OPM proposes West Papua ceasefire to help contain spread of Covid-19

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West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) fighters ... the Covid-19 pandemic seen as life-threatening. Image: Suara Papua

By Agung Sandy Lesmana and Ria Rizki Nirmala Sari in Jayapura

The Free Papua Organisation (OPM) has offered a ceasefire in the independence struggle against Indonesian rule in the Melanesian region in an effort to contain the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The option of a ceasefire, however, must also be agreed to by the Indonesian government by withdrawing troops from Papua.

West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) and OPM spokesperson Sebby Sembom has confirmed reports of the offer.

READ MORE: Background to the West Papuan conflict

He also emphasised that the option of a ceasefire must be agreed to by the government by ending military operations in Papua and withdrawing all “non-organic” troops.

“Yes, it’s true and if Indonesia withdraws all non-organic military from Papua. Because the fact is that the TNI-Polri [Indonesian military-Indonesian police] are currently mobilising troops in large numbers and conducting military operations in Ndugama, Lani Jaya, Timika, Tembagapura and Oksibil in the star mountains (Pegunungan Bintang) regency”, said Sembom when contacted by journalists this week.

As a broad outline, the option of a ceasefire offered by the OPM must also be accepted by the government with an agreement not to conduct military operations on the island of the Cenderawasih as Papua is known.

Sembom has also issued a written release by OPM-TPNPB chairperson Jeffrey Bomanak which was written from the OPM-TPNPB Victoria headquarters on Wednesday.

Support health fight
In the release, Bomanak said that the OPM-TPNPB will also support the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic which they see as threatening human life.

Bomanak explained that the war between the OPM and the Indonesian military is still continuing, particularly at several vital points such as the Freeport mining area in Tembagapura, Timika.

Armed contacts are also still taking place in Intan Jaya, in the Ndugama III Defense Command Area (Kodap) in the Star Mountains as well as the OPM-TPNPB Victoria headquarters.

The government is said to still be increasing troop numbers.

“And the OPM-TPNPB respects the energy of countries which have a commitment to fight the Covid-19 global epidemic such as Papua New Guinea, Australia and East Timor so the OPM-TPNPB has had to issue this statement and commitment so that Indonesia does not act carelessly in military operations which will spread the corona virus in other countries”, wrote Bomanak.

Bomanak also wrote that the OPM-TPNPB is making this offer and commitment openly to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as a way of realising the international guidelines issued by the United Nations to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So the OPM-TPNPB is asking Indonesia to respect the good intentions of the UN and the OPM-TPNPB for the sake of humanity and global justice,” said Bomanak.

Translated by James Balowski for Indoleft News. The original title of the article in Suara Papua was “Syarat Tarik Militer di Papua, OPM Tawarkan RI Gencatan Senjata saat Corona”.

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