Papua, Jubi – The main organisation advancing West Papuan independence aims abroad has committed to ending the use of child soldiers by armed rebels fighting under its flag.
This comes after revelations boys as young as 15 are fighting in an escalating conflict with Indonesian forces in Papua’s Central Highlands.
The new rules, which are expected to take effect in the next six months, are part of an effort to placate concerns over underage fighters joining the ranks of the West Papua Liberation Army, and comes as the independence movement struggles to gain ground with the international community.
Last month, RNZ Pacific reported the Liberation Army had violated international conventions against the recruitment of child soldiers, a move the rebel group argued was necessary in a region embroiled in near-constant conflict.
On Monday, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) claimed it was taking political leadership of the Liberation Army and the two other main rebel groups in Papua. According to the ULMWP, the three will form a new grouping dubbed the West Papua Army and will undertake military reforms.
“We want to follow international law. We also must keep little boys in very clear position,” said Jacob Rumbiak, an Australia-based ULMWP spokesperson. He said the changes would restrict active combat operations by the West Papua Army to adult fighters, although he added children would still be trained for combat.
A release on Monday from the office of the ULMWP chair, Benny Wenda, said it was the first time the three major rebel factions had come under a single arm.
“Politically and militarily we are united now. The international community can now see without a doubt that we are ready to take over our country,” he said.
But undermining the new united front, the Liberation Army released a counter-statement on Monday, saying it was “not a part of ULMWP or the West Papua Army.” The statement said Mr Wenda’s claims were “fabrications and lies”.
Experts said the ULMWP assuming political leadership over armed forces was unlikely to carry much sway with rebels already operating with little oversight, especially within the Liberation Army, which is engaged in a chaotic war with Indonesian forces in Nduga regency.
“I don’t know if it can be applied anytime soon given the nature of the Liberation Army is quite fragmented since the 1960s,” Hipo Wangge, a researcher at Marthinus Academy in Jakarta, said of claims the West Papua Army would end the use of child soldiers.
A spokesperson for the Liberation Army couldn’t be reached for comment on the proposed regulations.
Victor Mambor, the editor of Papuan news site Tabloid Jubi, said a meeting in Papua New Guinea last year between the three armed groups and the Liberation Movement had ended with some members “unhappy” over the outcome.
Since then, the Liberation Army has found itself at the centre of a war with Indonesia after its fighters massacred at least 16 Indonesian construction workers in Nduga in December, in the worst bout of violence to strike Papua in years. Hundreds of Indonesian military and police have been deployed in a hunt for the rebel group.
Rights groups have documented a widespread displacement of civilians from Nduga, including hundreds of children who have been forced to take shelter in displacement camps in nearby cities. In April, the Irish human rights group Front Line Defenders said more than 32,000 people had been displaced from the regency since December.
Still, the formation of the West Papua Army shows how Papuan rebel groups are being leveraged to win international support for the independence movement.
The Liberation Movement spokesperson, Mr Rumbiak, said the move was prompted by a request from Vanuatu, which he added had wanted a united front including from military factions in order to make international lobbying easier. Vanuatu’s government has been a staunch supporter of West Papuan independence and its Special Envoy for West Papua last month handed over an application for the Liberation Movement to gain full membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. (*)
ULMWP activists in Papua express gratitude to Oxford City Council
Jayapura, Jubi – Simon B Daby, a member of the Central Board Committee of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said that West Papuans appreciate the Oxford City Council for granting the Freedom of Oxford” award to the Chairman of ULMWP Benny Wenda. Further, he said this award proves that the international community paid attention towards the efforts of the ULMWP and Wenda in fighting for Papuan self-determination.
The Freedom of Oxford is the highest honour given by the City of Oxford to people who have a significant impact on society. Benny Wenda is an internationally recognized diplomat and leader for the West Papua free movement. Since being granted political asylum in England in 2002, Wenda has fought tirelessly for the self-determination of West Papuans from his campaign office in Oxford.
Moreover, Simon B Dabby stated that this award is highly essential for all the people of West Papua. “We, the people of West Papua, congratulate Benny Wenda who received this award for his efforts to voice the calls of West Papuans for their right of self-determination to the international community,” said Daby on Wednesday (17/4/2019).
Daby continued to say that Mr Wenda has consistently declared injustice and human rights violations in West Papua since 1961 and campaigned for the right of self-determination for West Papuan. “Through this momentum, the people in West Papua convey to all state members of the United Nation to support their right of self-determination,” said Daby.
He also said the demand of West Papuan for self-determination aligned with the Indonesian Constitution 1945 in which stated in the first paragraph of the Preamble, “whereas independence is the inalienable right of all nations.” It is also following the UN General Assembly Resolution No. 1541 (XV) of 1960. The resolution stated that if a region has a geographical location and cultural ethics that are separate and different from its ruling and administrative state, this region is entitled to claim its right of self-determination.
Meanwhile, a member of the Legislative Committee of ULMWP for Anim Ha region, Pangkrasia Yeem, expressed his gratitude to the Oxford City Council for this award. He said the Freedom of Oxford award for Benny Wenda is a special gift for the Papuan people.
Furthermore, he asks all West Papuans to be united in advocating the ULMWP’s efforts for West Papuan self-determination. “With our support to ULMWP, we (will) establish our state as an independent and sovereign nation,” said Yeem on Sunday (14/7/2019). (*)
Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier
23 extra-judicial killings in West Papua last year – rights group
Papua, Jubi – A human rights group advocating for West Papuans in Indonesia says there were more than 20 extra-judicial killings by the military there last year.
