A pro-independence movement in West Papua has appealed to several Western countries – including New Zealand – to provide urgent humanitarian help by supplying covid vaccines directly to the Papuans to cope with the "double crisis" in the Indonesian-ruled region.
Benny Wenda, interim president of the Provisional Government of West Papua, said today he had made the appeal by writing to the foreign ministers of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the US.
"I have also written to the President of the European Commission, the WHO [World Health Organisation] and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the escalating covid-19 situation in our land," he said in a statement.
"This new crisis is a further existential threat to my people."
Indonesia had caused a double crisis for the people of West Papua by launching military operations in the middle of the pandemic, Wenda said, as he had warned.
"Just yesterday, villagers from the West Moskona district were attacked by troops after attending a peaceful worship session against 'Special Autonomy', fleeing to the forests and the city of Bintuni," he said.
"Woman and children are afraid to return to their villages in case the military and police arrest or attack them."
50,000 plus displaced
"More than 50,000 people have been displaced in Nduga, Puncak and Intan Jaya over the past two and a half years. Their homes have been destroyed, their churches burned and their schools occupied by soldiers.
"They are left in internal displacement camps, where the virus will spread rapidly. Already in the cities, patients are being turned away or treated in cars outside the hospital."
Western countries and the WHO had an urgent moral obligation to give vaccine doses direct the local Papuan government for distribution, Wenda said.
"As the 2018 Asmat health crisis showed, Jakarta cannot be trusted with the health of the West Papuan people," he said.
"Over nearly 60 years of colonisation we have seen a chronic failure to develop health facilities in West Papua, leaving us dying on top of the natural riches Indonesia is extracting. If Jakarta is allowed to hold the reigns of vaccine development, my people will suffer further."
Wenda said the developments were part of a "continued genocide against my people".
"Our forests have been torn down, our mountains decapitated, our way of life destroyed. Indonesia restricts healthcare and enforces a colonial education whilst killing anyone who speaks out for self-determination," Wenda said.
"Launching military operations in the middle of a pandemic is a policy designed to further wipe out our population. We need urgent international assistance, direct to the local Papuan government, not through the colonial occupier."