Indonesia accused of forcing mass flights of Papuans ‘for business’

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Maybrat, West Papua, refugees
A new wave of displacement of thousands of people from 19 villages in Maybrat, West Papua. Image: Veronica Koman

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

Indonesian authorities have been accused of adopting a strategy of deploying military force to drive thousands of Papuans from their homes to make way for powerful business interests.

The accusation comes from the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) in a statement responding to news that about 2400 internal refugees have been displaced from 19 villages after renewed Indonesian military operations in the Maybrat regency.

The humanitarian crisis there is being compared to Nduga and Intan Jaya, where more than 50,000 West Papuans have been displaced by military operations in recent years.

“Maybrat is a peaceful place. The violence we are seeing now is a result of Indonesian state attempts to clear the local people and grab the gold and minerals that lie under the earth,” said ULMWP interim president Benny Wenda.

“I have been stating for a long time that Indonesia’s military operations are not about ‘sovereignty’, but business.

“Now, Indonesia’s own NGOs have confirmed this. New reports from WALHI Papua, LBH Papua, KontraS, Greenpeace Indonesia and several other groups have noted the deep links Indonesia’s retired generals, Kopassus officers and intelligence chiefs have with resource extraction projects in West Papua.

“Powerful Indonesian leaders like Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Maritime Affairs Minister, hold direct interests in the Wabu Block gold concession in Intan Jaya, where huge military operations have forced thousands of people from their homes.”

‘Wiping out entire villages’
Wenda claimed the military operations were attempts to “wipe out entire villages and clear the way for illegal mines”.

“They are killing us because we are Black, because we are different. This is state-sponsored terrorism,” he said.

Wenda said that given these economic interests, the Papuan people could not “trust the reports of the Indonesian police and military whenever one of their own is killed”.

“The military men’s presence in the region is illegal. Their presence is part of Indonesia’s business interests, part of their illegal colonial occupation of my land.

“The 1969 Act of No Choice was illegal, it was not done by one man one vote as required by the 1962 New York Agreement. The UN did not endorse what happened, it only ‘took note’ following fierce opposition led by Ghana in the UN General Assembly.

“Indonesia cannot claim that its invasion of West Papua is a done deal – it is not. It is the root cause of all the issues we see today.

“Indonesia has no right to send any more military to West Papua, to build the Trans-Papua Highway, or to construct any more military posts.”

Negotiated solution
Wenda said the issue would never end until Indonesian President Joko Widodo negotiated a “solution for the good of West Papua and Indonesia to hold a referendum on independence”.

He said Indonesia must listen to the will of 84 countries and allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua immediately.

“If the international community wants to help end the bloodshed in my homeland, it must act to ensure this visit happens,” Wenda said.

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