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PNG capital governor promises to escalate West Papua campaign

Radio New Zealand - September 11, 2019

The governor of Papua New Guinea's capital has promised more public action regarding West Papua.

Powes Parkop led thousands of people on a march in Port Moresby yesterday to voice support for West Papuan independence.

The march follows weeks of protests and unrest in the neighbouring Indonesian-ruled territory, sparked by racist harassment of West Papuan students in Javanese cities last month.

Mr Parkop said PNG citizens considered West Papuans members of the same greater clan and feel their pain. "When an injury is done to our tribes and our clan members, it hurts us," he explained.

"Our people have been, like, all these years looking to our leaders for leadership and a solution (on West Papua) but after 57 years governments have failed, leaders have failed.

"That's why our people are coming out to express what is in their mind and heart. And we're only just starting. We're going to escalate this campaign and mobilise an entire country."

Mr Parkop, who was joined by Oro Province Governor Gary Juffa in leading the march, said an independence referendum was the solution for ongoing turmoil in West Papua.

However, Indonesia's government said the incorporation of West Papua into the republic is non-negotiable.

Its chief security minister, Wiranto, has downplayed the independence aspirations of the hundreds of thousands of West Papuans who have taken to the streets over recent weeks.

Wiranto told Indonesian media it was normal for any country to have a small element of the population seeking to separate from the larger state.

The Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs has vowed to firmly contain those pushing separatism in Indonesia.

Over 80 people have been arrested in Papua as part of a security forces crackdown after the widespread protests in the region. At least 10 people have died in the unrest.

Mr Parkop said the security approach would not solve anything but would only grow the desire of Papuans to be independent. "Indonesia is succumbing again to its own fear and insecurity," he said.

"It can do itself, the region and humanity a lot of good, and especially the West Papuans, if it acknowledges historical mistakes and finds a way forward to address them."

Mr Parkop said a PNG national dialogue on West Papua solidarity would continue to be developed, as well as regional dialogue with other governments and civil society networks in the Pacific.

PNG's government has a long-running policy of respecting Indonesian sovereignty in West Papua, but in recent years has started to speak out more about human rights abuses across the border.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/398564/png-capital-governor-promises-to-escalate-west-papua-campaign