Following Wednesday’s violent government crackdown on a peaceful pro-independence rally in Jayapura, some pro-Indonesian Papuan activists are saying the rally’s true purpose was a cynical push by its organizers for personal political gain.
“The Papuan Congress has sacrificed a lot of Papuan people, therefore, I am asking the people of Papua not to let themselves be provoked by the referendum [independence] issue,” said Heemskercke Bonay, an activist from West Papua in Jakarta.
“The referendum issue declared in the congress was pushed by elites [in the Papuan Customary Council] who claimed that it was on behalf of the people,” Heemskercke said.
He was referring to the reading of a Papuan declaration of independence at Wednesday’s gathering. That act, along with the raising of the separatist Morning Star flag, prompted police and military forces to attempt to disperse the large gathering by firing shots and beating and arresting dozens of people.
Six people have been confirmed killed in the aftermath of the rally. Military and police spokesmen have denied responsibility for the deaths.
Ramses Ohee, the Papuan chairman of the pro-Indonesia Red and White Troops (BMP), said his organization rejected the calls for a separate Papuan state.
“We firmly refuse the calls for an independent Papua declared during the congress,” he said.
Ramses admitted that there were many problems that the central government needed to address in the province, especially regarding development and local politics, but that separation from Indonesia was not the answer.