Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
Indonesia has cut off the internet in West Papua to conceal its crackdown on the peaceful liberation movement, says a leading Papuan campaigner.
Benny Wenda, interim president of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), has condemned the internet gag while Indonesia’s leading English-language daily newspaper, The Jakarta Post, has also criticised Jakarta’s actions.
In an editorial last Friday, the Post said that many people “suspect that the disruption to the [Papua] internet service in April was actually a deliberate move to silence anti-government critics and activists”.
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“The government has been cutting off Papua from the outside world for decades by measures that included restricting foreign visitors, especially foreign journalists,” the newspaper said.
Jakarta remained “stubbornly insistent on maintaining its isolation policy for Papua”.
Erik Walela, secretary of the ULMWP’s “Department of Political Affairs”, is now in hiding, and two of his relatives — Abi, 32, and Anno, 31 — were arrested by the Indonesian colonial police on June 1.
Victor Yeimo, spokesperson of the KNPB, had already been arrested.
Stigmatised as ‘terrorists’
“I am concerned that all the ULMWP leaders and departments inside West Papua are now at risk after Indonesia has tried to stigmatise us as ‘terrorists’,” said Wenda.
“The head of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has stated that it considers the entire liberation movement, including anyone associated with me, to be terrorists.
“Anyone who stands up to injustice in West Papua is now in danger. Indonesia is cutting off the internet to conceal its crackdown and military operations, continuing its long tradition of concealing information from the world by banning international journalists and spreading propaganda.
“The only way anyone can currently access the internet inside is by standing near a military, police, or government building.”
Wenda said Indonesian authorities had tried to label Papuan pro-independence groups “separatists”, “armed criminal groups”, and in 2019, “monkeys’”.
“Now they are labelling us ‘terrorists’. This is nothing but more discrimination against the entire people of West Papua and our struggle to uphold our basic right to self-determination,” he said.
“I want to remind the United Nations and the Pacific and Melanesian leaders that Indonesia is misusing the issue of terrorism to crush our fundamental struggle for the liberation of our land from illegal occupation and colonisation.”
21,000 troops deployed
More than 21,000 troops had been deployed in less than three years, including last month ‘Satan’s forces’ implicated in genocide in East Timor, said Wenda.
Densus 88, trained by the West, were also using their skills “against my people”.
“My people are traumatised, scared to go to their gardens, to hunt or fish. Everywhere they turn there are military posts and bases,” said Wenda.
“How long will the world ignore my call? How long can the world watch what is happening to my people and stand by?”
This content originally appeared on Asia Pacific Report and was authored by APR editor.