Hundreds of Papuans protested on Wednesday rejecting the region’s special autonomy within Indonesia and demanding a referendum on self-determination.
Carrying a wooden coffin covered with a black cloth which said “Special Autonomy is Dead in Papua,” more than 1,000 activists, students and church leaders protested in front of the provincial parliament in Jayapura, witnesses said.
“Independence for Papua; reject special autonomy,” they shouted.
“Indonesia the coloniser; Indonesia the oppressor; Indonesia the robber.”
They also called for the upper house of tribal leaders called the Papua People’s Assembly (MRP) to be disbanded.
“The MRP had done nothing to improve the welfare of Papuans. Our people are poor in their own land,” protest coordinator Selpius Bobi said.
“We reject special autonomy as that is the Indonesian government’s policy which has never supported the natives. We want a referendum that will allow us to determine our own fate,” he added.
Papua’s special autonomy status, introduced in 2001 after the fall of former president Suharto’s military dictatorship, has seen powers including control of most tax revenue from natural resources devolved to the provincial government.