The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has condemned an Indonesian government protest over Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s declared support for ULMWP full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) as “grotesque hypocrisy”.
In a statement, ULMWP interim president Benny Wenda said the Jakarta government had repeatedly stated support for the Palestinian struggle in the Middle East.
“This is an act of grotesque hypocrisy, as we have come to expect from President [Joko] Widodo. How can he support self-determination in one case and not the other?” said Wenda.
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“What is the difference between West Papua and Palestine?” he asked.
Wenda met Prime Minister Rabuka in Suva and presented him with a noken — a traditional string bag woven in the colours of independence — and a Morning Star flag, the banned symbol of independence.
Rabuka tweeted confirmation of his support for the ULMWP’s bid to be full members of the MSG “because they are Melanesians” of the Pacific.
But he added that “I am not taking it for granted”.
Careful over sovereignty
In interviews he has said that care needed to be taken over the sovereignty issue.
However, Rabuka’s warm reception of Wenda and his tweet have been interpreted as a significant departure from the stance taken by Fiji during 16 years of former prime minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s leadership.
Yes, we will support them [United Liberation Movement for West Papua] because they are Melanesians. I am more hopeful [ULMWP gaining full MSG membership]. I am not taking it for granted. The dynamics may have changed slightly but the principles are the same. pic.twitter.com/9J8qpAVhak
— Sitiveni Rabuka (@slrabuka) February 23, 2023
Both Fiji and Papua New Guinea have been resistant to full ULMWP membership in an attempt to retain good relations with Indonesia, which is an associate member. The other MSG members are Solomon islands, Vanuatu and the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) in French-ruled New Caledonia with the ULMWP as observers.
Prime Minister Rabuka’s meeting with Wenda and promise of support provoked a diplomatic protest to Fiji by Jakarta.
Yet just last October, President Widodo welcomed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to Jakarta and reaffirmed his commitment to “support Palestine’s struggle amid immense challenges”.
In his statement, Wenda said Indonesia claimed its rule over West Papua was a “done deal”, but the country’s 60-year occupation was based on “a fraud that is fast unravelling”.
“The so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ was really an Act of ‘No Choice’,” said the statement.
UN supervised ‘this fraud’
“Only 1022 hand-picked West Papuans, out of a population of more than 800,000, were intimidated and bribed into voting for integration into Indonesia. The United Nations may have supervised this fraud, but they did not endorse it, only taking note of its outcome.
“Though West Papua was added to the UN decolonisation list in preparation for our independence, Indonesia ensured it was removed after they invaded our territory in 1963.
“Since then, more than 500,000 West Papuans have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been displaced and replaced by Indonesian settlers, we have suffered massacres in Paniai, Wamena, Wasior, Biak, Abepura, and many other places.”
Wenda said Indonesia was right to support the Palestinian struggle.
“But while President Widodo has said he wants Palestine to become a full member of the UN, he opposes West Papua becoming a full member of the MSG.
“Our culture, our customs, our ethnicity, and our traditions are all Melanesian. For 60 years our voices have been silenced, our cause brushed under the carpet by the international community.
“Now that Melanesian leaders are standing up for their brothers and sisters in West Papua, the web of lies Indonesia has told the world about West Papua is collapsing under their own hypocrisy.”
Wenda said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Indonesia was “committing genocide, ecocide, and crimes against humanity in West Papua”.
“In the same week that they protested Fiji’s support for full membership, Indonesian police cold-bloodedly massacred 10 Papuans in Wamena, and shot a teenage boy in Puncak Jaya.
“Last month, Papuans across the Nduga Regency were forced to flee their homes, adding to the nearly-50,000 [people] who have been displaced there since 2018.
“When you displace villagers and tribal peoples, they lose their hunting grounds, their rivers, their whole way of life. This is all part of a longstanding strategy of ethnic cleansing, for Indonesia to remove us from our ancestral lands and replace us with mines, plantations, and Indonesian settlers.
“West Papuans are not safe with Indonesia: our very existence as a distinct people is under mortal threat.”
Wenda said these developments showed that international intervention was needed in West Papua.
Indonesia needed to stop blocking the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had been demanded by eighty-four countries.
“President Widodo, the coverup is coming to an end, and the world is paying attention,” Wenda said. “We are only calling for your commitment to Palestinian liberation to be extended to West Papua.”