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West Papuan Activist Calls For Pacific Support Against Military Crackdown
29 July 2002
There is concern that the Indonesian armed forces (TNI) are planning to launch an operation approximately 90 kilometres west of the West Papuan capital Jayapura, focusing on the surrounding areas near the town of Demta.
The military are targeting an area used by the Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM), or Free Papua Movement, for training purposes. Many people in the area have already fled into the forest over fear for their safety. The special elite troops are from Medan in North Sumatra. They are part of the extra TNI troops moved recently to the Indonesian-occupied province.
Currently in Suva, West Papuan representative for the UN Lobby, Rex Rumakiek, has called on all Pacific Island governments to urge the Indonesian Government to withdraw its troops from the province.
"We ask that the Fijian Government, and all governments in the region, to urge the Indonesian Government to order its military to halt any planned operation as a way of easing tensions and ultimately save lives in the province," Rumakiek said.
Rumakiek, a long time independence activist and current board member of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre/Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific Movement, lives in exile in Australia. He is a member of the OPM National Council and has been a representative of the OPM Foreign Mission in the Pacific for many years. In September 2000, the Papua Presidium Council appointed Rumakiek as the UN Lobby.
This build up of troops continues as various civil society organisations, both Papuan and non-Papuan, have been meeting to discuss how to achieve peace in West Papua. The Jayapura-based Institute for Human Rights Study and Advocacy (ELSHAM) has been active in facilitating these meetings, which aim to achieve reconciliation between all parties involved.
However the military it would appear have decided that these NGO groups and human rights defenders are possible separatists and there is fear for the safety of such groups.
There is also tension in the border area with Papua New Guinea, where extra troops have been sent to counter what the military believe could be OPM activity as the date of the so-called Act of Free Choice in August 1969 approaches.
However the OPM have shown great restraint in recent years and have been committed to peaceful dialogue. The more likely scenario is the TNI are deliberately trying to provoke the OPM into action so they can use it as an excuse to crack down on any organisation that they perceive to be separatists.
The 1969 Act of Free Choice confirmed Indonesia's takeover of West Papua, which had commenced in 1962-3, and saw the territory's incorporation into the Indonesian Republic as the province of Irian Jaya. West Papuan nationalists dismiss the 1969 act as a sham and have called on the UN and international community to review Indonesia's takeover.
Pacific Concerns Resource Centre Press Release,