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West Papua – the Next East Timor

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The Isle of New Guinea: West Papua and Papua New Guinea
The Isle of New Guinea: West Papua and Papua New Guinea

The Indonesia’s “Look East” Diplomacy entails stepping up on its propaganda against United Liberation Movement For West Papua or ULMWP. This is legitimated by the proposition that to go against ULMWP is for the best interests of the People of West Papua, Free Papua Movement, and the armed wing of the independence movement.

Indonesian militia elements target ULMWP. This is because it is the cementing block for indigenous Papuans who have formed under one umbrella group. It is also a threat considered by Jakarta as having traction and therefore reinforces the arguments for West Papua to separate from the unitary Republic of Indonesia.

And, Indonesian militia elements are assigned to stop this option for West Papua and ensure the conversation is only about West Papua remaining part of the territory, and an integral part of Indonesia.

In doing so, or to validate Indonesia’s claim to sovereignty over West Papua especially at a time when the internationalisation of the independence movement has peaked propaganda has been stepped up with programmes run by NGOs, academics, churches, students, and other tactical scripts produced in Jakarta.

In the latest developments, the strategy involved stepped up propaganda in which the armed wing of the independence movement is being coached into siding with the script from Jakarta.

It is the same version to play down the inalienable right to self – determine for indigenous Papuans since the 1960s. However, the extremist or hardline position of the armed wing since the unilateral proclamation of independence made by the OPM on 1 July 1971 is being manipulated so that it defeats the purpose of the case for a new UN sponsored referendum pushed by ULMWP which runs tandem to the case for independence put by the Dutch colonial administration to the UN in the 1960s.

The farcical Act of Free Choice held in 1969 therefore is being challenged by ULMWP which includes the role played by Indonesia as the temporary administration under the New York Agreement.

The point to be made about ULMWP’s internationalisation of the West Papua issue is that Indonesia’s claim to sovereignty over West Papua is illegal. This is supported by several tenets. Firstly, historical documents and data show clearly the fraud. Thus, on July 14 – August 2, 1969 based on the New York Agreement there was a referendum which was to provide indigenous Papuans the opportunity to choose self-determination [one person one vote] or not.

Due to the heavy involvement of militia elements sponsored by Indonesia the option for indigenous Papuans to have their say was never expressed under the terms of international best – practice. Instead, during the farcical referendum also called PEPERA the whole voting population of West Papua did not vote.

The New York Agreement provided that all indigenous Papuans above 18 years old were to vote which was the international best – practice guideline called universal suffrage. Only 1025 people comprising both indigenous Papuans and non – indigenous Papuans were hand – picked to represent the entire population of West Papua.

This history is to be rectified because the farcical referendum resulted in the current status of West Papua as a territorial region or part of the unitary Republic of Indonesia.

Secondly, the ULMWP has already set in motion elements of a strategy to revisit the history of West Papua’s integration into the unitary Republic of Indonesia. This caused a reaction from the militia, which is sponsored by Indonesia to undermine the moves by ULMWP since it was formed in 2014.

The International Lawyers for West Papua or ILWP with the support of Vanuatu as a state actor in the international system has made significant progress to challenge the legality of the integration of the former Dutch colony into the unitary Republic of Indonesia.

Among the crucial evidence being compiled is the unilateral proclamation of independence on July 1, 1971 in which the Free Papua Movement or OPM proclaimed the State of West Papua.

The noble intention has never been recognised by the international community. Meanwhile, local militias financed by Indonesia infiltrated the OPM network after the leaders who issued the proclamation went into exile in other countries.

Thirdly, while living in exile overseas, original leaders of the independence movement were able to maintain solidarity needed for the struggle to stay alive, and remain insulated and free from the activities of local militias and importantly continued to fight so that West Papua would gain independence one day.

Fourthly, in the era of a ‘democratising’ Indonesia steps were taken to address the West Papua issue highlighted by the OPM Second Congress or Musyawarah Besar or MUBES held in 2000.

This led to the birth of special autonomy. But, it was a within – system option that contained the independence aspiration in which case the status of West Papua was contained within a special arrangement with the Indonesian state called special autonomy.

However, the catch is this. West Papua was still part of Indonesia.

This process did not question Indonesian claim to sovereignty over West Papua. And, the indigenous Papuans continued to be categorised as slaves. It gave the local militia an excuse to force the Indonesian identity on Melanesian Papuans with no respect for the ideals of the ancestral land, and ideals of the Papuan race for independence from the Indonesian occupying forces.

Finally, ULMWP since its birth in 2014, has filled the vacuum and therefore the need for a united platform for independence. Despite the effort of the local militia, and the advice from Jakarta to stop ULMWP from internationalising the West Papua issue, the Free Papua Movement or OPM has successfully withstood the test of time and scrutiny.

The conclusions are these:

(1) Indonesia can stop the Free Papua Movement or OPM from inside because liberated zones are fast taken over by non – indigenous Papuans or Indonesian trans migrants in a government programme controlled by Jakarta referred as ‘slow – motion’ genocide by some academic researchers.

But, the internationalisation of the West Papua issue in recent years paid off with the birth of ULMWP. Generally, although there may be exceptions, the fact is OPM is ULMWP. And, ULMWP is OPM. Chairman of the ULMWP is the Chairperson of the OPM.

(2) Any within – system strategy endorsed by Jakarta included the 2000 OPM Second Congress or MUBES. But, since then there has been considerable consolidation of the independence aspiration especially with internationalisation of the West Papua issue.

(3) The OPM and its modus operandi is built into, and not outside the ULMWP sphere of influence in international politics and diplomacy to push the argument for UN intervention in West Papua.

(4) The ULMWP is insulated from the local militia and its Jakarta military advisers and will challenge the Indonesian claim to sovereignty over West Papua through internationalising the facts about its illegal integration into the unitary Republic of Indonesia.

(5) Indigenous Papuans may or may not be subjected to deals, and compromise, and therefore used as scapegoats to prolong the Indonesian version of West Papua’s integration as part of Indonesia.

It is time to say enough is enough.

PNG, your call. Make the move.

(Photo Caption: ULMWP Chairman Benny Wenda – first Melanesian to receive Freedom of Oxford Award recently, non – violent approach to internationalisation of West Papua issue recognised globally; MSG – West Papua’s application by ULMWP for full membership is still on the table, vocabulary of decolonisation in the Pacific has changed; West Papua – MSG intervention means it is no longer Indonesia’s ‘internal’ problem or matter of economic development; PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape – PNG is currently Chair of MSG but will hand over to Vanuatu this year, 2019; PNG’s word on West Papua carries a lot of weight, natural proxy to West Papua; John Tekwie – former Sandaun Governor, West Papua’s freedom is a household topic in PNG; Benny Wenda ULMWP Chairman – due for Order of Logohu or Star of Melanesia Award)


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