In a rare interview, the one-legged commander of a Papuan militant group, Danny Kogoya, has vowed to return to the jungle to fight and continue a 50-year struggle against Indonesian rule in the country’s far-east and resource-rich province of Papua.
But first, Kogoya wants a prosthetic limb. He says his leg was amputated below the knee without his permission, after he was shot by Indonesia police while in their custody, in jail on manslaughter charges that were later dropped. Police say he was resisting arrest.
"This leg was amputated for the Free Papua Movement. I am asking for independence,” he told Radio Australia from his hideout known as Camp Victoria in neighboring Papua New Guinea (PNG). “I am asking for West Papua to exit the Republic of Indonesia.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Jakarta annexed the former Dutch colony in 1969 after a dubious vote. It granted the resource-rich province some autonomy in 2001. Still, its military presence – more than 14,000 troops – has been a constant irritant with locals who claim mining interests have taken precedence over their daily lives.
Kogoya is a commander for the militant wing of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and says he has 200 men ready to fight and another 7,000 under arms on standby. Weapons and bullets are in short supply, but there are no shortages of the Morning Star flag, banned in Indonesia.
Following his release, Kogoya said police had followed and threatened him, so he fled across the border to regroup but his presence in PNG has raised other issues in light of an extradition treaty recently signed between Jakarta and Port Moresby.
PNG insists the treaty is not for political activists but criminals only.
The OPM has continued to mount a low level, sometimes violent resistance against Indonesia for the independence of West Papua. Last month one man was killed for allegedly refusing to join the movement while the OPM also claimed responsibility for the killing of an Indonesian soldier, an incident that also left a civilian dead in the Papua district of Puncak Jaya.
Kogoya is also urging West Papuan activists living abroad to return home via Camp Victoria to continue the fight: "I want Jacob Prai in Sweden, John Ondawame in Australia, all those leaders abroad to come back to this camp, Camp Victoria, to continue the struggle for independence," he said.
Prai, a former head of the senate of the West Papua Provisional Government, and Ondawame, an academic and activist of the West Papua liberation movement, have been granted asylum in Sweden. Ondawame runs the OPM international office in Sweden.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter at @lukeanthonyhunt.