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West Papuan separatists hand petition to U.N. human rights chief

January 27, 2019

West Papuan separatists hand petition to U.N. human rights chief
By Reuters• last updated: 27/01/2019 – 19:32

GENEVA (Reuters) – A separatist movement in Indonesia’s West Papua province delivered a petition with 1.8 million signatures demanding an independence referendum to U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday, its leader told Reuters after the meeting.

Benny Wenda, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said he hoped the United Nations would send a fact-finding mission to the province to substantiate allegations of human rights violations.

"Today is a historic day for me and for my people," Wenda said after the meeting in Geneva. "I handed over what I call the bones of the people of West Papua, because so many people have been killed."

He said West Papuans had no freedom of speech or assembly and the only way to be heard was through the petition, signed by almost three-quarters of the 2.5 million population.

"It weighs 40 kg. It’s like the biggest book in the world."

He said he also spoke to Bachelet about the situation in the Nduga region, where he said at least 11 people had been killed and more may have died after fleeing into the bush to escape Indonesian forces, and 22,000 people had been displaced.

Provincial military spokesman Muhammad Aidi said the allegation was unfounded.

"He cannot show the evidence of what he has accused (Indonesia and the military) of," Aidi said on Sunday. "It is the Free Papua Movement that killed the innocent civilians."

Last month members of the military wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) claimed responsibility for killing at least 16 people working on a bridge on a high-profile road project, and a soldier, in the Nduga area.

The OPM has said it views the project workers as members of the military and casualties in their war against the government.

The governor of the province subsequently called for an end to a hunt for the rebels, saying villagers were being traumatised.

The military rejected the plea to suspend the search in the remote, heavily forested province on the western half of New Guinea island, a former Dutch colony incorporated into Indonesia after a widely criticized U.N.-backed referendum in 1969.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo wants to develop impoverished Papua and tap its resources. Since coming to power in 2014, he has tried to ease tensions in Papua by freeing prisoners and addressing rights concerns, while stepping up investment with projects like the Trans Papua highway.

(Reporting by Tom Miles and Augustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Catherine Evans)


2) Foreigner in Papua coup plot: arms dealer or ‘adrenaline junkie tourist’?

  • Polish citizen Jakob Skrzypski accused of joining the Papua National Liberation Army and offering to help supply it with weapons
  • Observers describe him as an avid ‘extreme’ traveller with a passion for other cultures, languages, and humanitarian issues

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 January, 2019, 4:46pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 January, 2019, 11:17pm

Jakob Skrzypski left a stable job in Switzerland to travel through Indonesia last year. He visited Java, Sumatra and the tourist island of Bali before heading to the restive provinces of West Papua and Papua.

But three months ago, Indonesia authorities detained the 39-year-old Polish citizen in the Papuan capital of Jayapura. On January 15 this year, he was charged with treason.

He was the first foreigner in Indonesia to be charged with the offence, one that could see him spend 20 years in prison, if found guilty.

Skrzypski has been accused of plotting a coup with a pro-independence Papuan armed group and offering to help supply it weapons to overthrow the Indonesian government.

Skrzypski, who sports a bushy beard and has his hair tied back, has been held in a small, poorly-lit jail cell as he awaits trial in Wamena, an isolated town in Papua’s highlands.

A photograph seen by the South China Morning Post shows a jail cell with filthy streaks on the walls and a hand drawn sketch of Jesus Christ hanging on the cross.

“No freely available hot water. Washing water is dirty,” Skrzpski wrote in a letter to the Post, adding that he shared the cell with up to four other prisoners, and that he got one meal a day of rice and vegetables.

His court case is an unexpected twist in the long-running independence struggle between Papuans and the Indonesian government.

A low-level insurgency has simmered in the provinces, which share a border with Papua New Guinea, ever since the former Dutch colony came under Indonesian rule in the 1960s.

