The West Papuan territorial conflict stems from Indonesia’s incorporation of the territory in it during the post-colonial era. West Papuans refute the 1969 ‘Act of Free Choice’ that proclaimed West Papua as an Indonesian territory and this is regarded as the starting point of the Papua conflict.
On December 1, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) – a coalition of separatist groups demanding independence of West Papua from Indonesia – announced that they will form a new provisional government for the region and reject Indonesia’s rule. The announcement was made on their self-proclaimed Independence Day, which is marked on December 1 each year. The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), has laid out a new Constitution and nominated exiled leader Benny Wenda as its interim President.
On December 1, in a statement on the Facebook page of the ULMWP, the group’s Chair and President of the Provisional Government of West Papua, Benny Wenda wrote, “Today, we announce the formation of our Provisional Government of West Papua. We are ready to take over our territory, and we will no longer bow down to Jakarta’s illegal martial rule. From today, December 1, 2020, we begin implementing our own Constitution and reclaiming our sovereign land.
On this day in 1961, the elected West New Guinea Council raised the Morning Star flag in Jayapura. Our national anthem and name, West Papua, were accepted. Diplomats from Australia, the Netherlands and the UK, and a delegation from colonised Papua New Guinea had already witnessed the formation of the Council on April 5, 1961. The world was to watch the birth of an independent state of West Papua. Our right to self-determination was stolen from us by Indonesia in 1963. Our previous declarations and manifestos, of 1961, 1971, 1988, 2000, 2011 and 2014, have been leading us to this historic day. We recognise all these manifestos and declarations. United, we are forming a legitimate governance structure capable of controlling our country and restoring the independence promised to us in 1961. We will announce our prime minister and full cabinet in the future.
“This Provisional Government is declaring the Indonesian state’s presence in West Papua illegal. We reject any law, any imposition by Jakarta, and we will not comply. We reject Jakarta’s extension of ‘Special Autonomy’, along with Protestant and Catholic church leaders, community groups, and 102 organisations that are supporting a mass petition against its renewal. We have our own Constitution, our own laws, and our own government now. It is time for the Indonesian state to leave.”
“To my people, everyone must unite behind the new Provisional Government and Provisional Constitution. It has been a long road to this moment, and this is the only path to our freedom. We must come together for our one destiny, in one spirit, to defend our sovereignty and right to self-determination,” the statement added.
The announcement by the ULMWP comes after there was a sudden escalation of violence in the Indonesia provinces of Papua and West Papua. In one incident on November 22, a 17-year-old was shot dead and another 17-year-old injured in an alleged police shootout, with the bodies found at the Limbaga Mountain, Gome District in West Papua. In September and October 2020, there were several disturbing series of killings of at least six individuals, including activists and church workers, as well as non-indigenous residents. At least two members of the security forces were also killed in clashes.
An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) found one church worker, Rev. Yerimia Zanambani, a pastor of the Protestant Evangelical Church, may have been killed by members of the security forces, and that his killing was just one “of a series of violence occurring across the regency throughout this year.”
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed concerns over such incidents. According to a statement by the OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani on Papua and West Papua, “Military and security forces have been reinforced in the region and there have been repeated reports of extra-judicial killings, excessive use of force, arrest and continuous harassment and intimidation of protesters and human rights defenders. We are concerned about reports that both armed elements and nationalist militias have been actively involved in the violence.”
Indonesia has rejected the ‘provisional government’ in West Papua. A spokesperson for Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Teuku Faizasyah, said the United Liberation Movement for West Papua’s move to form a provisional government was illegitimate.
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