Last week I hosted Free West Papua leader Benny Wenda at Parliament and travelled with him to a number of important events. Benny is spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and lives in exile in England. 14 years ago he escaped from prison in West Papua where he was sentenced to 25 years for being a leader of the movement for freedom. Last week was his second visit to Aotearoa.
He was warmly welcomed by Ngāti Whatua. visited unions, aid agencies, students, media, diplomats, MPs, and spoke at public meetings. We marched to the Indonesian Embassy and challenged the staff to face the truth. We held a meeting at Parliament to sign the International Parliamentarians for West Papua declaration. This was originally launched at Westminster with politicians from the Pacific and Jeremy Corbin. The Declaration calls for a United Nations supervised referendum for West Papuan self-determination. 11 NZ politicians have signed it so far from four parties.
It is incredibly sad to hear the stories of violence and trauma which are part of daily life for our Melanesian neighbours who have lived under Indonesian military occupation for 54 years. Their beautiful country is being stripped of forests, gold and copper, oil and gas so that multinationals can get rich. The Indonesians have moved many thousands of Javanese people into their lowlands. Human rights and aid organisations have all been expelled and journalists are banned or closely monitored. Our Government needs to be a peace maker and supporter of this Pacific country. Seven Pacific nations have been at the United Nations calling for the referendum – Tonga, Nauru, Palau, Solomons, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. Come on Aotearoa, let’s make 8!