United Liberation Movement for West Papua leaders have been in New York this week, lobbying at the United Nations about their self-determination struggle in Indonesia.
The Liberation Movement’s secretary-general Octo Mote and spokesman Benny Wenda said they have been meeting with officials from several UN departments and various embassies.
They have been talking about their hopes for a new internationally-supervised self-determination vote for the indigenous people of Indonesia’s Papua region.
Mr Wenda said the lobbying gives them an opportunity to correct misinformation spread internationally about Papua by Jakarta and people within the UN system appreciate the discussions.
“We’re also updating the current situation (on the ground in Papua) and this is like… that West Papua has been neglected for the last fifty years, so they’re surprised that this has been going on. So there’s a number of diplomats we met in New York.”
Mr Wenda said that taking the matter to the UN is part of the new phase of their struggle.
He said the combined issues of human rights abuses in West Papua, and Papuans’ self-determination struggle, are considered an issue for the whole Pacific islands region, and that Pacific countries are increasingly supportive.
Jakarta said Papua’s incorporation into Indonesia is final and that human rights abuses in the region are being addressed.
It also said it is devoting significant resources into creating better conditions for economic development at grassroots levels in West Papuan communities.
However, despite Jakarta’s sensitivity to it, there have been various diplomatic gains made this year in advancing West Papua as an issue for the UN to address.
This includes the call by the International Parliamentarians for West Papua for an independence referendum in Papua, and the rise of the Pacific Coalition for West Papua.
It is still unclear if the melanesian Spearhead Group will accept the Liberation Movement’s bid to be a full member in the group – a decision could be made before Christmas, according to the MSG secretariat.
However Mr Wenda said Papuans were greatly encouraged by the unprecedented call by seven Pacific states at the UN General Assembly in September for the world community to take action about alleged historical and current injustices in Papua.
Article published by Radio New Zealand