The fight for the territory saw over 250 Indigenous Melanesian groups, the traditional owners of the region, have their dreams for independence dashed. Since Indonesian rule began the Melanesians have continued to campaign for independence, despite arrests, torture and the murders of dissidents.
This year saw the creation of a unified West Papuan body to lobby for international support for sovereignty.
One of the leading independence campaigners, Rex Rumakiek, was a former guerrilla fighter in the jungles of West Papua. Rumakiek now lives in Melbourne. Speaking to BuzzFeed News, he says he is still under surveillance: “The Indonesian government are keeping watch, they follow us everywhere.”
“The former president did send an envoy to ask us (exiled dissidents) to return to West Papua, promising to pardon us but we are not surrendering, we will never surrender.”
West Papua is a province of Indonesia north of the Torres Strait islands off Queensland. In the past, Indonesia has been singled out by International human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Right Watch for its violence against the Indigenous Melanesian population.
Last month Callum Clayton-Dixon from the Aboriginal Provisional Government (APG), a pro-Indigenous sovereignty group, travelled to Honiara in the Solomon Islands to support The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in their bid to win a seat on the peak regional Melanesian development body called the Melanesian Spearhead Government (MSG).
“There’s the frustration that they have that they are unable to return to their country without being harassed, tortured, hunted or even killed by the Indonesian military,” Clayton-Dixon says.
“That’s something that has happened in the past, West Papuan leaders speaking out have been killed. They are fighting for their country, but it’s too risky for them to return.”
“He was dragged into a field. His legs were chopped off and a rope was tied around his neck and tied to a car which then drove in circles around him.”
“My cousin was left in the field to bleed to death and no one was allowed in the circle, otherwise they would be shot, it was warning not to oppose the government.”
After returning from the Melanesian Speahead Government, Rumakiek wants the Australian public to get behind his people’s push for independence.
Read more at buzzfeed.com