27 Oct 2016

Papuan pro-independence leader calls for referendum

4:12 pm on 27 October 2016

A Papuan pro-independence leader Filep Karma has called on the Indonesian government to hold a referendum on independence.

West Papuan independence campaigner Filep Karma.

West Papuan independence campaigner Filep Karma. Photo: RNZI / Koroi Hawkins

Mr Karma is a former political prisoner who was released last year after being jailed for 11 years for raising the banned Morning Star flag.

He told the Jakarta Post that the long-demanded referendum was a win-win solution for both the government and the Papuan people, who still suffered from mistreatment and abuse despite the region being granted special autonomy status.

Mr Karma said the referendum would provide a fair mechanism for Papuans to decide for themselves whether they wanted to remain as part of the unitary state of Republic of Indonesia or independence.

He said should the referendum result show that Papuans wanted to remain Indonesian citizens, the rebels would stop demand separation.

He said however that the government should also promise Papuans a peaceful transfer to independence if the referendum showed otherwise.

Indonesia annexed the former Dutch colony after a 1969 UN-backed vote which is widely seen as a farce.