Wenda’s political gambit backfires in Papua

Wenda’s political gambit backfires in Papua

On December 1, 2020, Papuan separatist leader Benny Wenda declared an “interim government” in West Papua and himself as its “interim president”, a move that has largely been dubbed as a “political joke”.

On the day supporters of the Free Papua Organization (OPM) claim as West Papua’s independence day, Wenda also declared West Papua’s so-called independence from Indonesia.

But, instead of winning the support of the OPM’s National Liberation Army of West Papua (TPNPB), the maneuver of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (UMLWP) leader was bluntly opposed by the separatist group’s armed wing.

The TPNPB-OPM’s official vote of no-confidence in Wenda’s maneuver was confirmed by TPNPB-OPM spokesperson, Sebby Sambon, to CNN Indonesia on Wednesday.

Sambon argued that the vote of no-confidence to Wenda’s declaration of independence and his self-proclaimed appointment as the interim president could disrupt the unity of native Papuan communities who have directly been fighting against Indonesia.

In response to Wenda’s maneuver, People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker Bambang Soesatyo appealed to the Indonesian government to act sternly against him and his loyalists.

Wenda and his backers clearly conducted an act of treason against Indonesia by announcing West Papua’s “independence” and the formation of an “interim government”, he said.

Firm law enforcement is necessary since Wenda’s action can be seen as an act of agitation and propaganda aimed at disuniting Indonesia, Soesatyo stressed.

In this regard, the Indonesian government is allowed to utilize all instruments and power that the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia possesses to take firm and measurable action to secure the country’s sovereignty and the nation’s dignity, he added.

“Benny Wenda is no longer an Indonesian citizen. He is stateless. He only holds a residence permit from the British government,” he stated, adding that Wenda directs his acts of separatism and anti-Indonesia campaigns from Oxford City.

Hence, the Indonesian foreign ministry must immediately summon the British ambassador in Jakarta to provide a detailed explanation on the UK’s official stance on Papuan issues and Wenda’s political activities in the country, he stated.

The UK government granted political asylum to Wenda in 2002. About 11 years after getting the asylum, he opened the Free West Papua Campaign headquarters in Oxford.

Responding to the recent developments in Papua and West Papua, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), Azis Syamsuddin, also urged the Indonesian government, military, and police to maintain state authority and safety in the two provinces.

The state’s authority and the safety of the state and its entire people can be maintained by enforcing laws objectively and measurably in the region, he said. The House backs the government’s efforts to enforce the law against those responsible for violating it, he added.

Earlier, Hikmahanto Juwana, professor of international law at the University of Indonesia, had urged the government to ignore Wenda’s maneuvers regarding the “interim government” in West Papua.

If needed, the Indonesian police can initiate legal action against Wenda for the move that can be regarded as an act of treason against the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

Juwana argued that the “interim government” that Wenda declared early this month has no foundation under international law because it is unclear for which state it has been created, where it exists, and when the state’s creation was declared.

The separatist group’s loyalists have declared an “interim government” within the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia’s sovereign territory, he noted.

He further argued that the creation of a state comes first under international law. In this regard, the existence of a state comes first, followed by a government, he said.

Therefore, it would be absurd if the so-called interim government is declared, but it is not clear which state is recognized by the international community, Juwana, who is also rector of the General Ahmad Yani University (Unjani), stressed.

The support shown by several Pacific countries for the UMLWP cannot be taken as a yardstick owing to their insignificance as recognizing states, he argued.

According to Juwana, it would be better for the Indonesian Government to ignore the UMLWP maneuver.

Benny Wenda reportedly has a criminal record in Indonesia. Reports claim he believes in using violence to achieve his political goals and there is evidence linking him to several cases of armed violence and killings of innocent civilians in Papua.

After the Wamena riot, which erupted in September, 2019, the Indonesian police had accused Wenda of being involved in the spread of fake news to instigate native Papuans.

The riot which, according to local media, was instigated by hoaxes over a teacher’s racist slur against native Papuan students left many civilians dead and many others injured.

The ongoing cycle of violence in Papua, Wenda’s latest political maneuver, rejection of the continuation of the government-granted special autonomy status for Papua and West Papua are, indeed, a serious challenge that Jakarta must comprehensively address.

In tackling Papua-related matters, since the beginning, Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has unswervingly put emphasis on prosperity-oriented approaches, according to Presidential Chief of Staff, Moeldoko.

Citing one example of such an approach, Moeldoko drew attention to various infrastructure construction projects in Papua and West Papua that have been launched to put them at par with other provinces.

President Jokowi is focusing on boosting the economic sector of Papua and West Papua through, for instance, enforcing the one-fuel price policy as part of the efforts to ensure social justice for local people, he said.

The government has also remained focused on the development of the health and education sectors in the two Indonesian provinces, he remarked.

Moeldoko said he believes that the second phase of special autonomy status granted for Papua and West Papua would fuel a new spirit for expediting development to create prosperity in both provinces.

Regarding a roadmap for the second phase of special autonomy, there has been in place the Presidential Decision No. 20 of 2020 on an integrated coordinating team for accelerating prosperity-oriented developments in Papua and West Papua, he pointed out.

The Presidential decision is aimed at creating a spirit, paradigm, and novel methods to manage accelerated development in Papua and West Papua, he noted.

The Presidential decision seeks to intensify synergistic collaborations among ministries, government agencies, and regional administrations to expedite development programs in the two provinces, Moeldoko said. (INE/ANT)

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