01 December, 2011
President' calls for recognition of West Papua
Tom Allard, Jakarta :West Papua Independence
Speaking by telephone from his prison cell in Jayapura, Mr Yaboisembut was unflagging in his optimism that West Papua will be independent from Indonesia one day, even though not one state in the world supports his aspirations.
He spoke as thousands of West Papuans in the troubled region yesterday commemorated the 50th anniversary of the first declaration of West Papuan ''independence''.
While there were fears of widespread violence, the occasion was relatively peaceful, except for the violent dispersal of a rally in Timika and an early-morning fracas between police and separatists near Jayapura. One policeman was killed and another badly injured, with arrow wounds.
According to Papuan student leader Markus Haluk, four people - two men and two women - were shot at the Timika rally and taken to hospital after the gathering was dispersed.
Mr Yaboisembut was proclaimed president of the ''Federal Republic of West Papua'' at the Third Papuan People's Congress, a gathering of indigenous Papuan delegates, on October 19. Within two hours of being anointed, he was beaten and arrested in a crackdown that left six people dead.
''I call on all nations that love democracy and human rights and respect international law to recognise the Papuan nation,'' Mr Yaboisembut told The Age.
West Papua was incorporated into Indonesia in 1969 after a highly controversial plebiscite involving about 1000 hand-picked tribal leaders.
The economic benefits from the resource-rich region have largely flowed to Jakarta, foreign corporations or migrants from other parts of Indonesia, creating further antagonism.
''The Papuan people have been marginalised, discriminated against,'' Mr Yaboisembut said.
''We have become minority in our own land. We are going to extinction.''
Asked about his own legitimacy given he was proclaimed president by a meeting of 1000 or so delegates, Mr Yaboisembut pointed to his role as chairman of the Papuan Customary Council since 2007. ''We applied the tribal mechanism,'' he said.
Facing up to 20 years in prison for treason, Mr Yaboisembut's future looks grim but he maintains West Papua will be free.
A declaration by Mr Yaboisembut demanding global recognition for an independent West Papua was read out at many rallies yesterday.
The banned Morning Star flag was raised in three towns but not at most events, including the biggest gathering, near the capital of West Papua, Jayapura.