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Interview: Willy Mandowen, West Papuan independence leader

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West Papuan independence leader Willy Mandowen joined Jana Wendt in the studio.

JANA WENDT: Willy Mandowen, Indonesia is offering you a form of autonomy; what`s wrong with the offer?
WILLY MANDOWEN, WEST PAPUAN INDEPENDENCE LEADER: It`s insignificant, from the people`s point of aspiration. It has never been discussed thoroughly with the people, and it has been the issue that people rejected. People want full independence in West Papua.So you have decided to reject this offer outright?WILLY MANDOWEN: That`s been the decision from the people since the first dialogue with Habibie in February `99, the meeting with Gus Dur, President Wahid, on December `99, and the decision of the current congress of people of West Papua in June.
You are on your way to the South Pacific Forum – so is PM John Howard. Do you expect any support from Australia in this push for independence?
WILLY MANDOWEN: Undeniably, Australia must support West Papua. It`s a part of the body they cannot ignore. It`s geopolitical of Australia and Pacific in general. And the future of Pacific, also, very much depends on West Papua. So we would expect that the Australian Government, through the PM, would play a passive role in encouraging other states in the Pacific to look at West Papua.
You`re going to the South Pacific Forum to talk, but back in West Papua, it`s not talk anymore representing the pro-independence cause. 65 Indonesians are being held hostage by tribesmen; they`re threatening to kill them if Indonesian authorities take down the Morning Star flag. Do you support the tribesmen`s action?
WILLY MANDOWEN: The intention to kill we wouldn`t support, because it`s already stated that a peaceful dialogue, a democratic process towards independence is the basis of the freedom movement in West Papua.

But I would appreciate the fact that the world, including Australia and the Pacific states, must look at West Papua case, look at the Morning Star flag as a reflection of a longstanding decolonisation issue in the Pacific. West Papua, which has been betrayed and denied by United Nations, USA and other developed countries, that the people who try to symbolise this issue to the world, that`s why they maintain the flag.

This is some symbol – 65 hostages. And it`s not just that – we`ve already seen a bloodbath earlier this month, where your supporters slaughtered Indonesian settlers. Is this getting out of control?
WILLY MANDOWEN: I think it is another way of some introductions of militia activities, because it`s been an accumulation – it`s not only areas such as Teum, but it`s been accumulating from time to time that the issue of the flag has been used to violate the situation, including the killings of the West Papuans. I`m sure the killing of some migrants is a spontaneous thing from the people. They don`t plan that.
So it`s not a planned campaign, you`re saying. Papua People`s Congress Vice-President Tom Benau was recently quoted as saying that “every West Papuan death would be avenged by the death of an Indonesian migrant”. Do we take those sorts of comments seriously?
WILLY MANDOWEN: Some cultural groups in West Papua – you know, there is 253 local language ethnic groups – have some values that revenge is part of their way of living. When they are threatened, they have to take revenge. But I`m sure there is a common understanding of a peaceful process, through dialogue, for freedom. So there is a way that presidium of Papua council, the members, could mediate the talks with the Government, with the local people on how to deal with the issue.
But so there is, from what you`re saying, a split between those in the independence movement who prefer to use words, and those who prefer to use blood?
WILLY MANDOWEN: I think the agreement in the last Congress was that the freedom movement would proceed though democratic means; only that the dualistic, non-coherent policy from the central government, the differences between President Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati are now reflected on the ground, that the local police took severe action to lower the flag by force. This made people unhappy, and in return, they protested because of this non-coherent policy.
December 1 is planned as a very big day for you – another flag-raising ceremony. If Indonesian authorities intervene, what will happen?
WILLY MANDOWEN: Indonesian authorities look at West Papuans as people – the people that has the right to raise the flag. December 1, I think not only Indonesia but the world should look, and I`m sure that it would go peacefully, except the Indonesian military police are taking very severe actions of oppression towards the people.

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