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Jakarta Post

Papua: Pricking our national conscience

  • Veronica Koman

Jakarta   /   Wed, May 18 2016   /  07:21 am

When outsiders think of Papua, it may be to puzzle over why protests there seem never-ending. They may assume the main frustrations of Papuans stem from poverty and lack of development.

That is true to some degree. However, the main reason is simpler and neatly illustrated by comparing two figures: In early May, 2,109 Papuan independence protesters were arrested by police – and that number is more than double the 1,025 who were press-ganged into legitimizing Indonesia’s rule of Papua through the 1969 “Act of Free Choice”.

Despite our embassy in the UK denying in The Guardian that the arrests took place, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute documented them all, and holds the names of every one of the 2,109 demonstrators. Compare the figure with the 1,025 who cast ballots in what Papuans refer to as the “Act of No Choice”, out of an estimated population of 800,000 at...