Papuans rally for independence from Indonesia as group declares
government in exile
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[December 01, 2020]
By Agustinus Beo Da Costa
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Papuans
held rallies across at least eight cities in Indonesia on Tuesday to
renew calls for independence, as a separatist group declared it had
established a provisional government in exile.
The demonstrations marked the anniversary of West Papua declaring
independence from Dutch rule in 1961, which was followed by a
contentious U.N.-sanctioned referendum in 1969 that brought Papua under
Among more than 100 students who marched in the capital Jakarta, Papuan
Roland Levy said the date remained significant decades on.
"My goal in joining the rally today is to commemorate 59 years of the
proclamation of independence of the West Papuan nation that was annexed
by Indonesia," he told Reuters, as demonstrators waved banners calling
for the right to self-determination.
Some Papuans regard the 1969 plebiscite as unfair and say intimidation
was used to influence the outcome, which Jakarta has rejected.
The protests coincided with a declaration from the United Liberation
Movement for West Papua that a provisional "government-in-waiting" had
been formed, led by exiled independence figure, Benny Wenda.
Britain-based Wenda said the group would push for independence and no
longer "bow down to Jakarta's illegal martial rule".
Teuku Faizasyah, a spokesman for the Indonesian foreign ministry, paid
little heed to what he described as "Mr. Wenda's self-proclaimed
[to top of second column]
Benny Wenda, international spokesman for the United Liberation
Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) poses for a picture in Geneva
September 1, 2017. Picture taken September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Tom
"The status of Papua as part of Indonesia, the successor state of
the Netherlands (Dutch) East Indies, is final," he said, referring
to the former colonial power.
He said the integration process was supervised by the United Nations
and included the adoption of a resolution.
Papua has been plagued by separatist conflict for decades and access
for foreign journalists is often restricted.
In the past year there have been sporadic and deadly attacks
involving security forces and indigenous Papuans, including the
killing of several Papuan minors and a pastor in recent months.
The United Nations human rights body on Monday expressed concern
over reports of extrajudicial killings and escalating violence in
(Additional reporting by Stanley Widianto; Writing by Kate Lamb;
Editing by Martin Petty)
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