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West Papuan independence leader warns of genocide as Indonesia refuses to stop travel to the region

INDONESIA’S refusal to suspend flights and other travel into the region during the coronavirus pandemic demonstrates its “genocidal policies,” West Papuan leader Benny Wenda has warned, urging an immediate change of policy.

He accused Indonesian Interior Minister Tito Karnavian of directly overruling West Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, who called an end to flights and shipping movements from March 26 to April 8 to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Mr Karnavian insisted that the only measures necessary in West Papua were “physical distancing, such as the elimination of events that bring people together,” rejecting Mr Enebe’s directive despite the “clear threat of Covid-19 to hundreds of thousands” of the region’s inhabitants.

West Papua comprises the two westernmost peninsulas of the island of New Guinea. They been administered by Indonesia since 1963 and were annexed in 1969.

The annexation followed a “fake referendum” where a handpicked group of 1,022 Papuans were coerced into ratifying the Indonesian occupation by gunpoint through the so-called Act of Free Choice.

Mr Wenda, who chairs the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, said: “Indonesian colonialism has left us with a weak healthcare system that does little for Indigenous West Papuans.

“If the virus is not stopped from entering, our survival is at risk.

“[The interior minister’s] action demonstrates that the Indonesian state is playing recklessly with the lives of West Papuans…”

He pointed out that all international journalists and aid agencies have been banned from entering West Papua for 57 years, but Indonesian migrants who could be carrying Covid-19 are allowed to enter.

“We can only conclude that Indonesia’s intentions towards our people are genocidal,” Mr Wenda said.

He insisted that all non-essential transport into the region must stop on humanitarian grounds and demanded the immediate release of all West Papuan political prisoners.

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