April 1, 2009 

Putri Prameshwari & Christian Motte

Papuan Leaders Tell Supporters to Abstain from Vote
Prominent Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda has called on all "citizens of 
West Papua" to boycott the upcoming legislative and presidential elections 
because they are not Indonesians.

"As citizens of West Papua of the Melanesian race, we refuse to participate in 
the April 9 elections, which are Indonesia's celebration of democracy," Wenda 
said in a statement released to the Jakarta Globe.

"We demand our right to choose our own fate, guaranteed by international law. 
We have never been able to use that right since the New York Agreement was 
signed on August 15, 1962. To avoid more violence by the military against the 
Melanesian race in West Papua, we demand a referendum based on international 
law, where people of the Melanesian race in West Papua can use our rights to 
choose our international status." 

The calls to boycott the elections are likely to garner support among Papuan 
youth organizations, but it remains to be seen how much broader a reaction the 
calls will receive.

Victor Yeimo of the West Papuan National People's Committee said that his 
organization would be ready to boycott the elections if necessary.

Hofni Simbiak, a member of the Papua People's Assembly, or MRP, said his group 
was concerned about a recommendation from the General Elections Commission, or 
KPU, that the 11 regional House seats guaranteed to native Papuans under the 
Special Autonomy Law should be thrown open to all party candidates regardless 
of province of origin.

The MRP, Simbiak said, would boycott the election if the government decided to 
go along with the KPU's suggestion.

"Currently, the MRP is formulating a response to both the General Elections 
Commission and the House of Representatives in Jakarta," Simbiak said.

Police in Papua Province are on the highest possible alert level in preparation 
for possible disruptions to the upcoming election from rebel groups, Papua 
Police Chief Bagus Eko Danto said on Wednesday.

Bagus was responding to reports that local residents in Papua's Supiori 
district had said that members of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement, or 
OPM, had forced them to join training on how to create chaos during the 

"[Increasing the threat level] anticipates any potential problems prior to and 
on the election day," Bagus said.

Paskalis Kosay, vice chairman of the Papua Legislative Council, or DPRD, said 
the threats were merely part of the political dynamics of the province.

"Demand for a referendum is normal," he said. "It's the people's reaction to 
the ineffectiveness of the Special Autonomy Law."

In a 2001 law, the government granted special autonomy status to Papua, making 
the resource-rich province more independent. The province's increased power and 
revenue, however, have not translated into improvements in the living 
conditions of the majority of the local population, particularly ethnic Papuans.

Kirim email ke