listed as ‘P3 Orion, C130 Hercules & CASA Military Aircraft:Engines, Propellers & Components including Casa Hubs and Actuators’, she wrote.

The documentation also showed that New Zealand exported other ‘strategic goods’ to Indonesia, including so-called small arms including rifles and pistols.

“New Zealand’s human rights advocacy for West Papua is decidedly low-key, despite claims by some academics that Indonesia is responsible for the alleged crime of genocide against the indigenous people,” Leadbeater wrote.

“Pursuing lucrative arms exports, and training of human rights violators, undermines any message our government sends. As more is known about this complicity the challenge to the government’s Indonesia-first setting must grow.”

Massive militarisation
Asia Pacific Report last month published an article by Suara Papua’s Arnold Belau which revealed that the Indonesian state had sent 21,369 troops to the “land of Papua” in the past three years.

Jakarta sends 21,000 troops to Papua over last three years, says KNPB

This figure demonstrating massive militarisation of Papua did not include Kopassus (special forces), reinforcements and a number of other regional units or the Polri (Indonesian police).

Victor Yeimo, international spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), was cited as saying that Papua was now a “military operation zone”.

“This meant [that] Papua had truly become a protectorate where life and death was controlled by military force,” Belau wrote.

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