UN body rejects Papuan appeal 

The UN’s decolonisation committee says it will not accept a petition signed by 1.8 million Papuans, calling for independence from Indonesia, saying the cause is outside the committee’s mandate.

The Oxford-based Papuan leader Benny Wenda presented the petition in New York. It had been banned by the authorities, but was smuggled across the provinces of Papua and West Papua and reportedly supported by 70 per cent of the population.

West Papua has experienced a “significant aggravation” of the human rights situation in the past two years compared to previous years, according to a report by International Coalition for Papua from more than 40 faith-based and civil rights organisations.

“Reports by local human rights defenders describe an alarming shrinking of democratic space,” says the report.

“Although Indonesian President Joko Widodo pushed economic development and granted clemency to five long-term political prisoners, the police strictly limited even the most peaceful dissident political activities.”

The Papuan petition called on the UN to “put West Papua back on the decolonisation committee agenda and ensure their right to self‐determination … is respected by holding an internationally supervised vote”.

The decolonisation committee, known as C24, is responsible for monitoring former colonies moving towards independence.

The petition asked the UN to appoint a special representative to probe human rights abuses by what are regarded as Indonesian colonisers.

But chair of the committee, Rafael Ramirez, said no petition on Indonesian Papua could be accepted because the committee’s mandate extended only to the 17 states classified by the UN as “non-self-governing territories”.

“One of the principles of our movement is to defend the sovereignty and the full integrity of the territory of our members. We are not going to do anything against Indonesia as a C24,” he said.

There is little independent scrutiny of Papua, as rights groups and journalists are restricted from visiting.

The former Dutch colony was on the committee’s agenda when it was known as Netherlands New Guinea but it was removed in 1963 when the western half of island of New Guinea was occupied by Indonesia.

Ramírez, Venezuela’s representative to the UN, said he supported Indonesia’s position that the provinces were an integral part of its territory.

“The special committee on decolonisation has not received nor can receive any request or document related to the situation of West Papua, territory which is an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s representative to the UN, Dian Triansyah Djani, is a vice-chair of the decolonisation committee.

Djani, who sits on the committee, called Wenda’s petition a hoax and separatist propaganda.


Papuans regard themselves as ethnically and culturally distinct from the rest of Indonesia, Picture credit: YouTube