Shocking scenes of violence and murder has been unearthed by Human Rights Watch as the situation in Papua dangerously deteriorates.
Staff writers, AFP
The exiled leader of Papua’s independence movement has warned of a possible bloodbath after weeks of unrest gripping Indonesia’s easternmost territory turns deadly.
As tens of thousands of protesters continue to gather across Papua following wide-scale uproar over a racist slur against Papuan students, calls for self rule fuelling mass demonstrations has ended in violent clashes between civilians and security forces.
Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, is pushing for “a free and democratic referendum” backed by the UN.
“We need the UN to intervene,” Wenda told AFP.
“It’s a new era and I’m confident that the world is beginning to notice what’s going on.”
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A low-level separatist insurgency has simmered for decades in Papua, a former Dutch colony, after Jakarta took over the mineral-rich region in the 1960s. A vote to stay within the archipelago was widely viewed as rigged.
This week, Indonesia repeated its position that a new independence vote was a non-starter, and pointed its finger at Wenda for stoking unrest.
“The referendum #WestPapua is demanding is their right under international law. This is not a separatist issue or simply an internal matter for Indonesia. It is the unfinished decolonisation agenda of the @UN”: my lawyer @suigenerisjen @DoughtyStIntl https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-escalating-human-rights-crisis-on-our-doorstep-that-no-one-is-watching-20190903-p52ndj.html …1936:51 PM – Sep 3, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy196 people are talking about this
Wenda — who angered Jakarta by pushing for a UN rights probe and Papuan independence at a recent Pacific island forum — dismissed the government’s claims as “politically motivated.”
The majority of Papuans are Christian and ethnic Melanesian with few cultural ties to the rest of Muslim-majority Indonesia.
A firestorm of riots and protests broke across the Southeast Asian archipelago nation after the arrest last month of a dozen of Papuan students — who were pelted with racial abuse — in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya.
Five civilians and a soldiers have been killed in the chaos, but activists say the death toll is higher.
“(The unrest) is going to continue — I cannot stop it,” said Wenda, a former rebel granted asylum in Britain after escaping from jail in Indonesia where he faced murder and arson charges linked to a police attack.
“The people of (Papua) have asked them to look at the root of the problem, but the Indonesian government doesn’t want that. they just send more military.”
Indonesia has blocked internet access in unrest-hit Papua over fears that a stream of offensive and racists posts online will spark more violent protests in the region. Picture: Bay Ismoyo/AFPSource:AFP
A major clash with security forces could be looming, as thousands of police and soldiers flowed into the region and civilian militias form, Wenda said.
“What’s happening right now is worrying. It’s the next East Timor,” Wenda said.
“We don’t want to see a massacre and then the world reacts.”
Indonesian authorities are under pressure to impartially investigate the deaths of at least 10 Papuans during the recent unrest, Human Rights Watch said on Saturday.
“Indonesian police have a duty to avoid the use of force in response to Papuans who take their grievance to the streets,” said Elaine Pearson, the Australian Director at Human Rights Watch.
“Any wrongful use of force needs to be investigated and those responsible held to account.”
Riots broke out in Indonesia’s Papua with a local parliament building torched as thousands protested allegations that police tear-gassed and arrested students who supported the restive region’s independence. Picture: STR/AFPSource:AFP
Indonesia’s army has long been accused by activists of committing atrocities against civilians in Papua.
According to Human Rights Watch, Indonesian authorities have been urged to investigate a video showing uniformed police shooting live ammunition into a crowd of Papuan protesters inside the Deiyai Regency office where it has been reported eight Papuans and one Indonesian soldiers were killed. Separate footage captured a mob Indonesians, police, and soldiers armed with machetes surrounding a Papuan student dorm in the Abepura neighbourhood, where one student was allegedly stabbed to death and more than 20 were injured, of whom 13 were hospitalised.
A video taken on August 20 shows a man who had been disembowelled and others reportedly wounded moments after a violent clash.
Police should cease using unnecessary or excessive force against the protesters, Human Rights Watch said.
“We are seeing an outpouring of popular discontent & mass protest or there’s suppression with the firm hand of the state.” @mbachelet lists #WestPapua among places of concern with #HongKong #Kashmir #Syria.
Indonesian censorship no longer works. 40210:16 AM – Sep 6, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy333 people are talking about this
On Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “disturbed” by the violence in Papua.
“I encourage the authorities to engage in dialogue with the people of Papua … on their aspirations and concerns, as well as to restore internet services and refrain from any excessive use of force,” she said in a statement.
Since demonstrations began access to Papua for foreign journalists has been restricted as an internet shutdown thwarted any potential reporting on the situation.
Last week, tiny East Timor celebrated the 20th anniversary of its vote to separate from Indonesia, which unleashed a wave of bloodshed perpetrated by the army and its proxy militias.
“We won’t win a war with the Indonesian military,” Wenda said.
“Our weapon is a peaceful one — a referendum.”