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Nats warned not to support Papuan activist

Tuesday 12 Feb 2013 2:23 p.m.

Benny Wenda (Wikipedia)

Benny Wenda (Wikipedia)

Two National MPs who wanted to support a West Papuan activist to speak at Parliament were advised against it by Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

Independence leader Benny Wenda, who is living in exile in the United Kingdom, is visiting New Zealand as part of an overseas tour campaigning for the self-determination of West Papua, which is under Indonesian control.

He will speak at Victoria University, opposite Parliament, today after Speaker David Carter refused to allow him to speak at Parliament, unless it was in a political party's caucus room.

Mr Wenda has the backing of Labour, the Greens and Mana, and two unnamed National MPs also wanted to co-sponsor his visit.

They were told by Mr McCully's office that the Government "would not favour that".

"We believe that the approach the Government's taking to human rights issues in West Papua and Indonesia is a more constructive one," Mr McCully told media.

"We have quite an active dialogue with the Indonesian authorities about human rights issues, and when allegations of abuse occur, we never shirk our responsibility to raise those cases and they are always discussed.

"I want to engage in that sort of diplomacy, not megaphone diplomacy, and that's what I think was being suggested here."

Labour leader David Shearer condemned Mr McCully's position, pointing out that Mr Wenda has spoken in the British and European Union parliaments, and is expected to speak in Australia's parliament.

"Murray McCully should butt out and leave Parliament to the people, and allow Mr Wenda to be here and speak," he said.

Mr Shearer said concerns that the visit could affect New Zealand's relations with Indonesia were ill-founded.

"We should have an independent foreign policy and we should be able to make our own decisions."

Mr Wenda is now free to travel after previously being issued a red notice by Interpol, after Indonesian authorities accused him of murder and arson.

Interpol later decided the case against Mr Wenda was "predominantly political".

NZN

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