The Guardian December 8, 1999

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uphold were tragically neglected and superseded by the politics of the Cold 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 

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 

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.

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Pacific News Bulletin

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