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West Papuan independence activists have denounced the use of violence by Indonesian security forces in the lead up to the country’s general elections held on Wednesday.
|Demonstration in Melbourne. Photo by Nichollas Harrison|
Benny Wenda, the exiled leader of the Free West Papua movement which campaigns for West Papuan independence, told Equal Times the arrests demonstrated the lack of democracy in the region.
“My people are living in a prison and are discriminated against in many forms, the current situation is very tense…If there was any democratic space for us in West Papua we would be able to freely express our political opinions.
“Instead the Indonesian Army has publicly threatened to destroy West Papuans who refuse to vote. In the last week people have been arrested and tortured for choosing not to vote.”
Indonesian security forces in West Papua responded by raising the security level in the territory to “Siaga Satu” (full alert) with thousands of security officers deployed to designated areas throughout West Papua.
Incidents of violence and intimidation have also been reported by local media. Oktovianus Pogau, the editor in chief of the Jayapura-based news site Suara Papua, told the Jakarta Globe West Papuan activists were being attacked on a regular basis in the days before the election.
“It’s difficult to estimate how many attacks have occurred…but they are frequent,” he said.