Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Today — 15 August 15 1962 — marks “a day of betrayal for us West Papuans”, says a Papuan leader as critics reminded the world about what happened 59 years ago.
“This is the day a secret deal was done between the United States, Indonesia and the Netherlands, deciding our future without any consultation with the people of West Papua,” said interim president Benny Wenda of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP).
“This secret deal was done without a single West Papuan in the room.”
- READ MORE: International calls grow to free Papuan activist Victor Yeimo’s over health
- Other West Papua reports
This deal led to the Indonesian invasion of West Papua in 1963, “sanctioned by the big powers”, said Wenda in a statement.
“The secret deal contained a proviso: that there be a referendum, one person one vote, to decide the long-term future of West Papua.
“But it never happened. The 1969 Act of No Choice was a fraud. Our right to self-determination remains stolen from us by Indonesia.
“I’m calling on all my people in West Papua, in exile, in a refugee camp, wherever you are: do not join the Indonesian independence day celebrations on August 17.
Independence ‘snatched from us’
“This is not our independence day. Our independence day is 1 December 1 1961, an independence and sovereignty snatched from us by the Indonesian military. We have our own constitution, our own provisional government, our own interim president.
“We know that Indonesian security services will go door to door trying to force West Papuans to raise the Indonesian flag. We do not want to celebrate your flag in West Papua.
“Under the name of the Indonesian flag, many of my people have been killed. Indonesia must respect our rights; you cannot force my people to raise your flag.
Victor Yeimo and the Papuan people are victims of racism since Indonesia’s brutal occupation!
“Release Victor Yeimo now, without condition!”
— USP Human Rights Alumni (@UspHuman) August 14, 2021
Wenda said Papuans must hold a day of mourning instead to “remember what has been done to us”.
He added: “Due to this covid crisis, we must stay at home this year. If you can safely hold a prayer meeting in your village, do so, but remember that covid-19 is a killer. We must be safe.”
Wenda also called on the Indonesian government to “begin to rectify this history” by setting freed all political prisoners, including Victor Yeimo, spokesperson of the KNPB, and Frans Wasini, of the ULMWP provisional government.
“Their condition is worrying, due to their unfair treatment. They are at risk of dying in prison if nothing is done.
UN visit needed urgently
Indonesia must also allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua as a matter of urgency, Wenda said.
He added that Papuans would continue fighting until they regained their right to self-determination through an internationally-mediated referendum on independence.
In Sydney, Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA) also described the New York agreement as a “betrayal”, saying that he hoped the Indonesian security forces would allow any rallies that take place commemorating this tragic event today to go ahead peacefully.
A rally by the People’s Front of Indonesia For West Papua (FRI-WP) and the Student Alliance of Papua (AMP) Ambon City Committee, were being held today to commemorate the tragic event with the theme: ′′ 59 years of New York illegal agreement and against racism in the Land of Papua.′
Collins said in a statement there was also concern that as the Indonesian Independence Day on August 17 approached, West Papuans might be intimidated or forced to take part in celebrations against their will.
An article by Antara news agency titled “Papuans urged to display flags ahead of Independence Day celebration” reported that the Papua local administration had urged residents and bureaucrats to join the celebration of Indonesia’s 76th Independence Day by displaying the Red and White national flag in front of their homes, shops, and offices.
Tomorrow, the Papuan People’s Petition (PRP) facilitators have called for people in the Land of Papua to be involved together in the Papuan people’s free pulpit action to urge the unconditional release of Victor Yeimo.
According to Tabloid Jubi, spokesperson for the petition, Samuel Awom, said that Yeimo was not a perpetrator but a victim of Indonesia’s structured and massive colonial racism that had happened to indigenous Papuans.
Yeimo currently holds the status of a “prosecutor’s detainee” but is being temporarily placed in the Papua Police Mobile Brigade detention centre while waiting for the trial process.