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West Papuan liberation leader warns of genocide after Indonesia crackdown threat

WEST PAPUA’S liberation movement leader Benny Wenda hit out today at a “crackdown order” by Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo, accusing him of waging a genocide against the region’s people.

Mr Widodo was responding after the regional head of the Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (BIN), Brigadier General I Gusti Putu Danny Karya Nugraha, was shot dead during a visit to the Beoga district, where Indonesia is conducting counterinsurgency operations.

“I have ordered the military and police chiefs to pursue and arrest members of the armed criminal group,” Mr Widodo said in a televised statement on Monday.

“There’s no place for armed criminal groups in the land of Papua and the entire nation.”

But Mr Wenda, who was elected interim president of a West Papuan provisional government last December, said that Jakarta was once again trying to smear his people’s struggle as a terrorist movement.

“Indonesia has illegally invaded and occupied our country for nearly 60 years, subjecting my people to a genocide,” he said. 

“An illegal invasion and occupation is a criminal act. A genocide is a terrorist act. Resistance to these is legitimate and necessary.”

“My questions to the president of Indonesia are: who invaded our country in the first place? Who has killed over 500,000 men, women and children? Who has displaced over 50,000 civilians since December 2018, leading to the deaths of hundreds more people? 

“It is clear that the Indonesian state is the real terrorist group operating in my land. We know what this order will lead to: more killing, more torture, more suffering of my people.”

Mr Wenda insisted that the West Papua Army, an alliance of pro-independence armed factions, is not a criminal group or gang. Its fighters are legitimate “combatants in a national liberation struggle to expel an illegal coloniser.

“Instead of reacting with further human rights abuses, you must sit down with me, president to president, and find a way to peacefully resolve our conflict,” he said.

Mr Wenda urged Indonesia to withdraw all troops from the peninsula, which it formally annexed in 1969 through the so-called Act of Free Choice.

The law was ratified by just 1,000 hand-picked West Papuans, many of whom voted at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, Indonesian parliament Speaker Bambang Soesatyo has been criticised after he urged the government to crush the West Papua rebellion.

“Destroy them first. We will discuss human rights matters later,” he said.

Amnesty International warned that his remarks had the potential to escalate violence.

“Human rights are constitutional obligations, so they must be a priority in every state policy. Putting aside human rights is not only against international law but also unconstitutional,” said Amnesty spokesman Usman Hamid.

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