Papua rebels demand independence talks

  • ASEAN+
  • Saturday, 08 Dec 2018

Giving consolation: Relatives of a man killed in a massacre by suspected separatist rebels mourning in Timika, Papua province. — AFP

JAKARTA: Rebels in Indonesia’s troubled Papua province demanded that the government hold negotiations on self-determination for the province and warned of more attacks.

Sebby Sambom, spokesman for the West Papua National Liberation Army, the military wing of the Free Papua Movement, said in a telephone interview that they attacked a government construction site last weekend because they believe the project is conducted by the military.

“Trans-Papua road projects are being carried out by Indonesian military and that is a risk they must bear,” Sambom said.

“We want them to know that we don’t need development – what we want is independence.”

Jakarta, which for decades had a policy of sending Javanese and other Indonesians to settle in Papua to dilute the number of indigenous people, is now trying to spur economic development to dampen the separatist movement.

Local media have reported that army engineers are involved in several sections of a trans-Papua road network that will connect cities and districts in the province.

“Our leaders have declared a war zone since last year and warned that the trans-Papua road should be stopped, but Indonesia has ignored it,” Sambom said.

He called for the government to agree to peace talks similar to ones that led to another province, Aceh, becoming semi-autonomous, or a “real referendum” on independence as occurred in the former Indonesian territory of East Timor.

“If Aceh and East Timor can get that opportunity, why don’t we?” said Sambom, who said he was speaking near the border with neighbouring Papua New Guinea.

Papua is a former Dutch colony in the western part of New Guinea.

A declaration of independence from Dutch rule on Dec 1, 1961, was rejected by the Dutch and later by Indonesia.

An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region.

It was formally incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a UN-­sponsored ballot that was seen as a sham by many. — AP

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