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West Papuans urged to boycott Indonesian elections

Radio New Zealand International - March 27, 2019

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua has urged all Papuans in Indonesia to boycott the upcoming national elections.

Indonesia, which has over 190 million eligible voters, goes to the polls on 17 April. It will be the first time the country's president, vice president, and members of the legislature are elected on the same day.

The Liberation Movement's chairman Benny Wenda has encouraged all West Papuans, and those sympathetic to the Papuan independence cause, to boycott the elections. The UK-based Mr Wenda said Papuans don't want a new Indonesian colonial ruler, but rather they want freedom.

"These elections are not for the Papuan people – they are for Indonesia. I'm calling on all of my people, whether rich or poor, civil servant or worker, military or civilian, from village or city, to peacefully boycott the Indonesian elections on April 17.

The upcoming presidential election sees the incumbent Joko Widodo being challenged by former military leader Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Mr Widodo in 2014.

In the previous poll, Mr Widodo won significantly more votes in Papua than Mr Prabowo. Papua-based voters represent less than 2 percent of the republic's total voters.

"We respect Indonesia's right to hold elections in its own territory, but we will oppose the elections of the coloniser when they are forced upon us," Mr Wenda said

"We have tried participating in the elections of the colonial master before – but we are still killed, tortured and discriminated against every day."

Indonesia's government says the incorporation of Papua into the republic is final, and that Papuans are participants in a democratic system.

However, while pushing the boycott, the Liberation Movement is encouraging people to rally on the 5th of April as a global day of action for West Papua.

This date marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Nieuw Guinea Raad (the West Papua National Parliament).

On April 5, 1961, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the international community formally recognised West Papua's right to self-determination and eventual statehood.

A US-brokered agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia in 1962, without Papuan input, subsequently paved the way for an Indonesian takeover of the former Dutch New Guinea.

"I call on you all to prepare for an inevitable referendum on independence and intensify the struggle against the Indonesian occupation," Mr Wenda said.

Last month, the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua, and the Papuan Student Alliance, both declared that they and their support base would boycott the elections.

According to the Papuan Student Alliance, neither presidential candidate had handled human rights violations in Papua well.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/385679/west-papuans-urged-to-boycott-indonesian-elections