UN de­nies Pa­puan pe­ti­tion sub­mit­ted

The Jakarta Post - - FRONT PAGE - Tama Salim, Mar­guerite Afra Sapiie and Nethy Dharma Somba

Amid a diplo­matic spat be­tween In­done­sia and some of its Pa­cific is­land neigh­bors over whether Jakarta has been guilty of vi­o­lat­ing hu­man rights in its east­ern­most ter­ri­to­ries, the United Na­tions it­self has been drawn into a dis­pute over whether a ma­jor­ity of Pa­puans have re­ally just de­clared them­selves sep­a­ratists.

A UN of­fi­cial de­nied on Thurs­day a claim that a pe­ti­tion signed by al­most 2 mil­lion Pa­puans in sup­port of self-de­ter­mi­na­tion had been sub­mit­ted to the UN’s com­mit­tee on de­col­o­niza­tion.

Venezuela’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the UN, Rafael Ramirez, in his ca­pac­ity as chair­man of the UN Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on De­col­o­niza­tion (C-24), ex­pressed con­cern about the claim.

“Some peo­ple are try­ing to use me and try­ing to ma­nip­u­late or what­ever,” he said. “I’m con­cerned be­cause some peo­ple are try­ing to use me as pro­pa­ganda.”

Benny Wenda, a spokesman for the United Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment for West Pa­pua (ULMWP) who calls him­self a West Pa­puan in­de­pen­dence leader, told the Bri­tish Guardian news­pa­per that he had sub­mit­ted the pe­ti­tion, which ac­cord­ing to the ULMWP had been signed by 1,804,421 peo­ple, to the UN com­mit­tee on Aug. 26.

“To­day, I de­liv­ered the West Pa­puan Peo­ple’s Pe­ti­tion, signed by over 70 per­cent of my peo­ple, to the United Na­tions,” Benny said on his Twit­ter ac­count.

Nev­er­the­less, Ramirez said he had not had any com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the Pa­puan leader, em­pha­siz­ing that it was not pos­si­ble for him to of­fi­cially re­late to par­ties out­side the C-24 agenda.

He ex­plained that the man­date of the com­mit­tee is limited to 17 non-self-gov­ern­ing ter­ri­to­ries and that Pa­pua was not one of them.

“I have never re­ceived any­thing nor any­body re­gard­ing the is­sue of West Pa­pua,” he said in a doorstep in­ter­view at the UN head­quar­ters in New York on Thurs­day morn­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to the Guardian, the pe­ti­tion, which Benny claimed was “smug­gled from one end of Pa­pua to the other” with­out alert­ing the au­thor­i­ties, ap­par­ently re­quests that the UN ap­point a spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive to in­ves­ti­gate hu­man rights abuses and “put West Pa­pua back on the de­col­o­niza­tion com­mit­tee agenda and en­sure their right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion […] is re­spected by hold­ing an in­ter­na­tion­ally su­per­vised vote.”

Mean­while, Pa­puan pas­tor and hu­man rights ac­tivist Dora Balubuan at first con­firmed the claim that a pe­ti­tion had been con­ducted with­out the knowl­edge of the au­thor­i­ties, but then later de­nied any knowl­edge of it when asked to con­firm it a sec­ond time on a sep­a­rate oc­ca­sion.

In de­scrib­ing the doc­u­ment, the ULMWP has pub­lished var­i­ous pho­to­graphs of peo­ple sign­ing the pe­ti­tion around Pa­pua and of sev­eral bound copies of the com­plete pe­ti­tion on its web­site. A photo on Benny’s Twit­ter feed, re­port­edly taken on Aug. 26, shows him hold­ing one copy to­gether with Bri­tish Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn.

Just days be­fore the pe­ti­tion con­tro­versy erupted, the leader of Van­u­atu con­demned the UN for turn­ing “a deaf ear” to atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted in West Pa­pua.

In re­sponse, In­done­sia fielded a ju­nior diplo­mat to ex­er­cise its first right of re­ply dur­ing the last ses­sion of the UNGA gen­eral de­bate last week. Ai­nan Nu­ran, 30, was de­tailed to rep­ri­mand the lead­ers of Van­u­atu and the Solomon Is­lands for ped­dling “hoaxes and false ac­cu­sa­tions” con­cern­ing Pa­pua.

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