Fwd (GLW): West Papua: Strong Support for independence

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Jun 4 19:54:38 MDT 2000

>From the latest issue of Green Left Weekly:

West Papua: Strong Support for independence

A congress on May 29-June 4 in Jayapura city, West Papua, has called for
steps to forge an independent West Papua. The Morning Star flag, banned
symbol of West Papuan independence, was flying every day during the
conference and the 3000 participants from all regions of the province
unanimously declared their desire for independence.

The Jakarta Post reported that on June 3 the congress's political affairs
committee officially adopted a five-point draft resolution affirming that
``West Papua is not a part of Indonesia'', guaranteeing the rights of
non-indigenous people and directing the presidium council to seek
international recognition for independence. The congress is expected to
formally proclaim the declaration on its last meeting day.

Addressing the congress, Theys H. Eluay said, ``The declaration does not
mean Papua is separating from Indonesia because legally, and according to
our history, Papua never became part of Indonesia''.

Other topics discussed were steps to revise Papuan history, introduce laws
for the security and protection of Papuan people, human rights, and
economic and political development. But high expectations on independence
are what brought most people to the congress. ``The congress is potentially
explosive. The people want a lot'', commented John Rumbiak of ELS-HAM, the
main Papuan human rights group.

Delegates were split over how to achieve independence: whether to declare
independence immediately, during the conference, or to conduct discussions
with Indonesia, the United Nations and the Netherlands to formulate a
negotiated road to independence.

A 60-page document was presented which detailed a plan for a ``state of
Papua'', including plans for a federal republic with six territories, a
two-house parliament, a prime minister elected for four years, the Dutch
guilder as the currency and the Morning Star as the country's flag. The
Jakarta Post reported on June 2 that delegates called for a declaration of

According to an Agence France Presse report, the congress went into closed
session on May 31. The chairperson of the congress, Thaha Alhamid, said the
session was needed to clarify the question of forming a provisional
government, which if agreed to, would mean that ``Indonesia would kill

Although the vote on the independence motion was delayed, the number of
voting members was increased to 501 (from 420) to accommodate demands for
representation from former political prisoners and freedom fighters.
Reports indicate that a majority of delegates support negotiations rather
than an immediate declaration.

On June 2, the congress rejected calls to set up a provisional government
in exile. ``This would justify the Indonesian army and police to launch an
operation to wipe us out'', student Fadal Alhamid told the Jakarta Post.

Before the congress, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid changed his
mind about opening the congress after intelligence officials and
vice-president Megawati Sukarnoputri told him that doing so would amount to
supporting independence demands.

As soon as it became clear that pro-independence views dominated the
congress, Indonesian government officials condemned the congress as
``unrepresentative'' and warned delegates against overstepping the mark.
``If their action is intended to separate, the government will take stern
action'', said state secretary Bondan Gunawan. He added, ``The president
rejects the demands ... for freedom''. Foreign affairs minister, Alwi
Shihab said, ``If the discussions go too far and they, for instance, use
the meeting to declare Papua's independence, I think we have to react''.

Wahid donated 1 billion rupiah (US$125,000) for the congress and offered an
autonomy package to appease the independence movement. The package includes
increased political and economic control for the province. The wealth of
resources in this province of some 2.5 million people is immensely
important to Indonesia's elite.

On May 25, Indonesia's human rights minister, Hasballah Said, announced
that human rights abuses since the 1969 occupation by Indonesia would be
investigated. As well, minor measures have been taken at the Freeport gold
and copper mine after an accident killed four workers and sent chemicals
into the Wanagon River.

However, a 44-member delegation from the of Free Papua Movement (OPM),
which met with Wahid on May 27 and Sukarnoputri on May 29, said they would
refuse any offers that fail to accommodate the aspirations of West Papuans.
The congress has demonstrated what those aspirations are.

Australian foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer and Prime Minister
John Howard issued statements last week supporting Indonesian sovereignty
and ``integrity'', and again recognising the integration of West Papua into
Indonesia. Papua New Guinea provincial governor John Tekewie, who is
attending the congress, called on Australia, the Netherlands and the United
States to make up for their support for Indonesia's occupation of West
Papua by supporting moves towards independence.

Indonesia is unlikely to give in to West Papua's independence demands and
there are reports of Indonesian armed forces-backed militia activity inside
the province. For regular updates, visit http://www.kabar-irian.com.

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