There is something special between Australia and West Papua. The West Papuan region is a part of Indonesia, and it is also a place where a separatist movement still exists until this day.
Lately, the Free West Papua movement accused another Australian government official, current foreign minister Marise Payne, of being ‘blinded or bribed’ for not validating the occurrence of ‘genocide’ in Papua by Indonesian military.
It is true that there is no hard evidence that a genocide is happening. There are evidences that the population of native Papuans is not on a decline. The Free West Papua regularly spreads hoaxes about genocide. However, 96% of the population in Papua is Papuans. The total population consisted of 2,122,436 Papuans and 658,708 non-Papuans (Papua Government, 2010).
This is not the first occasion where the West Papuan separatists made such statement. Since the era of Tony Abbott, the Free West Papua have attacked Julia Gillard, Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull, Kevin Rudd, Scott Morrison, Bob Carr, Pyne, and Abbott himself all for the same issue. An interesting question would be: Why Australia, and not other countries?
The reason can be traced way back to 2014, when Indonesia and Australia signed the Lombok Treaty, a comprehensive agreement regarding defense and non-traditional security. At the time, Tony Abbott made it clear in his statement that Australia have and will always recognize West Papua as an integral part of Republic of Indonesia. Shortly after that, the leader of United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Benny Wenda, published an article demanding Australia’s support for his group. Wenda requested Australia to welcome ULMWP members who flee Indonesia and seek for asylum, which Australia did and still declines.
Understandably, the pseudo-leadership presented by Benny Wenda is also problematic at best (see also: Benny Wenda’s questionable remarks) . Since he posed and uploaded photos with notable political leaders in various countries on his facebook page, he believes that he is politically legitimate as a leader of West Papua independence movement, or the West Papua nation as he calls it. As a matter of fact, he and his group were involved in more violent acts than peaceful ones. Campaigns consisting of socio-economic development programs, as expected from any serious political contestant, is virtually non-existent. Albeit he remains a public figure in the eyes of some West Papuans, Wenda has never been to Papua for the last 16 years, since he has been a fugitive, wanted for starting an accident in 2002 where a policeman died.
Since Abbott’s administration (and his successors) did not respond towards Wenda’s request, Australia has been demonized by the separatist groups and their supporters, especially in online media, using strong and sometimes explicit words. Wenda believed that Australia should have followed the path of United Kingdom, which gave Wenda the permission to stay and express his opinion for years. However, Wenda may have missed the fact that the British government back in 2013 has made a clarification that they do not recognize the ULMWP office in Oxford as a representative for West Papua, and that UK recognized the sovereignty of Republic of Indonesia in West Papua.
Australia has been helpful in the development of Papua and West Papua province. Besides contributing directly through foreign aid, Australia also contributed in Indonesia’s program in facilitating higher education for Papuan students: PNPM RESPEK. In the end, it no matter what Australia, UK, or Indonesia have done for the West Papuans, Benny Wenda and his groups are going demonize anyone at their will.