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Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

A West Papuan leader has praised the “bravery and spirit” of Ukrainians defending their country against the Russian invasion while condemning the hypocrisy of a self-styled “peaceful” Indonesia that attacks “innocent civilians” in Papua.

Responding to the global condemnation of the brutal war on Ukraine, now into its second week, United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) interim president Benny Wenda highlighted a statement by United Nation experts that has condemned “shocking abuses” against Papuans, including “child killings, disappearances, torture and mass displacement of people”.

Wenda also stressed that the same day that Indonesia’s permanent representative to the UN said that the military attack on Ukraine was unacceptable and called for peace, reports emerged of seven young schoolboys being arrested, beaten and tortured so “horrifically” by the Indonesian military that one had died from his injuries.

“The eyes of the world are watching in horror [at] the invasion of Ukraine,” said Wenda in a statement.

“We feel their terror, we feel their pain and our solidarity is with these men, women and children. We see their suffering and we weep at the loss of innocent lives, the killing of children, the bombing of their homes, and for the trauma of refugees who are forced to flee their communities.”

Wenda said the world had spoken up to condemn the actions of President Vladimir Putin and his regime.

“The world also applauds the bravery and spirit of Ukrainians in their resistance as they defend their families, their homes, their communities, and their national identity.”

Russian attack unacceptable
Wenda said Indonesia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Arrmanatha Nasir, had stated that that Russian attack on Ukraine was unacceptable and called for peace. He had said innocent civilians “will ultimately bear the brunt of this ongoing situation”.

“But what about innocent civilians in West Papua? asked Wenda.

“At the UN, Indonesia speaks of itself as ‘a peaceful nation’ committed to a world ‘based on peace and social justice’.

“This, on the very same day that reports came in of seven young boys, elementary school children, being arrested, beaten and tortured so horrifically by the Indonesian military that one of the boys, Makilon Tabuni, died from his injuries.

“The other boys were taken to hospital, seriously wounded.”

Wenda said the Indonesian military was deliberately targeting “the young, the next generation. This, to crush our spirit and extinguish hope.

“These are our children that [Indonesian forces are] torturing and killing, with impunity. Are they not ‘innocent civilians’, or are their lives just worth less?”

Urgent humanitarian access
Wenda said that this was during the same week that UN special rapporteurs had called for urgent humanitarian access and spoken of “shocking abuses against our people”, including “child killings, disappearances, torture and mass displacement of people”.

This was an acknowledgement from the UN that Papuan people had been “crying out for”.

Wenda said 60-100,00 people were currently displaced, without any support or aid. This was a humanitarian crisis.

“Women forced to give birth in the bush, without medical assistance. Children are malnourished and starving. And still, Indonesia does not allow international access,” he said.

“Our people have been suffering this, without the eyes of the world watching, for nearly 60 years.”

In response, the Indonesian Ambassador to the UN had continued with “total denial, with shameless lies and hypocrisy”.

“If there’s nothing to hide, then where is the access?”

International community ‘waking up’
Wenda said the international community was “waking up” and Indonesia could not continue to “hide your shameful secret any longer”.

“Like the Ukrainian people, you will not crush our spirit, you will not steal our hope and we will not give up our struggle for freedom,” Wenda said.

The ULMWP demanded that Indonesia:

  • Allow access for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and for humanitarian aid to our displaced people and to international journalists;
  • Withdraw the military;
  • Release political prisoners, including Victor Yeimo and the “Abepura Eight”; and
  • Accept the Papuan right to self-determination and end the illegal occupation of Papua.
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