Following the announcement of the Provisional Government of West Papua on Tuesday, the new interim President, Benny Wenda, has said he is ready to sit down with President Jowoki and discuss a solution to the conflict, amidst massive controversy in Indonesia regarding the announcement.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian Foreign Minister has summoned the British Ambassador to clarify his government’s position on the formation of the Provisional Government.
Indonesia’s leading military official, TNI Commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, named Benny Wenda as a central government target.ii Vice Chief of Police Gatot Eddy Pramono stated: ‘Any group or individual following Benny Wenda in trying to separate themselves from Indonesia will be met with firm action’.iii This may be a prelude to mass arrests of ULMWP members in West Papua. Colonel Czi IGN Suriastawa has responded to the announcement by calling it an act of ‘treason’ that the Indonesian police must investigate.iv ‘Let BW (Benny Wenda) be handled by the police’,v the officer said.
Hikmahanto Juwana, professor of international law at the University of Indonesia, has claimed that the Provisional Government has no legal standing. This is refuted by a statement by the International Lawyers for West Papua, which shows a clear and unequivocal basis in international law for the move.vi
Previously, in 2019, Indonesia’s security chief and head of police named Benny Wenda, and the Foreign Ministry, Indonesian intelligence service and police were tasked with undermining him.vii Head of security General Wiranto, wanted by the UN for crime against humanity,viii claimed there was ‘very high’ levels of monitoring Mr Wenda’s activities abroad.ix
Benny Wenda, interim President of the Provisional Government of West Papua, said: ‘I am ready to sit down with President Widodo, state-to-state, and agree a process for ending this conflict once and for all, through an internationally-mediated mechanism. The people of West Papua must decide. We are willing to work on arrangements for a referendum on independence. This is no time for military operations and killings – instead, the UN High Commissioner must be allowed in, in accordance with the call of 82 countries.x The President must end martial law in West Papua and sit down to talk.’
Jennifer Robinson, Doughty Street Chambers, said: ‘This reaction in Jakarta shows how shaken the Indonesian government is. They knows they have no claim in law to West Papua. They are threatening an internationally-recognised human rights defender and leader of his people, Benny Wenda, whilst he is resident in the UK. The West Papuans are organised and ready to self-govern, in accordance with their right to self determination under international law, and the Indonesian government has nothing other than brute violence to enforce their claims over the territory. The international community has a duty to assist West Papuans give effect to their right to self determination.’
iii See video at the end of this article (translated): https://news.detik.com/berita/d-5279728/profil-benny-wenda-yang-didaulat-jadi-presiden-papua-barat-merdeka. See also: https://republika.co.id/berita/qkrc1s428/polri-akan-tindak-tegas-benny-wenda
vii https://en.tempo.co/read/1242861/police-bin-team-up-to-probe-foreign-involvement-in-papua-unrest; https://en.antaranews.com/news/132252/wiranto-discloses-conspiracy-involving-separatist-leader-benny-wenda; https://news.detik.com/berita/d-4689670/ternyata-ada-jaringan-mancanegara-saat-rusuh-di-papua; https://news.detik.com/berita/d-4690540/wiranto-sebut-benny-wenda-bagian-konspirasi-masalah-papua
ix https://en.antaranews.com/news/132252/wiranto-discloses-conspiracy-involving-separatist-leader-benny-wenda; https://m.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20190902173815-32-426880/wiranto-akui-pemerintah-pantau-aktivis-papua-benny-wenda