A West Papua pro-independence leader says Indonesia is ramping up its repression of peaceful activists while people mobilise in favour of the province gaining full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).
Benny Wenda said 10 activists were arrested earlier this week while handing out leaflets advertising a peaceful rally to support his United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) gaining full membership of the sub-regional group.
Wenda added that the next day rallies in Jayapura and Sentani were forcefully disbanded and 21 people arrested.
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He said at the rallies activists were demanding that their birthright as a Melanesian nation be fulfilled.
Wenda said West Papua was entitled to full membership of the MSG by “our ethnic, cultural, and linguistic ties to the rest of Melanesia”.
“If Melanesian leaders needed further proof of the necessity of ULMWP full membership, then Indonesia has provided it,” he said.
“Only as full members will we be able to expose grave abuses such as these arrests on the international stage, and to defend our identity as a Melanesian people.
‘Why the quietness?’
“Indonesia claims that they are entitled to membership of the MSG because they represent other Melanesian populations. If that is the case, then why are these populations staying quiet?
“Indonesia cannot claim to represent West Papuans in the MSG, because we already have representation through the ULMWP.”
Wenda is demanding on behalf of the ULMWP and the West Papuan people “that no further arrests are made of Papuans rallying peacefully for full membership”.
He said Indonesia had nothing to fear from West Papuans returning to “our Melanesian family”.
“At the same time, they must understand that West Papuans are speaking with one voice in demanding full membership. All groups, ages, genders and tribes are totally united and focused on achieving our mission. We will not be deterred.”
The MSG is due to meet in Port Vila, Vanuatu, this month, although the dates have not yet been announced.
Last week, the Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Papua New Guinea (PNG) with trade, border arrangements and education foremost on the agenda.
However, as reported by RNZ Pacific, one topic that was not discussed was West Papua despite the countries sharing a 760km border.
An estimated 10,000 West Papuan refugees live in PNG, escaping a bloody conflict between armed separatists and the Indonesian army.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.