WEST PAPUA: Freedom fighter blocked from NZ Parliament - Greens
Friday, February 8, 2013
Brook Sabin, TV3 political reporter
WELLINGTON (TV3 News / Pacific Media Watch): The New Zealand Parliament's new Speaker is embroiled in his first fight, before he has even had a full day in the debating chamber.
West Papuan freedom fighter Benny Wenda is on his way to New Zealand, and while he has spoken at parliaments around the world, he will not be allowed to here.
Wenda is a colourful character. He starts his talks with a traditional greeting, and then a song. He has done this all around the world – at the British Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, and even the United Nations.
But Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says he has being blocked from talking here.
“Benny Wenda has spoken at many parliaments around the world, but it appears the New Zealand Parliament will shut its doors.”
Wenda says the people of West Papua have suffered atrocities at the hands of the Indonesian military.
In 2002, he was arrested for promoting independence. A year later he escaped prison and fled to the United Kingdom, where he was granted political asylum.
In 2011, interpol issued a red alert at the request of the Indonesian government. But last year, after an investigation, that was removed. It was deemed to be politically motivated.
The Greens, Labour and Mana applied to the new speaker David Carter to have a function here, in the west foyer, but that was refused.
Labour MP Maryan Street says the decision goes against the spirit of Parliament.
“Parliament is exactly the place where people's points of view should be aired,” she says.
In the past, Parliament has been used for everything from Ahmed Zaoui's book launch, to a wedding.
But the Greens say the government doesn't want to upset the Indonesians, a big trading partner.
“I think it's pretty clear the Foreign Affairs Minister has had some influence on this decision,” says Norman.
Wenda will bring with him West Papua human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson – most famous for being Julian Assange's legal advisor.
The function will now be held across the road from Parliament.
The Speaker's office, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs would not be interviewed for this story.
3 News was simply told the function did not meet the guidelines. There was no further explanation.
Watch this video report
Public meeting in Auckland
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