As the UN General Assembly meets to celebrate its 75th anniversary, it continues to ignore the stain at the heart of its historical record: West Papua.
As the world’s nations meet, Jakarta is trying once again to impose its own solutions on the people of West Papua. From the invasion of 1963 to the fraudulent ‘Act of Free Choice’ in 1969 to the fake ‘Special Autonomy’ of 2001, we reject Jakarta’s manipulations. Indonesia’s new ‘Special Autonomy Volume II’, imposed at the barrel of Indonesian military guns, is no solution for my people. These ‘solutions’ have always been imposed with the complicity of the big powers and the UN.
We are demanding a referendum, and we will rise up until we win it. It is time for the UN to review its role in silencing the people of West Papua and facilitate an urgent act of self-determination.
Yesterday, we received another example of what ‘Special Autonomy’ means for us. Pastor Yeremia Zanambani, a loved religious leader in the regency of Intan Jaya, was murdered in cold-blood by colonial Indonesian troops. We know that the history of imperialism, in West Papua as elsewhere, is a history written in blood. We will not accept another 20 years ‘Special Autonomy’ bloodshed.
Under the eyes of the world, as the UN General Assembly meets, another pastor has been killed by Indonesia. The UN may be celebrating 75 years of its existence, but for us it has been 57 years of being ignored by the UN. Indonesia has ignored and disregarded the words and will of the Pacific Islands Forum and 79 countries in the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, and continued to use West Papua as a closed killing zone.
Another of our people is being buried, joining the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children whose lives have been ended by Indonesia. This killing is one grain of sand in a storm of Indonesian State violence: since 2018, churches have been deserted, congregations displaced, civilians executed in military operations in Nduga and elsewhere. Over 40,000 people have fled their homes. This is the reality of ‘Special Autonomy’.
Forty-four civil society organisations, all Papuan churches and the people of West Papua as a whole have united to reject Special Autonomy II. Our people are coming out on the streets. As videos of yesterday’s demonstration in Manado show, unarmed students and ordinary Indigenous people face riot shields and police repression for expressing themselves. We are calling for our right – the right to freely determine our own destiny through a referendum on independence.
In other parts of the region, agreements have been reached between liberation movements and colonial governments. In New Caledonia and Bougainville, referendums have been successfully held following these agreements. In West Papua this has never happened. We have never been consulted. The ULMWP has laid down six pre-conditions, including the withdrawal of the murderous Indonesian military, for talks with the Indonesian President to commence. Until today, we have been ignored.
This issue is not going away. West Papua is not the ‘done deal’ that Jakarta claims. If the issue is settled, why does Indonesia send thousands of troops to West Papua to kill and torture my people? If it is a done deal, why does Indonesia continue to ban all international journalists from entering West Papua? If the West Papua issue is over, why does Indonesia refuse to even allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into our land?
We want a peaceful solution to this conflict. We want to follow international democratic practice and settle this through consulting the will of the people in a free and fair referendum. Indonesia still has the chance to prove itself as a great leader in the Asia-Pacific region and to follow the path of humanity, democracy and liberation. We do not want to witness bloodshed on the scale of East Timor. This is the choice facing us all as the people of West Papua intensify their resistance to the new Special Autonomy lies of the Indonesian government. Regional leaders, the international community and all our solidarity groups must act now to stop the implementation of ‘Special Autonomy Volume II’.