West Pa­pua In­de­pen­dence Leader Urges Calm Af­ter Mas­sacre

Six­teen bod­ies re­trieved as leader Benny Wenda calls for diplo­macy and trans­parency on what hap­pened in Nduga

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The ex­iled leader of the West Pa­puan in­de­pen­dence move­ment has called for calm af­ter in­de­pen­dence fight­ers at­tacked and mas­sa­cred up to 31 peo­ple in a re­mote West Pa­puan dis­trict on Sun­day.

On Thurs­day the In­done­sian mil­i­tary said it had re­trieved 16 of the bod­ies from the dis­trict of Nduga, which would be sent to the main town of Timika. None were iden­ti­fied.

Benny Wenda, the chair of the United Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment for West Pa­pua (ULMWP), said it was hard to know ex­actly what hap­pened at Nduga, amid con­flict­ing re­ports on the long-run­ning ten­sions and without free ac­cess for me­dia or hu­man rights groups. In­done­sian au­thor­i­ties, which have not re­sponded to re­quests for com­ment from the have said civil­ian con­struc­tion work­ers were killed by sep­a­ratist mil­i­tants. In­de­pen­dence move­ment the Pa­puan lib­er­a­tion army, TPNPB, un­der com­man­der Egianus Ko­geya, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity but said those killed were all mem­bers of the In­done­sian mil­i­tary (TNI). Mr Wenda told the he couldn’t stop the lib­er­a­tion army, but wanted to tell them the UMLWP wanted to solve the is­sue “diplo­mat­i­cally”.

“We don’t want any blood­shed, we want In­done­sia to come to the in­ter­na­tional ta­ble to dis­cuss and we can agree to a ref­er­en­dum. That’s what our cam­paign is about,” he said.

“In or­der for us to fix what is go­ing wrong we have to know the truth, but we can­not trust the In­done­sian gov­ern­ment’s ac­count about Nduga, or any in­ci­dents in re­gard to West Pa­pua, and this is a prob­lem.”

If the dead were not mil­i­tary the in­ci­dent would mark the first time West Pa­puan fight­ers have fa­tally at­tacked civil­ians and an ex­traor­di­nary es­ca­la­tion in the more than 50-year-old con­flict.

Mr Wenda said In­done­sia had a his­tory of “cre­at­ing vi­o­lence” and us­ing it to jus­tify an in­creased mil­i­tary pres­ence, and that this in­ci­dent oc­curred just days af­ter In­done­sia ar­rested more than 500 peo­ple, re­port­edly in­clud­ing In­done­sians, at West Pa­puan in­de­pen­dence ral­lies.

Photo: AP

A Pa­puan ac­tivist bear­ing the banned sep­a­ratist ‘Morn­ing Star’ flag ral­lies with oth­ers in East Java last Satur­day.

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