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New government must respond to the historic West Papuan plea for self-determination

West Papua Action Auckland Media Release - September 28, 2017

West Papua Action Auckland says the new [New Zealand] Government must respond to the historic West Papuan plea for self-determination support at the UN.

West Papua presents the yet-to-be-formed Government with an urgent challenge to its regional diplomacy. The West Papuan people have just presented the United Nations with a massive petition calling for a genuine self-determination referendum.

'This is a historic and courageous initiative. We believe the new Government must now take an unequivocal stand in support of self-determination and join its efforts to the 8 Pacific nations already supporting West Papua at the UN. The 1.8 million signatures (representing some 70% of the indigenous population)had to be gathered clandestinely and the organisers took great risks. Despite the arrest of at least one organiser, they succeeded in gathering the support of people across the territory, an amazing feat of determination and resourcefulness.'

The bound petition has just been presented to the UN Decolonisation Committee, by United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Spokespeson Benny Wenda, and was hailed by the Solomons Prime Minister Sogavare as 'effectively a vote to demand self-determination.'

For more than fifty years the people of West Papua have been struggling to end Indonesian military rule over their territory. They were cruelly denied the right to self-determination in the 1960s when western nations, including New Zealand, gave their assent to a 1962 handover agreement in which the indigenous people had no say. The phony plebiscite that followed in 1969 was carried out under extreme duress, as the participants (only about one tenth of 1% of the population) 'voted' under threat of death. The loss of life from the conflict coupled with destruction of the environment and grossly inadequate health services amounts to a slow genocide.

In the lead up to the election West Papua Action canvassed the views of the political parties. National said it recognises 'the territorial integrity of Indonesia' which 'by definition precludes any recognition of self-determination'. Labour told us it would 'review' the policy if it becomes the Government: 'with a view to exploring a greater degree of autonomy for the people of West Papua in line with the wishes of the people.' The Greens affirmed their ongoing support for the rights of the West Papuan people to self-determination which has been their policy since 2000.

However, in May 2017 a cross-party group, including National, Labour, and Green MPs signed the International Parliamentarians Declaration for a Free West Papua.

'Regardless of which parties form the new Government the case is clear the West Papuan people will never cease struggling for their right to self-determination, and New Zealand must stop being on the wrong side of history. The new Government can expect pressure from a growing West Papua support lobby activists.'

For further information: Maire Leadbeater 09-815-9000 or 0274436957

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