West Papua, declaration of independence splits the liberation movement
by Mathias Hariyadi

Benny Wenda has declared himself interim president of the "new" state. The announcement from Great Britain. For other separatist leaders, he is only a pawn of the European, American and Australian capitalists. Indonesian authorities: Situation under control.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Papuan independence front has split after Benny Wenda, leader of the United Movement for the Liberation of West Papua (Ulmwp), declared the independence of the Indonesian province.

Wenda made the announcement from Great Britain - where he has been in exile for some time - on December 1, adding that he had been appointed interim president of the provisional Papua administration. He said that the "new" state will no longer respect the Indonesian constitution and laws, and that it will have its own constitutional charter and rules.

Since its transition from Dutch to Indonesian sovereignty in 1962, West Papua has been wracked by strong independence currents, with a growing sentiment of discrimination among the local population by the Jakarta government.

The leaders of the Tentara Pembebasan Nasional Papua Barat - Organisasi Papua Merdeka (Tpnpb-Opm), an umbrella organization that brings together several separatist armed groups, rejected Wenda's declaration. Above all, they contest his claim to be recognized as interim president.

In a statement released on 2 December, TPNPB-OPM spokesman Sebby Sambon criticizes Wenda’s move, accused of destroying the unity of the Papuan people in the midst of the fight against the Jakarta government. Sambon dismisses the head of the ULMWP as a pawn in the hands of the European, American and Australian capitalists, stressing that his actions are contrary to the revolutionary principles of the Papuan nation.

Wenda's decision of independence has caused no concern to the central authorities, however. The spokesman for the army command in Papua, Colonel Czi Ign Suriastawa, says the situation in the province is calm and under control. He points out that it is up to the police to prosecute Wenda, since his words constitute the crime of "makar" (betrayal, rebellion and subversion).