Thursday, January 31, 2019

1) Papuans get independence petition to UN despite obstacles


2) How a West Papuan activist snuck into a UN meeting to deliver a direct message to Michelle Bachelet
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1) Papuans get independence petition to UN despite obstacles
By STEPHEN WRIGHT, ASSOCIATED PRESS JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jan 31, 2019, 1:02 AM ET



In this photo released Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, an exiled leader of Indonesia's Papua region, Benny Wenda, second left, presents a petition to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, second from right, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland. Activists in Indonesia's mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination and succeeded in delivering it to the U.N. last week after being rebuffed in 2017. (The United Liberation Movement for West Papua via AP)


Activists in Indonesia's mountainous jungle-clad Papua region risked imprisonment to collect 1.8 million signatures for a petition calling for self-determination but had a final dilemma: They were blocked from presenting it to the intended recipient, the United Nations.
An attempt to present the petition in 2017 to the U.N. committee responsible for monitoring the progress of colonized territories toward independence was rebuffed. The chairman of the committee said it couldn't be accepted because Papua was not part of its mandate.
Highlighting the risks of the endeavor, an activist promoting the petition was arrested by Indonesian authorities in 2017 and sentenced the following year to 10 months in prison. He was arrested again this month along with several others who face treason charges.
Last week they succeeded, aided by the diplomatic equivalent of a wink and a nod from the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, which has been championing the Papuan cause.
Vanuatu officials had a scheduled meeting last Friday in Geneva with U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. Among them was an exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda, who presented the voluminous petition to Bachelet.
"During this meeting, one member of the Vanuatu delegation, Mr. Benny Wenda, presented the high commissioner with a petition. This was not actually a meeting arranged with Mr. Wenda for that purpose," said Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman at the U.N. Human Rights Office.
Bachelet "was not aware" in advance, she said.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua sent The Associated Press a photo of Wenda passing the petition to a smiling Bachelet.
Indonesia reacted angrily, accusing Vanuatu of "taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation."
An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s when Indonesia annexed the region, which had remained under Dutch control following Indonesia's 1945 declaration of independence from the Netherlands. Last month, rebels killed 19 people working on a construction site for a trans-Papua highway in the deadliest attack in years. The Indonesian government denies 20 Papuans were killed in reprisal security operations.
The government says the territory is rightfully its under international law because it was part of the Dutch East Indies empire that is the basis for Indonesia's modern borders.
But Papuans, culturally and ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia, say they were denied the right to decide their own future. Indonesian control was formalized in 1969 with a U.N.-supervised referendum in which little more than 1,000 Papuans were allowed to vote in an atmosphere of heavy intimidation.
Today the region is divided administratively into two provinces, Papua and West Papua, but supporters of independence call the entire region, which makes up the western half of New Guinea, West Papua.
The petition makes several demands of the U.N., including calling on it to review its involvement in the "unlawful annexation" of Papua, to appoint a special representative to investigate the human rights situation, to reinstate Papua on the decolonization committee's agenda and to conduct an internationally supervised referendum on self-determination.
"Indonesia's fake referendum included less than 0.2 percent of the population in 1969. The West Papuan People's Petition of 2017 has 70 percent of the population," Wenda, who is head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua, said in a statement.
"Indonesia's entire claim to West Papua rests on what happened in 1969. That claim is destroyed now," he said.
He said he and others are "working day and night" to bring the petition to the U.N. General Assembly.
Indonesia's mission to the U.N. said Vanuatu had "deliberately deceived" Bachelet. It said Indonesia "would never retreat to defend and protect" its territorial sovereignty.
The U.N. reiterated previous statements it has made about Papua. Indonesia in February last year agreed that a U.N. rights delegation could visit Papua, to which Jakarta tightly controls access, but no visit has taken place.
Shamdasani said Bachelet informed the Vanuatu delegation that the U.N. Human Rights Office "has been engaging with the Indonesian authorities on the issue of Papua, including the prevailing human rights situation, and has requested access to Papua."


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2) How a West Papuan activist snuck into a UN meeting to deliver a direct message to Michelle Bachelet

UPDATED 9 MINS AGO BY LIN EVLIN

video footage

The Indonesian government has condemned Vanuatu for enabling exiled West Papuan independence leader to meet the United Nations human rights chief.

Indonesia’s Ambassador to the UN, Hasan Kleib, has strongly condemned Vanuatu for helping exiled West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda to meet with UN officials during one of its periodic review meetings.
“(They) deliberately deceived the High Commission by taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation,” he says.
Mr Wenda, on behalf of an independence movement in Indonesia's West Papua province delivered a petition with 1.8 million signatures demanding an independence referendum to UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday.

In September 2017, Mr Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), sought to deliver the petition to the UN’s decolonisation committee but was blocked, with the committee saying West Papua was outside its mandate.
The committee’s chair, Rafael Ramírez, said at the time the mandate extended only to the 17 states identified by the UN as “non self-governing territories”.

'Historic day'

Indonesia has agreed in principle to allow the office of the United Nations human rights commissioner into Papua region, or West Papua.
Mr Wenda described the day as historic for himself and his people.
"I handed over what I call the bones of the people of West Papua, because so many people have been killed."

He said West Papuans had no freedom of speech or assembly and the only way to be heard was through the petition, signed by almost three-quarters of the 2.5 million population.
“I think this was the first time in history of UN, (Michelle Bachelet) was really surprised seeing that petition very big, contain 40 kilograms.
"She will continue to look at this and we request that from the people of West Papua, we're asking for a new referendum,” he told SBS News
Since Indonesia’s annexation of the former Dutch colony and a widely discredited UN referendum in the 1960s, thousands of lives have been lost and Indonesia has been regularly criticised for human rights abuses.
Tensions have escalated after rebels recently killed at least 17 people working on a 4,000 kilometre highway through the Papua provinces, a signature infrastructure project of Indonesian president, Joko Widodo.
In response, Indonesia launched a military crackdown in the region, leading to several deaths and thousands of people allegedly being displaced after they fled into the jungle.
Today, at an international press conference organised by the Free Papua Movement, the political wing of the Movement for the first time took a united stance with its military wing, acknowledging an ongoing war with Indonesia.
However, it stated its desire to seek a lasting peaceful solution through negotiations with Jakarta.
With Reuters
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