Friday, December 18, 2009
Hundreds Demand Papuan Independence
TIMIKA, Indonesia West Papua– Hundreds of demonstrators waving banners demanded Papuan independence Friday as they mourned the death of a rebel commander killed in a police raid in the restive Indonesian region.
Up to 600 emotional Papuans gathered outside a local parliament building in the main town Timika as they prepared for the funeral of Kelly Kwalik, blamed by police for attacks on US mine workers. Kwalik's body was to be put on display for mourners to see but it was not immediately clear when the funeral would take place.
Police shot Kwalik dead Wednesday amid suggestions he was the leader of the Free Papua Movement (OPM), a shadowy militia that has been fighting for independence from Indonesia for decades.
Police said Kwalik had been hunted after unidentified gunmen launched a string of ambushes near Timika over the past six months targeting the operations of US miner Freeport McMoRan. Freeport's giant Grasberg mine, which sits on one of the world's
biggest gold and copper reserves, has long been linked to human rights abuses involving Indonesian troops who secure the facility.
Australian mine technician Drew Grant was killed in one of the attacks in July.
Kwalik, 60, reportedly claimed responsibility for the shootings but his associates have denied this. Others have speculated that the ambushes are the work of rogue Indonesian police or soldiers seeking more money from Freeport. Kwalik stood accused of multiple killings and kidnappings dating back to the mid-1980s.
The poorly armed OPM has waged a low-level insurgency -- often using bows and arrows rather than guns -- against Indonesian rule of the resource-rich, ethnically Melanesian region since 1964.
Note from Kerry. I expect to have my new release ready by end of 2010. The story is based on West Papua and how the separatist movement brings Australia and Indonesia once again into armed military conflict.