Protesters call for West Papua to be included on UN ‘decolonisation’ list

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"Unfree flags" . . . Kanaky New Caledonia (from left), West Papuan and Aboriginal banners. Members of the Australia West Papua Association protesting outside Sydney's Leichhardt Town Hall on West Papua Independence Day on 1 December 2022. Image: AWPA

Asia Pacific Report

An Australian advocacy group has called for West Papua to be reinscribed on the United Nations list of “non self-governing territories”, citing the “sham” vote in 1969 and the worsening human rights violations in the Indonesian-ruled Melanesian region.

The UN Special Committee on Decolonisation began its 2023 Pacific Regional Seminar in Bali, Indonesia, today and will continue until May 26.

Tomorrow the annual International Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories is due to begin tomorrow and will end on May 31.

“Although West Papua is not on the list  of  Non-Self-Governing Territories, it should be,” said Joe Collins of the Australia West Papua Association (AWPA).

“It’s 60 years since UNTEA transferred West Papua to Indonesian administration, which then unceremoniously removed it from the list.

“As for the so-called Act of Free Choice held in 1969, it was a sham and is referred to by West Papuans as the ‘act of no choice’.”

‘Seriously deteriorating’
Collins said in a statement today that the situation in West Papua was “seriously deteriorating” with ongoing human rights abuses in the territory.

“There are regular armed clashes between the Free Papua Movement [OPM] and the Indonesian security forces,” he said.

“West Papuans continue to be arrested at peaceful demonstrations and Papuans risk being charged with treason for taking part in the rallies.

“The military operations in the highlands have created up to 60,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), many facing starvation because they fear returning to their food gardens because of the Indonesian security forces.

“Recent armed clashes have also created new IDPs.

Collins cited New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens, who has been held hostage by the West Papuan National Liberation Army (TPNPB) for more than three months.

According to Mehrtens as quoted by ABC News on April 26, the Indonesian military had been “dropping bombs” in the area where he was being held, making it “dangerous for me and everybody here”.

‘French’ Polynesia an example
“We cannot expect the [UN Decolonisation Committee] to review the situation of West Papua at this stage as it would only bring to attention the complete failure by the UN to protect the people of West Papua.

However, territories had been reinscribed in the past as in the case of “French” Polynesia in 2013, Collins said.

But Collins said it was hoped that the UN committee could take some action.

“As they meet in Bali, it is hoped that the C24 members — who would be well aware of the ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua committed by the Indonesian security forces — will urge Jakarta to allow the High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua on a fact-finding mission to report on the deteriorating human rights situation in the territory.”

“It’s the least they could do.”

The work of the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation
The work of the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation . . . Current Pacific members include Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste – and Indonesia is also a sitting member. Graphic: UN C24
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