In 1969 the Act of Free Choice election was conducted in West Papua to ascertain if the Melanesian indigenous population preferred to remain a province within the nascent nation of Indonesia or become their own independent nation. The election was fraudulent and participation by the indigenous people was nil. Thus the voiceless West Papuans became a province of Indonesia and the victims of forty-seven years of oppression. There have been over 400,000 indigenous people killed and over 100,000 are missing. Indonesia has failed Melanesian Papuans, morally and democratically.
In May 2001, the Indonesian government responded to ongoing pressure by the Melanesian Papuans’ demand for independence, with “Special Autonomy”; a fabricated, nonsensical bill, with at best, negligible changes that favored the indigenous people. From the start Melanesians vehemently rejected the “Special Autonomy” package that Indonesia imposed upon them and in August 2005, four years after “Special Autonomy” was introduced, six thousand indigenous people participated in a nonviolent protest march to Jayapura, the capitol city of West Papua, carrying a coffin with “Special Autonomy” placed inside to illustrate that without the death of “Special Autonomy”, there is certain to be the death of additional Melanesians. West Papuans want to reiterate their demands that the only acceptable offering from Indonesia is self-determination leading to West Papua’s complete independence from Indonesian.
In July 2010, Melanesians once again marched in protest from Cenderawasih University to the Indonesian House of Representatives in Jayapura, demanding an end to the twice-rejected “Special Autonomy” bill. The march included over 20,000 Papuan citizens and epitomized the ubiquitous sentiments that independence is the one and only acceptable solution for Papuans and an immediate halt to the human rights abuses is of the highest priority. On Sunday, October 16, 2011, Indonesia was feeling threatened when the Third Papuan Congress, the permanent Melanesian governing body after West Papuan independence, met for an historic three-day meeting in Jayapura. The Third Congress is the first governing body to gain comprehensive endorsement from the indigenous population as the representative of their nascent Melanesian nation. On Tuesday, October 18, Indonesia sent in additional tanks and troops to Jayapura and proceeded to arrest eight hundred civilians, all charged with the generic charge of subversion.
West Papuan Third Congress
October 16-19, 2011
The continuation of arresting and incarcerating nonviolent political prisoners since the 1980’s and the October 19, 2011 arrests of over eight hundred civilians during the Third National Congress, including my friends and colleagues Edison Waromi and Forkorus Yaboisembut, Prime Minister and President, respectively, will not deter Melanesians from their nonviolent struggle until we are practicing self-determination within a democratic framework, and are recognized, respected and supported by the international community.
(Herman Wainggai Former West Papuan Political Prisoner).