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Indonesian activists call for Papua independence vote

Non Papuan activists to stage rallies in show of solidarity with people of 'oppressed' region

Indonesian activists call for Papua independence vote

Surya Anta, spokesperson of the Indonesia People's Front for West Papua says the government should respect the Papuans’ rights to self-determination (Photo by Ryan Dagur)

 

Indonesian activists have for the first time publicly declared support for an independence referendum in Papua.

Papuans have the right to self-determination to end the suffering and abuses they have faced since Indonesia took control of Papua following a hotly disputed vote in 1969, the Indonesia People's Front for West Papua, an alliance of non-Papuan activists said Nov. 29.

"They continue to endure violence, shootings and killings, where in many cases the perpetrators remain at large," Surya Anta a spokesman for the alliance told a news conference.

He said the alliance will stage rallies in Jakarta and other cities to voice their support, for independence on Dec. 1 which coincides with the anniversary of West Papua’s 1961 declaration of independence from the Dutch.

Papua consists of two provinces — Papua and West Papua — and has a population of nearly four million, mostly Christian. About 52 percent are Protestants while about 15 percent are Catholics.

According to the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace some, 2,293 Papuans have been arrested, 61 shot and 13 killed by authorities this year alone for seeking greater autonomy or independence.

Father John Djonga, a priest who has worked with Papuans in the region's remote areas for decades said bitter experiences had made their will for independence much stronger.

"Papuans have no problem if they go to jail, or are killed. It's for the nation, for the sake of freedom," he said.

Meanwhile, Wiranto, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security  dismissed the referendum calls and said the government would ban independence celebrations on Dec 1.

"They violate the law," he told reporters, Nov. 29.

Wiranto claimed those fighting for independence are just small number of people, and the government has answered protests and criticisms related to the situation in Papua with a focus on accelerating development and welfare.

However, Adriana Elisabeth, researcher on Papua issues at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences criticized the government's approach, saying that welfare was not only about infrastructure, education or health, but also how to end violence and other human rights violations in Papua.

"Growing insistence on self-determination is an accumulation of frustration with political demands that have not been met by the government," she said.

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