Wenda blames nurse’s death on Indonesian military crackdown for Papuan mining, palm oil

Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) Papua pays tribute to the killed nurse Gabriella Meliani
Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) Papua members pay tribute to nurse Gabriella Meliani, who was found dead after an attack on the Kiwirok Health Center in Pegunungan Bintang Regency this week. Image: Tabloid Jubi/ANTARA

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The United Liberation Movement of West Papua has blamed the Indonesian military over the attack at a hospital in Kiwirok, near the Papua New Guinean border, in which a nurse was killed.

Interim president Benny Wenda of the ULMWP has issued a statement in response to accusations by the Indonesian authorities against the West Papuan army, saying that the upsurge in violence is because of the militarisation of the region to protect business and a “destroy them” policy directive from Jakarta against West Papuan resistance.

Indonesia has accused the West Papuan army of attacking the hospital and killing nurse Gabriella Meliani in Kiwirok.

But Wenda claimed, according to sources he has spoken to, the clash was started by an Indonesian migrant doctor threatening people with a pistol.

“This triggered a West Papua Army investigation. A nurse fled from the scene and fell down a slope, fatally injuring herself,” said Wenda.

Indonesia had deployed more than 21,000 new troops since December 2018, displacing tens of thousands of civilians from Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak Jaya and Sorong.

Not keeping Papuans safe
“These troops are not there to defend Indonesia’s ‘sovereignty’ or keep my people safe; they are there to protect illegal mining operations, to defend the palm oil plantations that are destroying our rainforest, and to help build the Trans-Papua Highway that will be used for Indonesian business – not for the people of West Papua,” Wenda said.

“The Indonesian government is creating violence and chaos to feed these troops. As the head of the Indonesian Parliament, Bambang Soesatyo, ordered, ‘destroy them first. We will discuss human rights matters later’.

“He reiterated this statement [on Monday], and was backed by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mahfud Md.”

Benny Wenda
United Liberation Movement of West Papua leader Benny Wenda on a visit to New Zealand in 2013. Image: Del Abcede/APR

The killing of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani and his two brothers in April last year was an example of how this policy worked.

“Indonesian soldiers murdered the two brothers in April last year. Months later troops tortured and killed the pastor,” Wenda said.

Indonesian soldiers to blame
“In both cases, the military blamed the West Papua Army for the attacks – but Indonesia’s own human rights commission and military courts found that Indonesian soldiers were to blame. A similar pattern will unfold with the events in Kiwirok.”

Wenda said Indonesia must allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua to investigate this violence and produce an independent, fact-based report, in line with the call of 84 international states.

“Indonesia’s ban on media, human rights groups and aid agencies from entering West Papua must be immediately lifted. If Indonesia is telling the truth about these events, why continue to hide West Papua from the world?,” he said.

“This war will never end until President Widodo sits down with me to solve this issue. This is not about ‘development’, about how many bridges and roads are built.

“This is about our sovereignty, our right to self-determination — our survival.”

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