West Papua leaders demand UN-mandated referendum to correct 'mistake' of 1969

West Papuans demand a referendum on the lines of the one held for former Indonesian territory of Timor Leste.

The leaders of the long-running separatist campaign in Indonesia's Papua province have demanded a UN-mandated vote for independence in the pacific island territory.

West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda, who is in London to take part in a meeting of parliamentarians, lawyers and humanitarians from the Pacific region, told the Guardian the UN should conduct an internationally supervised referendum in the region.

The west Papuan leader said a UN resolution for an independence referendum will be the right move to correct the "mistake" of allowing Indonesia to take control of the territory five decades ago.

"We West Papuans call it the act of no choice ... The UN already made a mistake, they broke their own rule. That's why the UN needs to correct it now," Wenda said.

The International Parliamentarians for West Papua are holding a meeting in London on Tuesday, 3 May, to push for a referendum in Papua region.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand's parliament blocked a Green Party motion asking the government to support West Papua's calls for a referendum.

West Papua has witnessed violent conflict since the Dutch ended their rule in 1962, leaving Indonesia to take control. The region was incorporated into Indonesia following a UN-backed referendum in 1969, which critics say was unfair and rigged.

International rights groups have criticised Indonesia's handling of the secessionist campaign carried out by the Free Papua Movement. Wenda said about 500,000 people have been massacred under the Indonesia rule.

The West Papuans are the indigenous people living on the western half of the island north of Australia. The eastern half of the island is the independent country Papua New Guinea.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo promised special attention to the impoverished Papua region after he came to power. However, the Free west Papua movement says nothing has changed on the ground except for the release of some political prisoners and a general softening of Jakarta's stand.

Crackdown of peaceful protests and arrest of activists have gone on unabated, Wenda said. "This is everyday life in West Papua. Physically, mentally, Indonesia intimidates every day," he told the daily.

The West Papuan leaders are urging the international agency to conduct a referendum on the lines of the one held for former Indonesian territory of Timor Leste in 1999.

Wenda said an impartial referendum is overdue as otherwise the Papuans will become a minority in their land.

On Monday, Indonesian police arrested hundreds of pro-independence demonstrators in Papua as they observed the anniversary of region's integration into Indonesia in 1963.

Markus Haluk, a freedom campaigner, told Reuters the demonstrators wanted an internationally monitored referendum for independence for the region.

Earlier this week, an Australian fact-finding mission in Papua published its report on the conditions in the territory under Indonesia's control.

The two-person delegation commissioned by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane brought to light gross violation of human rights in the territory, the Philippines' Rappler reported.

"Many spoke of a slow motion genocide," the report said, according to the daily. It said the report contains details of "..bashings, torture, murder, economic hardship, social marginalization and cultural deprivation" in the region.

Though Widodo promised free access to journalists to the restive region last year, media access still heavily restricted.