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By Laurens Ikinia in Auckland

Governor Lukas Enembe of Indonesia’s Melanesian province of Papua has expressed support for a call from the Papuan Student Association Oceania (PSAO) for a New Zealand-Papuan scholarship.

The statement has been made after a relentless campaign by the Papuan advocacy group, which is made up of the PSAO and other NGOs in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The group has been advocating in response to the loss of Papuan students’ scholarships since January.

Governor Enembe expressed his appreciation to the New Zealand government for the opportunity given to Papuan students to pursue their education at New Zealand education providers after Indonesian scholarships were curtailed for about 40 students.

He also thanked the guardian parents in New Zealand who generously hosted the students in their homes, churches, and communities.

The Papuan students are sent to study in New Zealand at different levels — from high school to tertiary level studies. The students are spread across the country.

The warm message expressed by Governor Enembe through his spokesperson Rifai Darus is a follow-up to a recent official visit made by the New Zealand Embassy in Jakarta to the Papuan provincial government in Jayapura.

The delegation was led by the embassy’s Second Secretary (political affairs) Patrick Fitzgibbon.

NZ, Papuan cooperation
Antara news agency reports that the visit was to discuss cooperation between New Zealand and the Papuan government, including education.

They also talked about potential cooperation in the future.

The governor, through spokesperson Darus, said he had expressed his gratitude to the New Zealand government.

“Governor Enembe positively welcomes an increase in the New Zealand Government Scholarship,” said Darus.

Governor Lukas Enembe
Governor Lukas Enembe … good news for Papuan students. Image: West Papua Today

Governor Enembe hopes that the offer from the New Zealand government would help about two dozen existing students who are currently still studying in New Zealand.

The governor said that the New Zealand scholarship would also help the Papuan government in addressing the funding cut issue.

“With the intention and plan of the New Zealand government to also assist in the granting of scholarships to Papuan students, it becomes good news for Papuan students. Now they can continue their education and pursue their dreams,” Enembe said through spokersperson Darus.

Meeting the ambassador
Darus said Governor Lukas was due to meet the New Zealand Ambassador to Indonesia in Jakarta soon. The meeting would discuss education and scholarships for Papuan students in New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Governor Enembe offered a message to all Papuan students to focus on their studies.

He also said he was proud of the students who were studying hard, and studying in a foreign country was not easy.

“The governor also expressed his pride in all Papuan students scattered in many countries, and hopes that later on all the knowledge and skills obtained can be applied to realising the vision of Papua Rising, independent and prosperous with justice,” said Darus.

In May, out of the affected students whose scholarships had been terminated, the Human Resource Department of Papua Province (HRD) said there were 59 students currently studying in New Zealand, ranging from vocational studies to bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees.

The 59 students are still sponsored by the Papuan provincial government.

On 17 December 2021, the Papuan HRD issued a termination letter of scholarship for 40 students in Aotearoa New Zealand. The order to pack up and return home was given without any initial notification.

The government claimed that this action was taken due to poor academic performance.

Papuan advocacy group calls for New Zealand scholarship to aid students

Underlying reason
However, the PSAO has demonstrated that the claim had no foundation. A source from the HRD of Papua province said the underling reason for the termination of the scholarship was the revocation by the central Jakarta government of the governor’s authority to manage the education funds.

Asia Pacific Report says that out of 40 affected students, 12 students had returned to Indonesia and Papua for various reasons. The remaining 28 students are still in New Zealand and have been receiving support from New Zealanders and groups across the country.

Stuff reports that 8 of 28 affected students are now working for V-Pro Construction in Manawatū. The fate of the remaining affected students has been taken up by the students’ association.

The PSAO, the Oceania branch of the International Alliance of Papuan Students Associations Overseas, expressed thanks to every university, NGO, church and stakeholders who have extended support.

The PSAO also thanked the New Zealand government, particularly Immigration New Zealand, for granting visas to affected students.

Laurens Ikinia is communications spokesperson of the Papuan Students Association Oceania (PSAO).

Some of the Papuan students in Aotearoa New Zealand pictured with Papua provincial Governor Lukas Enembe
Some West Papuan students in Aotearoa New Zealand pictured with Papua Provincial Governor Lukas Enembe (rear centre in purple shirt) during his visit in 2019. Image: APR
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