Papuan rebel leader reiterates call for referendum
Marguerite Afra Sapiie
The Jakarta Post
Papuan pro-independence leader Filep Karma has called on the government to hold a referendum on independence for the country’s easternmost region.
Filep, a former political prisoner of 11 years, claimed the long-demanded referendum was a win-win solution for both the government and the Papuan people, who still suffered from mistreatment and abuses despite the region being granted special autonomy status.
The referendum would provide a fair mechanism for Papuans to decide for themselves whether they wanted to remain as part of the unitary state of Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) or wanted independence, Filep said.
“We used to fight for separation, but now a referendum is better to find out the true aspirations of Papuans. If they want to still be a part of Indonesia, why should [Papuan rebels] continue to struggle for independence?” Filep told the journalists on Tuesday.
Should the referendum result in Papuans wanting to remain Indonesian citizens, the rebels would stop demanding for separation, Filep said, however, the government should also promise Papuans a peaceful transfer of independence if the referendum showed otherwise.
Filep went on that in 2008, when he was still imprisoned, he had sent a letter to then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, demanding a referendum.
Papuans also had long-awaited dialogue with the government over the referendum plan, even though President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had given the green light, Filep said. (bbn)
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