Hundreds of Papuans held rallies in at least eight Indonesian cities to renew demands for independence.
The demonstrations marked the anniversary of West Papua’s declaration of independence from Dutch rule in 1961, followed by a controversial United Nations referendum in 1969 that brought Papua under Indonesian control.
Among more than 100 students marched in the capital Jakarta on Tuesday, Papuan Roland Levy said the date remained significant decades.
« My goal in attending the rally today is to commemorate 59 years of the declaration of independence of the West Papuan nation annexed by Indonesia, » he said as demonstrators waved banners demanding the right to self-determination.
Some Papuans regard the 1969 referendum as unfair, saying that intimidation influenced the outcome of what Jakarta rejected.
The protests coincided with a declaration by the United Liberation Movement for West Papua that a provisional « waiting government » had been formed, led by exiled independence figure Benny Wenda.
UK-based Wenda said the group would push for independence and no longer « bow to the illegal Jakarta war rule ». .
Teuku Faisyah, a spokesman for the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, paid little attention to what he called « the self-proclaimed status of Mr. Wenda ». .
« The status of Papua as part of Indonesia, the successor state to the Dutch East Indies, is final, » he said, referring to the former colonial power.
He said the integration process had been overseen by the United Nations and included the adoption of a resolution.
Papua has been plagued by separatist conflicts for decades and access for foreign journalists is often restricted.
There have been sporadic and fatal attacks by security forces and indigenous Papuans over the past year, including the killing of several Papuan children and a pastor in recent months.
The United Nations human rights organization has expressed concern over reports of extrajudicial killings and escalating violence in the region.
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AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, 10 hours before GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
West Papua, New Guinea, Indonesia, New Guinea Natives, Provisional Government
World News – AU – Hundreds of Papuans campaign for independence from Indonesia
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