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West Papaun freedom leader demands independence

WEST PAPUAN freedom movement leader Benny Wenda has reiterated his call for the region’s independence and the release of all political prisoners held by Indonesia in the face of brutal attacks on his people.

Mr Wenda, who chairs the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said hundreds of thousands of people are rising up to press their demand for an independence referendum, which has been denied since Jakarta annexed the region in 1969.

Indonesian authorities have moved to violently crush the movement, with at least six people killed by the “occupying forces.”

Mr Wenda accused General Wiranto, Indonesia’s co-ordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, of waging a propaganda war and forming militia groups in a bid “to turn Indonesian settlers in West Papua against us, just as he did in East Timor.”

Gen Wiranto is wanted by the United Nations for facilitating crimes against humanity in East Timor after more than 1,000 people were killed and 250,000 were forced to flee their homes before and after the 1999 UN-sponsored referendum. 

West Papuans fear a similar bloodbath, following the mobilisation of thousands of troops by an Indonesian state that is trying to foster conflict through arming settlers and directing nationalist militias. 

“It is the Indonesian nationalist groups which called us ‘monkeys’ and ‘pigs’ in Surabaya. These are the ‘escalations’ and ‘provocations’ which began the recent events,” Mr Wenda said.

But he added: “We West Papuans have no problem with Indonesia settlers in West Papua. We want to live in harmony and peace with them in a free independent West Papua.

“I say to the Indonesian citizens in West Papua: you are the eye-witnesses of the injustices being carried out by the Indonesian government against my people. Listen to why we are demonstrating.

“Do not listen to orders from the Indonesian military or police to form gangs and militias against us. Support our peaceful demands for a democratic referendum on independence,” he said.

“Indonesia is illegally occupying West Papua, not the other way around. Five hundred thousand men, women and children have died under the Indonesian occupation. 

“For 57 years, we have been struggling for our right to self-determination, our right to determine our own destiny.”

Mr Wenda called for the release of ULMWP political chief Bazoka Logo, who has been detained since August 15, “and all Papuans who have been arrested over the past few weeks.” 

West Papua was annexed in 1969 following a “referendum” in which a handpicked group of 1,022 Papuans were coerced into ratifying the Indonesian occupation by endorsing the so-called Act of Free Choice.

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