West Papuan leaders have declared a provisional “government-in-waiting” of the contested Indonesian province, as the UN said it was “disturbed by escalating violence” there, including the killing of a child allegedly by security forces.
The province marks Independence Day on Dec. 1, the anniversary of West Papua’s declaration of independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1961 and the raising of its now-banned Morning Star flag.
The Indonesian military took control of the province in 1962, and it has been subject to a fierce separatist struggle ever since.
The independence movement, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), has laid out a new constitution and nominated exiled leader Benny Wenda as its interim president.
“Today, we honor and recognize all our forefathers who fought and died for us by finally establishing a united government-in-waiting,” said Wenda, who is based in the UK. “Embodying the spirit of the people of West Papua, we are ready to run our country.
“As laid out in our provisional constitution, a future Republic of West Papua will be the world’s first green state, and a beacon of human rights — the opposite of decades of bloody Indonesian colonization. Today, we take another step towards our dream of a free, independent and liberated West Papua,” he added.
Ahead of yesterday, which is often a date of significant unrest and violence, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said: “We are disturbed by escalating violence over the past weeks and months in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua and the increased risk of renewed tension and violence.”
Shamdasani said in one incident on Nov. 22, a 17-year-old was shot dead and another teenager injured in an alleged police shootout.
The boy’s body was found at Limbaga mountain in the Gome district of West Papua.
She also cited the killing of church pastor Yeremia Zanambani, whose body was found near his Hitadipa district home riddled with bullets and stab wounds.
Zanambani “may have been killed by members of the security forces,” Shamdasani said. “Earlier, in September and October 2020 there was a disturbing series of killings of at least six individuals, including activists and church workers, as well as non-indigenous residents. At least two members of the security forces were also killed in clashes.”
Thirty-six demonstrators were arrested in Manokwari and Sorong in pro-independence protests over the weekend.
Indonesian-controlled Papua and West Papua form the western half of the island of New Guinea.
The people indigenous to the provinces are Melanesian, ethnically distinct from the rest of Indonesia and more closely linked to the people of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia.
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