West Papuans call for support
November 19, 1999, was the 30th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2504 (XXIV) on West Papua. On that day in 1969, the UN General Assembly took note of the report of UN Special Rapporteur Ortiz Sanz about the so-called "Act of Free Choice" in West Papua. Despite Mr Sanz's reservations about the conduct of the vote, West Papua was removed from the list of non-governing territories with the UN Decolonisation Committee. Principles of self-determination that the United Nations was supposed to uphold were tragically neglected and superseded by the politics of the Cold War strategic denial. The people of West Papua were never given a real referendum on self- determination. They were cheated. * Only 1,025 representatives, selected by Indonesia from a population of 800,000, were allowed to vote (and the UN monitoring team only witnessed some 200 of these votes). * No West Papuan women were allowed to vote in the referendum. * Sanz's report pointed out serious breaches of legality by the Indonesian authorities, which compromised the legitimacy of the referendum (including imprisonment without trial of opponents, military threats against those who might vote for independence, and attacks on political leaders causing the flight of refugees to Australian-controlled Papua and New Guinea). * The Indonesian forces put down a rebellion in the West Papua highlands before the arrival of the UN monitoring team. The UN monitoring and implementation of the 1969 Act of Free Choice is nothing short of disgrace. "The rights of the West Papuans were revoked without respect and brutally intimidated and sold out", says John Ondawame of the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM) or Free Papua Movement. Once the UN handed West Papua over to Indonesia, the territory and its people were forgotten; their cries for freedom and an end to suffering ignored, and their pleas for help unheeded. The consequences have been severe. A considerable number of civilians have been killed, intimidated, imprisoned, executed and raped and their property has also been confiscated and destroyed. The Indonesian Government has looted the resource rich territory of its minerals and forests with little or no benefit to the indigenous population. Indonesia has also strongly promoted a policy of transmigration of people from the islands of Sumatra and Sulawesi to West Papua in an attempt to displace and destabilise the local people. The brutality of the Indonesian military has for many years tried to keep everyone silent and in fear. Most were afraid to act openly against Indonesian colonialism. "It was impossible to manage a well organised movement in West Papua", says Ottis Simopiaref, a West Papuan living in exile. "The only way was running away to the jungle and set up the guerrilla movement. The guerrilla members were ordinary people in the villages, small group of intellectual dissidents from the towns, army deserters of Papuan origin, and young people who fled as a symbol of protest against the occupation." After the resignation of former Indonesian dictator Suharto in May last year, the West Papuans have got more space to move and speak out. More and more people are calling for independence and even the forbidden name "West Papua" is now widely used in Irian Jaya. There have been many protests against Indonesia's recent division of the provinces into three administrative units. The West Papuan Morning Star flag has been raised in many towns and West Papuans are calling for support from the international community — especially from their neighbours in the South Pacific.
* * *Pacific News Bulletin