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STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT. An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s when Indonesia had the region, which had remained under Dutch control following Indonesia’s 1945 declaration of independence from the Netherlands. Last month, rebels killed 19 people working on a construction site for a trans-Papua highway in the deadliest attack in years. The Indonesian government denies 20 Papuans were killed in reprisal security operations.
The government says the territory is rightfully its under international law because it was part of the Dutch East Indies empire that is the basis for Indonesia’s modern borders. But Papuans, culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia, say they were denied the right to decide their own future. Indonesian control was formalized in 1969 with a U.N.-supervised referendum in which little more than 1,000 Papuans were allowed to vote in an atmosphere of heavy intimidation.
Today the region is divided administratively into two provinces, Papua and West Papua, but supporters of independence call the entire region, which makes up the western half of New Guinea, West Papua.
An insurgence groups in Papua and their underbow in abroad have been attempting to try get Papua independence from Indonesia. An internationalization Papua’s issue such as human rights violence allegation, un-balance treatment and other sensitive issue have been delivering but Indonesian government has been responding all of those issue through bilateral and multilateral events and other occasion.
Benny Wenda’s maneuver who had joined with Vanuatu’s delegation to the United Nations meeting had shocked several stakeholders in Indonesia. Causely, Wenda had been successfully brought Papua independence petition, eventhough activists in Indonesia’s mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination but had a final dilemma: They were blocked from presenting it to the intended recipient, the United Nations.
An attempt to present the petition in 2017 to the U.N. committee responsible for monitoring the progress of colonized territories toward independence was rebuffed. The chairman of the committee said it couldn’t be accepted because Papua was not part of its mandate.
Highlighting the risks of the endeavor, an activist promoting the petition was arrested by Indonesian authorities in 2017 and sentenced the following year to 10 months in prison. He was arrested again this month along with several others who face treason charges.
The petition makes several demands of the U.N., including calling on it to review its involvement in the “unlawful annexation” of Papua, to appoint a special representative to investigate the human rights situation, to reinstate Papua on the decolonization committee’s agenda and to conduct an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination.
“Indonesia’s fake referendum included less than 0.2 percent of the population in 1969. The West Papuan People’s Petition of 2017 has 70 percent of the population,” Wenda, who is head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, said in a statement. “Indonesia’s entire claim to West Papua rests on what happened in 1969. That claim is destroyed now,” he said. He said he and others are “working day and night” to bring the petition to the U.N. General Assembly.
Benny Wenda succeeded, aided by the diplomatic equivalent of a wink and a nod from the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which has been championing the Papuan cause.
Vanuatu officials had a scheduled meeting last Friday in Geneva with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Among them was an exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda, who presented the voluminous petition to Bachelet.
“During this meeting, one member of the Vanuatu delegation, Mr. Benny Wenda, presented the high commissioner with a petition. This was not actually a meeting arranged with Mr. Wenda for that purpose,” said Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman at the U.N. Human Rights Office. Bachelet “was not aware” in advance, she said. Indonesia reacted angrily, accusing Vanuatu of “taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation.”
Shamdasani said Bachelet informed the Vanuatu delegation that the U.N. Human Rights Office “has been engaging with the Indonesian authorities on the issue of Papua, including the prevailing human rights situation, and has requested access to Papua.”
Indonesia’s mission to the U.N. said Vanuatu had “deliberately deceived” Bachelet. It said Indonesia “would never retreat to defend and protect” its territorial sovereignty. The U.N. reiterated previous statements it has made about Papua.
Under Jokowi’s administration, Papua and West Papua have taken “development progress benefit” through a massive an infrastructure project in eastern Indonesia regions. Presiden Jokowi has come to Papua several times to make sure Papuan people has taken better prosperity life under recent government, and President Jokowi had taken political support from Papuan people at the next presidential elections which had been spoken by Papua’s governor, Lukas Enembe.
Indonesia must defend and protect Papua as the whole of Indonesia’s territory, because politically and legally, Indonesia has developed Papua’s provinces same like others Indonesia’s provinces. Many of Papua’s youth have been sworn by the President of Indonesia as the Indonesia military officers and the National Police officers.
Benny Wenda and other radical or separatist underbow group in Papua are believed in to always make maneuver and other political propaganda to reach their purpose to split Papua from Indonesia, but Indonesian people from Sabang, Aceh until Merauke and from Miangas, North Sulawesi until Rote islands in NTT will defend and protect Papua’s because they love Papua forever.
*) The writer is political and security observer in Jakarta.