Indonesian soldiers participate in a major military jungle warfare exercise in Poso, in central Sulawesi island, on March 31, 2015.
But the military has dismissed the findings, which come during an escalating conflict in Papua’s Highlands as rebels wage war on the state.
The International Coalition for Papua has documented 23 killings it claimed happened at the hands of Indonesia’s military in 2018.
The recently-released list ranges from bullet wounds to being burned alive, mostly in the troubled Central Highlands.
The rights group is demanding Indonesia launch independent investigations into all the cases, warning more deaths have been reported this year.
But a military spokesperson, Muhammad Aidi, said the report is a hoax and that some victims died from tribal violence.
He said others were rebels who died in gunfights after launching attacks on soldiers. (*)
West Papuan independence group urges primacy of TPNPB
Papua, Jubi – There’s strong opposition in West Papua to a reconfiguration of military forces in the struggle for independence from Indonesia.
The United Liberation Movement for West Papua, led by mainly exiled Papuan. claims it’s taking political leadership of a new unified military force, the West Papua Army.
The ULMWP last week said the Army was a united front between the West Papua Liberation Army, or TPNPB, and two smaller fighting forces.
Representatives of the TPNPB, and the broader Free Papua Movement, have since claimed they do not support thie unification anounced in the ‘Vanimo Border Declaration’.
This has been echoed by the West Papua National Committee, or KNPB, a pro-independence organisation focussed on peaceful campaigning.
Its international spokesman Victor Yeimo spoke to Johnny Blades about their concerns.
Victor Yeimo: We still struggle for independence, for our liberation. We need a liberation army. As you know, historically, this organisation (TPNPB) exist since 1961 and until today they exist, fighting on the ground. And the two other ones (the West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army) separated from TPNPB. But in reality as West Papuans know, as well as colonial (power) knows, these two organisations never have an action on the ground. It’s not a competition between one organisation and another organisation, but in the unity, to liberate the West Papuan demand for self-determination, to go for our goal of freedom, we need one military organisation only. We don’t need many organisations. It wil make confusion in west Papua people. and it will make it difficult for us to make a solution; And it’s very dangerous for the guerillas and all the soldiers of the West Papua army on the ground because if there are three commands, three shystems going on in the ground, it will be difficult, because it will create problems within our military, and it will confuse. How can we attack the enemy through three systems of military organisations? In the revolution history, as you know, we need only one organisation of military.
Johnny Blades: But isn’t that what the ULMWP is trying to achieve, that they are all uniting?
Victor Yeimo: There are concerns in the constitution of the OPM (Free Papua Movement). As you know on the 1st of July 1971 when OPM declared proclamation of independence of the republic of West Papua, they have their own constitution. And this military, TPNPB, is under the constitution of the proclamation. Yes, it is important for us to unite, but in a military… they (West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army) already split from the main organisation, the TPNPB. So I think now, in reality, the people of West Papua, we want to be free. So please if you want to unite, don’t degradate the existing organisation, the TPNPB, because today as you know on the ground TPNPB is still fighting with arms on the ground.
Johnny Blades: You’re saying that everything should be done under the auspices of the TPNPB, that it shouldn’t be a new united command; you’re saying it should be done under the rules and the constitution of the TPNPB because that’s the main military?
Victor Yeimo: Yes, the military has its own discipline of military. The constitution is something that we can discuss and unite. But the military is a tool for revolution. We need only one military and one discipline. So if they (the West Papuan National Army and the West Papua Revolutionary Army) if they have their own discipline of military, please bring it to the TPNPB. we have to strengthen the exist one. So then, what we want… we have one goal. So please use the existing one as our strength to attack the enemy. That’s the solution for KNPB. We are supporting the ULMWP but we encourage them to only recognise the TPNPB as the one and only military defence.
Johnny Blades: There’s been some criticism from people in the OPM, or TPNPB, about the way this (declaration) has been done. What do you think about the reaction?
Victor Yeimo: Yes, in the ground the reaction is negative. The other headquarters of each commander, like in Lanny Jaya, also in Puncak Jaya, also in Paniai, also in Yahukimo, also in Nduga, they are not involved in this declaration. So I believe that they are opposed to that declaration.
Johnny Blades: The KNPB has generally been a peaceful organisation. What do you believe in, does the military have a role in the struggle?
Victor Yeimo: Yes we support them in resistance as a defence force, as they have the same aim: to go for self-determination. But we have a different method. We organise people in West Papua through the peaceful means (including civil resistance and demonstrations). Until today KNPB believe in peaceful means. We don’t even hope the military action will give more influence inside our struggle because today people around the world, the solidarity just becomes bigger and bigger because our peaceful action in the ground. But it will not stop them fighting, because this is the reality in every struggle, a liberation army. We want our own military. It’s something that always happens in every struggle. So we want them to fight in accordance to their method.
Johnny Blades: The political leadership of the struggle, is it accurate to say that (ULMWP chairman) Benny Wenda is the head of that movement?
Victor Yeimo: I say that ULMWP should become co-ordinating body, not become a state or acting like a state. because we have too many factions and too many history. So we want today the organisations can unite all of the factions, all of the movements in West Papua through the co-ordination mechanism… like three years ago (at ULMWP’s inception). This is something important. We will have our own nation state after independence. So what we want today is to unite, co-ordinating the agenda and organisation, everything we can discuss. So, it’s not like now, everything comes from outside, from Benny Wenda, from outside. It’s not good for the unity. It will kill the unity because in our history there are too many people claiming they are the president, who claimed they have their own constitution and everything. We don’t want that. What we want today is freedom from Indonesian occupation. (*)
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