Indonesian elections – April 17 2019 – West Papuans boycott the Indonesian elections amidst arrests

April 17, 2019

Today – April 17 2019, West Papuan electors are boycotting the Indonesian presidential and general elections. The boycott was called by the representative body of the West Papuan people, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in March. West Papua is presently occupied by Indonesia. West Papuans are calling for independence, with rallies of support around the world over the past month and particularly on April 5.

Benny Wenda, the ULMWP Chairman said,

“I urge all West Papuans and all those sympathetic with the West Papuan cause to boycott the elections. We don’t want a new Indonesian colonial ruler – we want our freedom.”

“We have tried participating in the elections of the colonial master before – but we are still killed, tortured and discriminated against every day. Instead of playing the games of the imperialist, the ULMWP declared April 5, 2019 a global day of action for West Papua: the Rally for Referendum.”

On Monday April 15, student activists in Bali were arrested by Indonesian police whilst demonstrating in support of the boycott campaign. The Jakarta-based Legal Aid Foundation condemned the arrests.

Mr Wenda continued: “These elections are not for the Papuan people – they are for Indonesia. I’m calling on all of my people, whether rich or poor, civil servant or worker, military or civilian, from village or city, to peacefully boycott the Indonesian elections. We know what we want – our freedom. I call on you all to prepare for an inevitable referendum on independence and intensify the struggle against the Indonesian occupation. We respect Indonesia’s right to hold elections in its own territory, but we oppose the elections of the coloniser when they are forced upon us.”

Across the world, West Papua support groups joined in solidarity and rallied for the right to a referendum on April 5.


The call to boycott the Indonesian elections was made on March 26, 2019. The full statement by Benny Wenda, the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) at the time can be found here:

The date of the Rally for Referendum call – April 5 – marked the anniversary of the establishment of the Nieuw Guinea Raad (the West Papua National Parliament). On April 5, 1961, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the international community formally recognised West Papua’s right to self-determination and eventual statehood.

Reporting of rallies and demonstrations about the Indonesian election boycotts can be found on the social media of the Free West Papua Campaign. See under #Rally4Referendum, and on Also see reporting of ‘More arrests of West Papuans demonstrating’ on April 15 2019:

In 2017, 1.8 million West Papuans signed by hand, the historic West Papuan People’s Petition calling for a referendum on independence. This petition was handed in to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in January 2019.