Jayapura, Jubi – The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has called on the international community to pay serious attention to the escalated violence that continued to occur in Papua, or internationally known as West Papua.
Head of ULMWP's Legal and Human Rights Bureau Daniel Randongkir said that ever since the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) took hostage New Zealand Susi Air pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens on February 7, 2023, tensions in Papua's central mountainous region have escalated. The New Zealand government is pushing for Mehrtens' peaceful release but the Indonesian Military (TNI) is preparing a military operation to free the pilot.
Randongkir said the TPNPB action was an effort to draw world attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Papua, and to ask the international community to recognize the political independence of West Papua, which has been occupied by Indonesia since May 1, 1963. Negotiations for the release of the Susi Air pilot are ongoing but TPNPB does not want the Indonesian government to intervene in the negotiations.
Randongkir said that in the past week, there had been armed conflict between TPNPB and TNI in Puncak Papua, Intan Jaya, Jayawijaya, and Yahukimo regencies. This shows the escalation of armed conflict in Papua.
According to Randongkir, since 2018 there have been more than 67,000 civilians displaced from conflict areas such as Intan Jaya, Nduga, Puncak, Puncak Jaya, Yahukimo, Bintang Mountains, and Maybrat regencies. They left their hometowns to seek refuge in other areas.
On March 16, 2023 the local government and the military began evacuating non-Papuans in Dekai, the capital of Yahukimo Regency, using military cargo planes. "Meanwhile, the indigenous people of Yahukimo were not evacuated from the city of Dekai," Randongkir said in a press release received by Jubi on Saturday, March 18, 2023.
ULMWP assessed that the evacuation of non-Papuans was part of the TNI's preparation to carry out full military operations. This has the potential to cause human rights violations. Past experience showed that TNI, when conducting military operations in Papua, did not pay attention to international humanitarian law.
"They will destroy civilian facilities such as churches, schools, and health clinics, burn people's houses, damage gardens, and kill livestocks belonging to the community. They will arrest civilians, even kill civilians suspected of being TPNPB members," he said.
Markus Haluk, the executive director of ULMWP in West Papua, said that regional organizations such as the Pacific Islands Forum and the African Caribbean Pacific, have called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to immediately send the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua.
ULMWP hopes the international community can urge the Indonesian government to immediately stop all forms of crimes against humanity committed in West Papua, and bring about a resolution of the West Papua conflict through international mechanisms that respect humanitarian principles.
In addition, Haluk said that ULMWP also called on the Melanesian, Pacific, African, Caribbean and international communities to take concrete action through prayer and solidarity actions in resolving the conflict that has been going on for the past six decades, in order to realize justice, peace, independence and political sovereignty of the West Papuan Nation. (*)