NZ calls for Papua rights

The Papuan dance from Yapen regency in Papua province, depicting a tribal war between Menawai and Ambai tribes that inhabit Yapen area. The dance ended with peace ceremony between two tribes under great Ondoafi guidance that unite the two tribes that actually share common ancestor. Festival Nasional Kesenian Tari Nusantara, 2011. Gedung Kesenian Jakarta.

Papua has a distinct culture within diverse Indonesia. Source: Wikimedia

The Indonesian authorities have been given until next year to address media freedom violations in its troubled Papua provinces.

The chair of the Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) media watchdog came as Indonesia was picked to host an International Press Freedom Day event in May 2017.

While visiting Port Moresby in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, PFF chairwoman Titi Gabi said Indonesia must end abuses against the Papua and West Papua media and ensure open access to the international media to the oppressed Melanesian provinces.

West Papua solidarity groups in New Zealand are collecting a petition calling for Wellington to speak out about human rights in the province.

Green MPs have joined protests outside Indonesia’s embassy in Wellington, marking the death of a teenager Owen Pekei last week.

The high school student was displaying the illegal West Papuan independence flag when he was killed, allegedly at the hands of the authorities.

In May and June this year the Indonesian security services arrested more than 2,500 protesters after calls for an independence referendum and an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses.

New Zealand activist Catherine Delahunty said the situation was at breaking point with the young being detained for peacefully marching or carrying a placard.

“We cannot be silent about these abuses in our backyard, especially with the prime minister [John Key’s] imminent trip to Indonesia,” said Delahunty.

The Dutch retained Papua after Indonesian independence in 1945, but Jakarta moved into the region in 1962 and formally took over seven years later after a referendum that was widely condemned as having been fixed by the Indonesian authorities.

Titi Gabi said the Jakarta government must rein in the security forces from persecuting citizens who exercised their rights to freedom of expression before it could host 2017’s Press Freedom Day.

The PFF chair also added her organisation’s backing to growing demands for international intervention in resource-rich Papua and West Papua. Other interested organisations include the United Nations, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the European Union, Tapol (an NGO monitoring human rights in Indonesia, named after an abbreviation of the Indonesian words for “political prisoners”) and the International Coalition for Papua.

In 2015 two New Zealand media groups were given access to Papua.