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Indonesia disputes veracity of West Papuan petition
Radio New Zealand International - October 3, 2017
The Papuan pro-independence leader Benny Wenda emerged in New York last week on the margins of the UN General Assembly, announcing he was delivering the petition.
Indonesia's government says the petition is a hoax, but advocates for West Papuans say it reflects a real desire for a legitimate self-determination process. Johnny Blades reports.
In New York, Benny Wenda carried a hefty compendium which he said bore signatures of 1.8 million West Papuans demanding an internationally supervised vote on independence.
It seeks West Papua's reinscription to the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation whom Mr Wenda said he gave notice of the petition to. However this was subsequently refuted by the committee's chair, Venezuela's representative to the UN, Rafael Ramirez.
"West Papua is not on the agenda, first of all. Secondly, in my capacity as a chair of the C24, I have not received nothing from any petitioner, that's not true. I'm a little bit concerned because some people are trying to use me as a propaganda."
Indonesian government spokespeople have described it as "impossible" that 1.8 million people could have signed the petition. However, a West Papua specialist from the University of Sydney Dr Jason MacLeod was asked to verify it.
"I looked at a representative sample of the petition, and contacted some of the people, a random selection of names, on those petitions. And I'm also satisfied that of the names I looked at, that I could track those down and get confirmation that people did sign the petition."
Dr MacLeod says the petition is a fair and accurate representation of the West Papuan people's will, and the UN needs to pay due attention.
The UN is under the spotlight because of its role in sanctioning the process which led to the transferral of sovereignty over Papua from the Dutch to Indonesia in the 1960s.
The International lawyer, Melinda Janki, has analysed the controversial plebiscite in which this process culminated – 1969's Act of Free Choice. She says West Papua has never exercised it's legal right to self-determination under international law, to international standards.
"All that has happened is that this tiny group of people were coerced into declaring that they wanted to remain with Indonesia. West Papuans really do understand that they have a right to self-determination and they intend to keep on demanding that they are given the same rights that everyone else has had. They're not asking for anything different."
However, Indonesia's UN representative, Triansyah Djani, who sits on the decolonisation committee, has called the petition a manipulation.
In response, Benny Wenda denied that the petition was a hoax, saying the real hoax was Indonesia's justification for its occupation of West Papua.
But Jakarta's influence ensures Papuans face an uphill battle if their incorporation into Indonesia is to be reviewed at the UN.
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