West Papua: End Australian and US training of Indonesian military

September 13, 2019
Solidarity with West Papua rally in Sydney on September 7. Photo: Peter Boyle

“We are winning the struggle with Indonesia,” said Benny Wenda, chair of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in a statement released on September 10.“Politically, legally, morally, our arguments have prevailed.” 

Wenda continued: “Eighteen countries in the region recently came out for West Papua during the Pacific Islands Forum. Indonesia has only one tactic left: repression. Six thousand new Indonesian occupation troops have been deployed in West Papua since the uprising began last month, and have been carrying out arrests, raids and murders.”

These Indonesian troops were attacking peaceful activists who were calling for a democratic referendum to be carried out through an international mechanism, said Wenda. On August 28, the Indonesian military shot six people dead who were peacefully protesting in Deiyai.

Wenda said people in West Papua are scared, because “we carry the trauma of Indonesian military operations such as the 1963 Trikora invasion, the 1977–78 Highland operations described by the Asian Human Rights Commission as a "neglected genocide", and the ongoing military operations in Nduga which have displaced 35,000 people”.

Dozens of peaceful activists have been arrested, including Buchtar Tabuni, vice-chair of the ULMWP Legislative Council

“Indonesian police fired 60 times at Buchtar’s house in Kamwolker, Abepura, before arresting him.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of West Papuans studying in Indonesia were forced to flee their homes because of an increase in racist violence and abuse. In some instances, students have had live snakes thrown through their windows.

ULMWP spokesperson Ronny Kareni told a September 7 solidarity rally in Sydney that the thousands of Indonesian military and police deployed to West Papua include the elite special forces units Kostrad, Kopassus and Detachment 88.

“These special forces have been trained by the Australian government, the US government and other Western governments,” said Kareni. “These governments have to be held accountable for this misuse of their taxpayers’ money.”

Kareni called for this military aid to be stopped and for Australia to support the commitment by the Pacific Islands Forum to urge the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to visit West Papua to investigate conditions there.

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