Thousands rally in Indonesia's Papua for poll boycott
Thousands of independence supporters rallied in Indonesia's Papua region Friday to call for a boycott of next week's national legislative elections, activists said.
The protestors gathered in the Papuan provincial capital, Jayapura, and three other districts - Nabire, Wamena and Biak - to demand a referendum on self-determination for the easternmost province, reported dpa.
Activists said the rallies coincided with the launch of a pressure group called International Lawyers for Papua in the United States.
"We refuse to use our rights in the Indonesian general election in April and July 2009 because this election is Indonesia's democratic election and not West Papua's democratic election," Benny Wenda, a London-based Papuan separatist leader, said in a statement, referring to the parliamentary elections and the later presidential vote.
Police in the region could not be reached immediately for comment.
Last month, about 1,000 protesters staged a peaceful rally in favour of a referendum on Papuan independence outside the provincial parliament.
The rally came after a co-founder of the pro-independence Free Papua Movement, Nicholas Jouwe, held talks with Indonesian officials during his first trip to the country after more than 40 years of exile in the Netherlands.
Papua was a Dutch colony and remained one after 1949 when Indonesia gained independence. In 1961, Indonesia invaded Papua, sparking a brief war with the Netherlands.
The United Nations intervened, and Papua was handed to Indonesia in 1962. Papua became formally part of Indonesia seven years later after a referendum that Jakarta was accused of manipulating.
A small insurgency against Indonesian rule in the impoverished province has been conducted ever since.
A soldier and two civilians were killed last month in separate attacks blamed on the rebels.