West Papua petition causes UN stir, but Papuans say demands still clear

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

Australia’s ABC News report on the banned West Papuan petition. Video: Lewis Prai Wellip

By Zely Ariane in Jayapura

A petition claimed to represent the wishes of Papuan people on a referendum on West Papua’s future has been debated since last week among Papuan people and commentators, the government of Indonesia and the United Nations.

Denials and accusations have sprung up in various media since the petition was published by the British publication The Guardian.

Benny Wenda (right) submitted a petition to Jeremy Corbyn, Member of the UK Parliament, and Chairman of the UK Labor Party, in July 2017. Image: Victor Mambor/Tabloid Jubi

The Indonesian government accused Benny Wenda, the key driver behind the petition of “lying and spreading hoax”.

Quoting the statement of the Chairman of Decolonisation Special Committee known as C24, Rafael Ramirez, the Indonesian Permanent Mission of the United Nations in New York said no petition had been received from West Papua by C24.

On the other hand, Benny Wenda said that if the petition was a hoax as alleged by the Indonesian government, why would anyone be jailed for organising the signing of the petition.

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He already suspects Indonesia will do anything to discredit the petition, himself and other West Papuan leaders – even the people of West Papua.

However, some Papuans have the view that submitting the petition is not a substantial matter. The Indonesian government must recognize that Jakarta’s policy in the Land of Papua has not yet satisfied the indigenous Papuans.

Response from Papua
Responding to the furore over this petition, Papuan legislator Laurenz Kadepa said the current contrasting claims between the Indonesian government and Benny Wenda were not the substance of the Papua issue.

The most important thing should be a lesson for the government so that policies for Papua should be evaluated from all aspects, especially human rights.

“Hoax or true, the petition information is not to be debated. Now the human rights issue in Papua is on the UN agenda and it will be an obstacle for the Indonesian government. Because the states that are concerned with Papuan human rights continue to grow, not just Melanesian countries,” said Kadepa.

“The Indonesian government should correct itself and improve its policy in Papua,” Kadepa continued.

While a statement by the chairman of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), Victor Yeimo, to Benar News confirmed that even if without any petition everyone knew the desire of the people of Papua, which was to hold a referendum to shape the fate of Papuan people.

Regarding the Chairman of C24’s rebuttal, Yeimo said that if the chairman refused to accept the petition it was within the authority of the commission. Ramirez had the right to refuse formal acceptance.

“What must be understood by the people of Papua is the chairman of C24 himself in the interview video said that West Papua was listed by General Assembly.

‘Procedural issues’
“It means he explains the procedural issues that are needed to be encouraged. So, the petition is good as public awareness, but the main thing for the Papuan people is to strengthen the strength of the domestic struggle, to encourage the liberation process of the people of Papua,” said Yeimo.

Markus Haluk, one of the ULMWP’s work teams, echoed this view. In fact, on 26 September 2017 Benny Wenda, accompanied by Rex Rumakiek, one of the executives of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), submitted a petition to the Chairman of the UN Decolonisation Commission in New York.

“If there is a response from the government of Indonesia that says it is a lie, I think it’s all okay. We pray and work that in time the truth is upright for the nation of Papua, Indonesia and the UN,” said Haluk.

ULMWP continues to focus and work on the right of self-determination without being disturbed by the furore that arose from the petition.

Benny Wenda and his petition
Benny Wenda, a Papuan independence leader, claimed to have handed the West Papua People’s Petition to a C-24 representative.

After the news of the submission was released by The Guardian, the government of Indonesia immediately denied it and claimed the petition was a publicity stunt without any credibility.

Benny Wenda told Tabloid Jubi he had submitted the petition to C24 representatives on September 26 at the Office of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

He was with Rex Rumakiek who also submitted the petition.

“More than 70 percent of the population in Papua want a referendum in West Papua.

“Bishop Desmond Tutu and Noam Chomsky are two of the world’s leading figures who signed the petition,” Wenda said.

Wenda added that the people of West Papua who were supported by the international community very much trusted the petition demand.

West Papuan demand
West Papuan people demanded that West Papua became a non-self-governing territory with full rights to liberty and freedom, he said.

The signing of this petition did not go smoothly.

Recorded petitions distributed online through the avaaz.org site were blocked by the Indonesian government by the end of 2016.

Similar petitions were carried out manually since April 2017.

According to the ULMWP records, 57 people were arrested for supporting the petition.

Among them are Yanto Awerkion, vice-chairman of  KNPB Mimika and its secretary Sem Ukago on 7 December 2016.

“Yanto and Sem were threatened with Article 169 of the Criminal Code for participating in associations aimed at committing a crime, or participating in other associations prohibited by general rules, are punishable by imprisonment of up to six years,” said Wenda.

Indonesian denial
The petition led to the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations, New York, Triansyah Djani, issuing a press release quoting an interview with Rafael Ramirez.

“As the Chairman of the UN Decolonisation Special Committee (C-24), I and the Committee Secretariat, have never received, formally or informally, any petition or anyone about Papua as reported in The Guardian newspaper,” Rafael Ramírez said.

Ambassador Ramirez further affirmed that he highly respected the integrity and sovereignty of all members. The mandate of the Decolonisation Committee, he added, was limited to 17 Non-Self-Governing Territories and Papua was not included in this list.

Ramirez’s statement was supported by an interview video broadcast extensively through YouTube by the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the UN, New York.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir, who participated with the Indonesian delegation at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, called the petition an unfounded action.

“It’s a pure publicity action without credibility,” he said, quoted by The Guardian.

Papua, continued Nasir is an integral part of Indonesia as stipulated in United Nations General Assembly resolution 2504 (XXIV) 1969.

Support of British MPs
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of England supports the West Papua people’s petition. An APPG release received by Tabloid Jubi said this petition provided strong evidence that the people of West Papua wanted to express their hope for a better future.

Therefore, according to Alex Sobel, an APPG member (from the British Labour Party) acknowledged that all APPG members supported West Papuan people in calling for their inalienable right to self-determination democratically, so that they could freely decide their own future peacefully.

“We will also step up this significant development with the British government,” Sobel said.

West Papua people has experienced more than 50 years of widespread human rights violations without a satisfactory solution. So it was clear that in a situation that continues to deteriorate, the people of West Papua were not secure under Indonesian occupation, Sobel said.

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