Friday, August 26, 2011

Papuan leader to visit NZ

Dr John Ondawame arrives on Sunday 28 August for a 2 week tour of New Zealand. He and fellow exiled West Papuan leaders Paula Makabory and Rex Rumakiek will be in Auckland to lobby the delegations attending the Pacific Island Forum meeting from September 6-9.

John Ondawame, West Papuan People's Representative Office, Vanuatu, has lived in exile since he was forced to flee the conflict in Indonesian-occupied West Papua in the late 1970s. He has worked for the peace and justice for his violence torn homeland ever since.

Recently leaked Indonesian military documents confirm that the West Papuan people live under conditions which are reminiscent of the East German stasi. A vast network of spies and informers keep track of activists, Church leaders, Tribal heads and local villagers. It is estimated that some 100,000 lives have been lost to the 49 year conflict.

Yet the people continue to hope that there is a road to peace. Last month hundreds of Papuans attended a ground-breaking Peace Conference at the Cenderawasih University in Jayapura. Indonesian politicians and senior bureaucrats also attended. John Ondawame was named in the final declaration of the conference as one of five recommended negotiators for future talks between Jakarta and West Papuan representatives.

West Papua's tragic history, including the fraudulent 1969 'Act of Free Choice' under which the territory was incorporated into Indonesia should be much better understood by New Zealand and other Pacific nations. West Papua is part of the Pacific: ethnically, culturally and geographically. John will later join his West Papuan colleagues in lobbying the Forum delegations to grant observer status to West Papuan representatives.

John will tour Whangarei, Tauranga and Christchurch before returning to Auckland.