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West Papuan leader demands immediate release of all political prisoners

WEST PAPUAN leader Benny Wenda today demanded the immediate release of all political prisoners held by Indonesia as he warned of genocide against his people.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) chairman urged the world not to be fooled by the words of Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is set to address the Australian parliament on Tuesday.

Mr Wenda accused the Indonesian government of attempting to “wipe out the internal leadership of the people of West Papua” and called for urgent intervention to stop the massacre of his people.

Mr Wenda accused the Indonesian premier of preparing to tell lies to Australian parliamentarians while jailing those who “peacefully raised their voice against 57 years of Indonesian racism and colonialism” during last year’s West Papua uprising.

Dozens were killed during clashes with Indonesian security forces as the Indonesian government sent an additional 16,000 troops into West Papua to crush the protest movement.

Scores of West Papuans were arrested for taking part in demonstrations demanding a referendum on independence.

As more soldiers are mobilised, Mr Wenda accused Indonesia of turning West Papua into a “war zone.”

“Every street corner in West Papua now contains a military checkpoint, a police base, an intelligence section. Church leaders are being intimidated, Papuans arrested inside their churches,” he told the Morning Star.

West Papua was annexed by Indonesia in 1969, following the so-called Act of Free Choice ballot. Just 1,022 residents were allowed to participate and vote in favour of the move, many doing so at gunpoint.

More than 500,000 people are believed to have been killed since Indonesian forces moved into West Papua in the same year.

Mr Wenda described the colonisation of West Papua as “the dark heart of Indonesia.”

He warned that it would eat away at Indonesia’s institutions, destroying any chance of it becoming a democratic and prosperous nation “if it does not let the people of West Papua go.”

Many of those detained are being held in appalling conditions and face lengthy jail sentences.

The so-called Jakarta Six have been charged with rebellion and face 15 years in prison for peacefully raising the West Papuan flag — known as the Morning Star — in front of the presidential palace last August.

“Indonesia is trying to intimidate and harass the West Papuan people into silence through military power,” he said.

Mr Wenda reiterated his demand for a referendum on independence, so that West Papuans “can freely and peacefully exercise their right to self-determination.” 

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