West Papuan leaders declare first steps for world’s first ‘green state’

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

West Papuan leaders have begun forming a “provisional government” in defiance of a crackdown by Indonesian security forces and have pledged that the Melanesian region will establish the world’s first “green state”.

West Papuan civil society and political movements have opposed Indonesian colonisation of the region since 1962 and the announcement of this government-in-waiting yesterday – West Papua’s independence flag day – and push for a referendum has raised the stakes.

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) aims to mobilise the people of West Papua to achieve the referendum on independence.

Following this the ULMWP intends to take control of the territory and organise democratic elections.

“Indonesian repression currently renders elections impossible,” said the ULMWP in a statement.

“Today, we honour and recognise all our forefathers who fought and died for us by finally establishing a united government-in-waiting,” declared Benny Wenda, named interim president of the provisional government.

“Embodying the spirit of the people of West Papua, we are ready to run our country. As laid out in our Provisional Constitution, a future republic of West Papua will be the world’s first green state, and a beacon of human rights – the opposite of decades of bloody Indonesian colonisation.

“Another step for ‘free West Papua’

“Today, we take another step towards our dream of a free, independent and liberated West Papua.”

The ULMWP statement said the rest of the cabinet would be announced in future months, and an Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) is expected “at an appropriate time”.

The announcement is a direct rejection of Jakarta’s attempts to extend “special autonomy” provisions in West Papua.

First imposed in 2001, the Special Autonomy status will expire at the end of the year, and is the target of a mass petition sponsored by 102 civil society organisations across West Papua.

Thirty-six people were arrested in Manokwari and Sorong on Friday after raising the banned Morning Star flag.

West Papua flag raising
West Papuan flag-raising in Auckland. Image: Jim Marbrook/PMC

Flag-raising protests were raised yesterday at several locations in New Zealand – including on the steps of Parliament and at a symposium at Auckland University of Technology – as part of a global protest.

West Papuans worldwide mark independence day on December 1, the anniversary of the region’s declaration of independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1961 and the raising of its now-banned Morning Star flag.

On Monday, the UN Office of Human Right spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani on Papua and West Papua said: “We are disturbed by escalating violence over the past weeks and months in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua and the increased risk of renewed tension and violence.”

She said in a statement that in one incident on November 22, a 17-year-old was shot dead and another 17-year-old injured in an alleged police shootout, with the bodies found at the Limbaga Mountain, Gome District.

Earlier, in September and October 2020 there had been “a disturbing series of killings” of at least six individuals, including activists and church workers.

At least two members of the security forces were also killed in clashes.

The UN office has called for an inquiry into the violence.

“The new provisional constitution centres on environmental protections, social justice, gender equality and religious freedom, and protects the rights of Indonesian migrants living in West Papua,” said the ULMWP statement.

“The constitution establishes a governance structure, including the form

West Papua’s Benny Wenda (left) with a former PMC journalist, Henry Yamo, at the Pacific Media Centre on his last visit to New Zealand in 2013. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

ation of a Congress, Senate and judicial branch.

“The government is supported by all liberation groups inside West Papua, representing the overwhelming majority of the people.”

The ULMWP delivered the West Papuan People’s Petition, signed by 70 percent of West Papuans, to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2019.

This post was originally published on Radio Free.