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Asia Pacific Report

The Free Papua Organisation (Organisasi Papua Merdeka-OPM) has sent an open letter to the United Nations leadership demanding that “decolonisation” of the former Dutch colony of West New Guinea, the Indonesian-administered region known across the Pacific as West Papua, be initiated under the direction of the UN Trusteeship Council.

The letter accuses the UN of being a “criminal accessory to the plundering of the ancestral lands” of the Papuans, a Melanesian people with affinity and close ties to many Pacific nations.

According to the OPM leader, chairman-commander Jeffrey Bomanak, West Papuans had been living with the expectation for six decades that the UN would “fulfill the obligations regarding the legal decolonisation of West Papua”.

OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak
OPM leader Jeffrey Bomanak . . . an open letter to the UN calling for the UN annexation of West Papua in 1962 to be reversed. Image: OPM

Alternatively, wrote Bomanak, there had been an expectation that there would be an explanation “to the International Commission of Jurists if there are any legal reasons why these obligations to West Papua cannot be fulfilled”.

The open letter was addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi and Trusteeship Council President Nathalie Estival-Broadhurst.

Bomanak also accused the UN of “gifting” West Papua and Indonesia and the US mining conglomerate Freepost-McMoRan at Grasberg in 1967.

‘Guilty’ over annexation
“The United Nations is guilty of annexing West New Guinea on Sept 21, 1962, as a trust territory which had been concealed by the UN Secretariat from the Trusteeship Council.”

Indonesia has consistently rejected West Papuan demands for self-determination and independence, claiming that its right to sovereignty over the region stems from the so-called Act of Free Choice in 1969.

But many West Papuans groups and critics across the Pacific and internationally reject the legitimacy of this controversial vote when 1025 elders selected by the Indonesian military were coerced into voting “unanimously” in favour of Indonesian rule.

A sporadic armed struggle by the armed wing of OPM and peaceful lobbying for self-determination and independence by other groups, such as the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), have continued since then with persistent allegations of human rights violations with the conflict escalating in recent months.

In 2017, the UN’s Decolonisation Committee refused to accept a petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans calling for independence, saying West Papua’s cause was outside the committee’s mandate.

“The UN is a criminal accessory to the plundering of our ancestral lands and to the armament exports from member nations to our murderers and assassins — the Indonesian government,” claimed Bomanak in his letter.

“West Papua is not a simple humanitarian dilemma. The real dilemma is the perpetual denial of West Papua’s right to freedom and sovereignty.”

Bomanak alleges that the six-decade struggle for independence has cost more than 500,000 lives.

West Papua case ‘unique’
In a supporting media release by Australian author and human rights advocate Jim Aubrey, he said that the open letter should be read “by anyone who supports international laws and governance and justice that are applied fairly to all people”.

“West Papua’s case for the UN to honour the process of decolonisation is a unique one,” he said.

“Former Secretary General U Thant concealed West Papua’s rights as a UN trust territory for political reasons that benefited the Republic of Indonesia and the American mining company Freeport-McMoRan.

“West Papua was invaded and recolonised by Indonesia. The mining giant Freeport-McMoRan signed their contract to build the Mt Grasberg mine with the mass murderer Suharto in 1967.

“The vote of self-determination in 1969 was, for Suharto and his commercial allies, already a foregone conclusion in 1967.”

Aubrey said that West Papuans were still being “jailed, tortured, raped, assassinated [and] bombed in one of the longest ongoing acts of genocide since the end of the Second World War”.

Western countries accused
He accused Australia, European Union, UK, USA as well as the UN of being “accessories to Indonesia’s illegal invasion and landgrab”.

About Australia’s alleged role, Aubrey said he had called for a Royal Commission to investigate but had not received a reply from Governor-General David Hurley or from Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus.

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