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Jakarta Post

Papuan pro-referendum leader Benny Wenda awaits talks with Jokowi

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, October 14, 2019   /   11:44 am
Papuan pro-referendum leader Benny Wenda awaits talks with Jokowi Defiance: A member of the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) holds a Bintang Kejora (Morning Star) flag as he stands in front of dozens of police officers during a recent rally at the State Palace, Central Jakarta. In the rally, AMP members protested against racism, urged the government to unblock internet access in Papua and West Papua and demanded a referendum on Papuan independence. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) chairman Benny Wenda has called on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to make good on his claim that he is willing to meet with pro-referendum Papuan leaders.

“I hope that Indonesia's President Jokowi is willing to sit down with me to discuss the future of West Papua,” Benny tweeted on Sunday night. 

Earlier this month, Jokowi said he was willing to meet with pro-referendum groups in the wake of a deadly riot in Wamena, Papua, which itself was a continuation of ongoing protests and rioting that have gripped the region since mid-August. 

 “There's no problem [in meeting pro-referendum Papuan leaders]. I will meet anyone who wants to meet me," Jokowi told reporters at the time.

In a statement on the ULMWP website linked in his tweet, Benny said that he had yet to receive any official letter about a meeting and listed several conditions for “a sincere meeting to take place”.

The conditions include putting a referendum on Papuan self-determination on the agenda, third-party mediation, the withdrawal of additional police and military personnel from the region and the release of Papuan activists who were arrested in the wake of the protests.

“In order for us to believe that this has changed, Indonesia must show good faith and agree to our preconditions,” he said in the statement. “Our will to achieve a democratic referendum, to uphold our right to self-determination, has never been stronger.”

Benny, a Papuan independence activist, has lived in the United Kingdom since being granted asylum there in 2003, after he was accused of masterminding an attack on an Abepura Police station, a charge that he denies.

On a number of occasions since protests first broke out in August, Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto have accused Benny of being a “provocateur” and “conspiring” to create unrest in the country’s easternmost provinces. 

Wiranto has also repeatedly said that a self-determination referendum for Papua is not an option. (kmt)