West Papuan activists are calling for international support in their bid for independence from Indonesia.
Paula Makabory, a member of the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights, said with Indonesia in control of her country, her culture is being lost.
Makabory, who is based in Melbourne, made the call at the AUT University marae, Nga Wai o Horotiu.
The marae hosted her, plus three other activists who are pushing for independence, during the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland this week.
West Papua is the western peninsula of New Guinea and is ethnically and culturally Melanesian, she said, but it is controlled by Indonesia.
“We are Melanesians, not Asians,” she said.
Makabory said the people who live in West Papua should be free of the powerful and often violent Indonesian government.
At times Makabory became very emotional as she spoke.
She said in West Papua, people like her are losing their language, songs and indigenous spirit as the regime’s violent activity silences them.
Makabory said in West Papua she would not be able to speak freely like she did during the Powhiri at Nga Wai O Horotiu.
Makabory and her colleague Amatus Douw also sang as part of the powhiri offering a song from West Papua.
Many in the wharenui were moved to tears as the West Papuans sang.
Douw said without more international awareness and help, change will not happen for West Papuans.
Douw, who is the president executive of the International Forum for West Papua (INFO-WP) and is based in Australia, said that in April, he wrote to the Australian Prime Minister outlining his group’s cases for crimes against humanity in West Papua.
He said those crimes were committed by the Indonesian military and police.
Douw said his role is to work closely with young Australians to educate them about West Papuan history.
Dr John Ondawame, a spokesperson for the West Papuan People’s Representative Office, said the biggest problem is the denial.
He said West Papua has not been able to act for itself since the New York Agreement that was signed at the United Nations in August 1962.
The agreement was between the Republic of Indonesia and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and ended scrapping between the two countries around the ownership of West Papua which had been continuing since 1949.
A side issue to the 1961 agreement was how it split the UN between the so-called West which supported Dutch ownership of the area while third world countries backed Indonesia.
Dr Ondawame said his country has become politically victimized for the interest of other powers and as Papuans they pay a very high price for safety and security of people of the Pacific including New Zealand.
The Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira, who walked onto the Marae with the activists, said they need to be supported.
Harawira said his family has worked with people in West Papua because independence is vital for indigenous peoples in the Pacific.
He said people made a call many years ago for a Nuclear Free Pacific but that had been changed to include independence for many countries under colonial powers.
Harawira said all indigenous people in the region have a right to freedom and to not be governed by others.
West Papuan activists protest during Pacific Islands Forum | Te Waha Nui.