Thousands of Papuans take to the streets calling for referendum

Okezone – November 14, 2011
West Papuan protesters in Jayapura demand referendum (Tabloid Wani)
West Papuan protesters in Jayapura demand referendum (Tabloid Wani)

Nurlina Umasugi, Jayapura – Thousands of Papuans from the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) held a 15 kilometer march on Monday afternoon to demand a referendum for the Papuan people.

The long-march from the Abepura district towards the provincial capital of Jayapura city was closely watched over by Papuan police under the command of the regional and deputy-regional police chiefs. Several sections of road became congested because of the the overflow of protesters packing the main road.

During the action, which was centred at Imbi Park, the protesters wore traditional Papuan clothing. Others painted their bodies with designs of the Morning Star flag and brought scores of red KNPB flags. “We demand a referendum, we demand a referendum”, shouted the demonstrators during breaks in the action on Monday November 14.

According to the protesters, a referendum is the best solution to resolve the current problems in Papua. Not dialogue between the central government and the Papuan people or efforts to accelerate development as drawn up by the central government through the Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), as a consequence of the failure to implement special autonomy (Otsus) the land of the Bird of Paradise as Papua is known.

Action coordinator Yusak Pakage explained that what the Papuan people want is a referendum, not dialogue or the UP4B. If dialogue between the central government and the Papuan people keeps being pushed, it must be directed towards the return of Papua’s sovereignty and facilitated by the United Nations Security Council.

“We don’t trust the Indonesian government any more, so if dialogue is pushed through then it must be dialogue about the return of the Papuan people’s sovereignty and it must be attended by the UN”, insisted Yusak.

Yusak said that the march was also held to protest the human rights violations committed by security forces at the recent Third Papuan People’s Congress in Abepura and to respond to hot issues in the lead up to the commemoration of West Papua’s Independence Day that falls on December 1.

Yusak also appealed to the Papuan people to be creative in the lead up to December 1 because there are rumours circulating that Papua will heat up on the day. These rumours are absolutely untrue and are simply being invented by irresponsible rogue elements.

“We appeal to all Papuan people not to panic about issues that are circulating at the moment. Carry out [your] activities as usual, because there will not be any actions that will be able to harm any of us. Actually we are all sisters and brothers who could not possibly hurt each other. Let’s joint together to safeguard security in Papua”, he added.

Meanwhile, Yusuf also urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to immediately order to the withdrawal of troops from the areas of Papua that are considered volatile. The situation in Papua is actually safe and favourable, although the central government makes out that Papua is unsafe in order to justify increasing troop numbers in Papua.

“We don’t need troops to be sent to Papua simply to shoot the Papuan people dead. So the president must immediately withdraw these troops”, said Yusak.

If after a period of time Yudhoyono does not carry out a withdrawal of the troops in Papua, then the Papuan people will request protection from the UN Security Council. Because Papuan is in a state of emergency and the party creating this situation is the Indonesian government.

“The Papuan people are no longer safe in their own land, so SBY must immediately withdraw all of his troops”, he said. After giving speeches for around two hours, the protesters disbanded in an orderly fashion. (kem)

[Tuntut Referendum, Ribuan Orang Papua Turun ke Jalan – Okezone. Senin, 14 November 2011. Translated by James Balowski.]