Papua declared itself an independent nation in 1961, but Indonesia took control of the resource-rich region by force in 1963. It officially annexed Papua in 1969 with a UN-backed vote, widely seen as a sham. The province was split into two in 2003 to become Papua and West Papua.

The pro-independence movement has little international backing, except for a small number of Pacific nations.

In his correspondence with the Post, Skrzypski described how Papua had “nurtured” his curiosity for some time, and that we wanted to visit.

He visited Papua’s urban centres of Sorong, Jayapura, Timika and Wamena, making friends in each place through social media.

“Papua is … virtually unknown, seldom ever mentioned in Europe. Since it’s very different from the other parts of Indonesia, it has been nurturing my curiosity for some time,” he wrote.

Skrzypski graduated from Warsaw University in Poland, worked in Britain, then studied at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, before getting a job there.

He had travelled to Indonesia several times, and also to Armenia, Myanmar and Iraq.

In August 2018, while he was in Wamena, the largest town in the highlands of Papua province, local police asked him to report to them.

Skrzypski said he did so, accompanied by a man who was his tour guide.

He said police offered him a ticket to leave Indonesia, but he refused. They then asked the guide to stay at the police station, while they allowed Skrzypski to go back to the hotel.

The next day, the police picked up Skrzypski in the hotel and brought him to the Papuan capital of Jayapura, an hour from Wamena by flight, where he was arrested.

The guide was later freed.

According to Skrzypski, police accused him of joining the West Papua National Liberation Army, a militant group and one of four active separatist organisations.

They cited his online friendship with Simon Magal, a student with links to prominent West Papuan human rights activist Mama Yosepha Alomang, as evidence.

Mama Yosepha received international acclaim after she lobbied against American mining firm Freeport McMoRan, which has been accused of causing grave environmental damage in its decades-long operation of the giant Grasberg copper mine.

The National Liberation Army had also waged attacks against Freeport, saying that the province’s integration with Indonesia was a conspiracy between the government and the mining giant.

Skrzypski says he discussed Freeport with Simon.

But Jayapura police commissioner Ahmad M. Kamal said they had evidence from Facebook Messenger chats and video testimony from three pro-independence fighters that Skrzypski had expressed his support for the militant Papuan independence movement.

Magal was subsequently arrested and also charged with treason.

A statement issued by Skrzypski’s lawyer Latifa Anum Siregar and several human rights groups said police alleged the Polish citizen was an arms dealer and relied on photos of him holding guns as evidence.

But according to one of Skrzypski’s friends, the photos were taken in an indoor sport shooting range in Vaud, Switzerland, where he had been living.

The police also claimed to have confiscated more than 130 rounds of ammunition from Skrzypski and three Indonesian citizens.

Veronica Koman, a lawyer for the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), which is campaigning for the national referendum, said police become paranoid when foreigners make contact with Papuans.

Access to the region for international media is limited.

“Based on my correspondence with [Skrzypski’s] family and close friends, he is just an adrenaline junkie tourist,” she said.

Tapol, an NGO monitoring human rights issues in Indonesia, described Skrzypski as an avid “extreme” traveller with a passion for other cultures, languages, and humanitarian issues.

In his letter, Skrzypski claimed access to his lawyer was obstructed and authorities were holding his trial in Wamena instead of the capital Jayapura where his case would get more attention from media and the diplomatic community.

He said he felt isolated and depressed, not knowing when he would have to go to court next.

To pass the time, he had been reading old copies of National Geographic magazines and books on Papuan culture.

“Every step of the investigation was held secretly. I was never informed of anything in advance. At least not by the police,” he wrote.

Police insisted this was not the case. During their investigation of Skrzypski, foreign ministry officials in Jakarta were kept in the loop and they communicated with the Polish embassy there, they said.

Skryzypski’s trial continues and his next court appearance is scheduled for January 29.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: QUE STI O NS O VER POLish m an accu sed IN PAPUA COUP PLOT

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