West Papua ‘becoming a hunting ground’ as Indonesian forces open fire on student protesters
By: Virginia Langeberg
More than a dozen university students have been injured in an incident in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, with witnesses claiming Indonesian troops opened fire to disperse a peaceful rally.
A young man has been severely beaten and a dozen other students injured after Indonesian security forces opened fire on a university rally in the Papuan capital, Jayapura.
Months of fresh demonstrations have gripped the region as thousands of Indigenous West Papuans renew calls for an independence referendum amid a deadly crackdown in the Indonesian-ruled provinces.
Some 13 university students were injured in Jayapura on Tuesday, with victims and witnesses claiming Indonesian troops opened fire to disperse a peaceful rally of about 20 people.
Benny Wenda, from the Liberation Movement of West Papua, said Indonesia was imposing martial law.
“These were live rounds,” Mr Wenda said. “West Papua is becoming more of a hunting ground by special forces.”
Indonesia’s control of the provinces has long been a cause of tension among Indigenous locals with low-level conflict and independence movements simmering for decades.
Despite a heavy military presence in the region and the threat of COVID-19, demonstrations calling for an independence referendum reignited in July.
It came after hundreds of thousands rallied in August and September of 2019, only to be silenced by a flood of more armed troops.
It’s estimated up to 70,000 people have been displaced and 250 killed in the past two years of violence.
Victor Yeimo from the West Papua National Committee said action would continue.
“Our message is very clear, West Papuan people need a political solution,” Mr Yeimo said. “We’re calling on our Melanesian and Pacific leaders to upgrade its resolution to get the people of West Papua free from the colony of power.”
For West Papuan refugees who fled to Papua New Guinea in the 1970s, there’s still hope they will one day be able to return.
“We will stay in PNG for the rest of our life, or if West Papua independence is decided, we go back to our home,” said Olof Wayabgkau, who fled Jayapura in 1975.
SBS News contacted the Indonesian embassies in Sydney and Canberra but did not receive a response.
source: SBS News