Wenda calls for Dutch support over UN visit, slams Prabowo presidency

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Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto
Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto . . . criticised as a "frightening" prospect for West Papua. Image: APR

Asia Pacific Report

A West Papuan independence leader has called on the Dutch Parliament to support a United Nations visit to the Melanesian region ruled by Indonesia and says the recent election of Prabowo Subianto as the next President is a “frightening” prospect due to his notorious human rights record.

Addressing the Dutch Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee last week, United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) president Benny Wenda said that more than 100 separate countries had now demanded that Indonesia allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate in West Papua.

“Indonesia’s continued refusal to obey this demand is why we are here today,” Wenda said.

“As our former coloniser, it is very important that you understand the situation in West Papua and show support for our struggle,” he said, thanking the Parliament for the opportunity to speak.

Addressing last month’s presidential election in Indonesia, Wenda strongly condemned the election of Prabowo Subianto, describing this as a “concerning and frightening” development for West Papua.

“Let’s be clear: Prabowo is a war criminal. He is complicit in crimes against humanity and in genocide in East Timor and West Papua,” Wenda said.

‘Never held accountable’
“He has never apologised or been held accountable for the many atrocities he has been involved in. This is a man who was considered too brutal even for the Indonesian army.”

Prabowo was the only presidential candidate who did not comply with a human rights record questionnaire from Human Rights Watch prior to the election.

Last month, Wenda publicly called for an international arrest warrant against Prabowo.

“Because of his past, his ideology, and because of statements he made during his election campaign, we have good reason to fear that Prabowo will further escalate the militarisation of West Papua,” Wenda told the Dutch parliamentarians.

“We are already suffering ecocide and genocide. The situation will only get worse.”

Wenda said they had already seen the first atrocity of the new Prabowo era.

Last month, the Indonesian military arrested and tortured two Papuan teenagers in Yahukimo.

Torture ‘trophy photos’
“They then took photos with these two innocent children as trophies. Indonesia has repeatedly shown they will target children — the new generation of West Papuans,” Wenda said.

Torture in West Papua had become so common that it was being described as a “mode of governance”.

“With Prabowo as President, there must be a renewed campaign for a UN fact-finding mission in my country. The world must pay attention to our plight.

“Human rights do not exist in West Papua.”

In six years since Indonesia had first invited the UN to West Papua more than 100,000 Papuans had been displaced from their homes and made refugees in their own land, said Wenda.

“Over 75,000 of my people remain displaced to this day. Over 1400 have been killed. It is no coincidence that this violence has happened while Indonesia has sent 25,000-30,000 extra troops to occupied West Papua.”

Indonesia refused aid
Indonesia had also consistently refused to let aid reach displaced people, meaning that many had died of hunger or thirst in the bush.

“No UN visit, no aid workers, no journalists allowed. West Papua is becoming the North Korea of the Pacific,” Wenda said.

In West Papua, there were two crimes — genocide and ecocide, he said.

While the UN had not been allowed in, Indonesia had increased its destruction of West Papuan ancestral land – “our mountains, rivers and forests”.

A new gold mine – “the size of Jakarta” — was now being built called Wabu Block, while BP had completed its expansion of the Tangguh gas field, which would provide 35 percent of Indonesia’s gas.

Indonesia had also rejected a tribal land claim in Boven Digoel.

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