Protests against Papua’s ‘Act of Free Choice’ held in several Indonesian cities

Tabloid JUBI – August 3, 2017
AMP and FRI-West Papua protest against 1969 Pepera in Yogyakarta - August 2, 2017
AMP and FRI-West Papua protest against 1969 Pepera in Yogyakarta - August 2, 2017

Jayapura – Papuan students from the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the solidarity group the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) have held protests against the 1969 UN sponsored referendum on West Papua’s integration with Indonesia (Pepera), which took place on July 14-August 2, 1969.

The protests, which took the form of public film showings and peaceful demonstrations, took place in several cities in Java as well as Ternate and North Maluku.

In the East Java capital of Surabaya, AMP Surabaya which had planned to hold a march from the Submarine Monument to the Grahadi Building was forced to cancel the action after being stopped by Surabaya district police. This was related to Tabloid JUBI by AMP action coordinator Nies Tabuni on Wednesday August 3.

“The police forcibly stopped our peaceful action that was to start at 9am. We tried to hold a dialogue with the police, intelligence officers and unidentified social organisations but they forced the protesters to disperse”, said Nies.

A scuffle eventually broke out between the police, social organisations and the students who numbered around 20. The student then decided go back to the gathering point then return home to the Kamasan III Papuan student dormitory.

“Yet again there was a repressive response, this is a form of silencing space for expression and democracy for the Papuan people”, he said.

Pepera not democratic

According to a joint statement by the FRI-WP and AMP received by Tabloid JUBI on August 3, the groups held peaceful protests in the cities of Jakarta, Bandung (West Java), Yogyakarta (Central Java) and Ternate (Maluku) to demand that the United Nations take responsibility straightening out the history of the Pepera and the integration of West Papua into Indonesia.

They also called on the UN to pass a resolution allowing for a new referendum on independence for the nation of West Papua in accordance with international law as a democratic solution for the nation and people of Papua.

According to the groups, when the Pepera was held on July 14-August 2, 1969, out of the 809,337 Papuans that had the right to vote, they were only represented by 1,025 people who had been quarantined beforehand and only 175 of them expressed an opinion.

“Meaning that the Pepera was not democratic, it will full of terror, intimidation and manipulation along with gross and systematic human rights violations”, the groups said in the written statement.

Also according to the FRI-WP and AMP, the Pepera also violated the mandate of the 1962 New York Agreement for Indonesia to conduct an act of self-determination based on the international practice of “one man one vote”.

The historical problem of the Pepera which continues to be challenged by some sections of Papuan society has become a stumbling block for the integration of Papua into Indonesia. The Indonesian government meanwhile continues to insist that Papua’s integration is final.

According to Jennifer Robinson, an international lawyer who actively defended West Papua on the Al Jazeera news network on March 21, 2012, under the UN’s supervision in the lead up to the 1969 Pepera, the Indonesian military has been accused of being responsible for the death of 30,000 Papuans.

“Frank Galbraith, the US Ambassador to Indonesia at the time warned that Indonesian military operations had ‘triggered fear... and intentional genocide’. Australian journalist Hugh Lund, who was an eye witness to the Pepera, also reported that Papuan people carrying placards with ‘one man one vote’ to protest the Pepera were arrested and jailed, several others were murdered”, she wrote.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was AMP dan FRI West Papua protes 48 tahun Pepera.]