United Nations intervention urgently needed to stop colonial carnage in West Papua

Papuan protesters scuffle with police and soldiers during a rally near the presidential palace in Jakarta, Indonesia. – Photo: Dita Alangkara, AP

Statement by Benny Wenda, Chairman of The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)

The people of West Papua need urgent international attention. I am calling on all the world’s governments, parliamentarians and media to shine the spotlight on West Papua. If the world and international media ignores West Papua now, the Indonesian security services may turn it into a bloodbath.

The UN must act. Currently, the people of West Papua are occupying the Parliament and Governor buildings in Jayapura, West Papua’s capital. Electricity and internet services have been cut off, and 300 more officers from the murderous Brimob police unit have been deployed. Footage shows tear gas being used on non-violent demonstrators and latest information suggests the Indonesian military, police and nationalist militias may be preparing to storm the peaceful gathering.

Trailer for “The Road to Home,” the award-winning documentary about Benny Wenda

Already in Deiyai, six Papuans were shot dead on Wednesday after being tear-gassed by Indonesian police and military and at least 15 West Papuans were shot with rubber bullets in Jayapura. An 18-year-old student was shot and has not been seen since. There will be more bloodshed unless the world pays attention.

“If the world ignores West Papua now, the Indonesian security services may turn it into a bloodbath.”

The people of West Papua are no longer afraid. They are marching in their tens of thousands, flying the Morning Star flag.  The events of the past two weeks are all related: the racism, demonstrations and killings, the desire for self-determination.

My people refused to celebrate Indonesian independence day on Aug. 17, instead commemorating the 1962 New York Agreement, the beginning of the historic violation of our right to self-determination. All the while, the people and leaders of the Pacific condemned human rights abuses in West Papua and called for the UN High Commissioner to visit the region.

In Surabaya, Papuan students suffered an extreme act of racism that is part of the daily life of Papuans under colonial rule, called “monkeys” and “pigs” by Indonesian military and state-supported militias. This racist discrimination against my people was the spark which lit the fire of 57 years of sentiment for freedom and independence: the West Papua Uprising. The second wave of this uprising has begun, and my people will not rest until we are granted our basic right to self-determination and a referendum on independence from Indonesia.

Benny Wenda speaks with the banned Morning Star West Papuan flag behind him. “The people of West Papua are no longer afraid. They are marching in their tens of thousands, flying the Morning Star flag. For flying this banned symbol of our liberation, the colonizer will put us in prison or shoot us.”

This is an emergency situation in West Papua today and things are only getting worse and worse. We urgently need the UN to intervene.

I call upon the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and all international bodies to please take immediate action to help prevent further massacres. We cannot allow another Santa Cruz massacre to take place in West Papua.

The world needs to know and intervene now before it is too late. The world’s media must do all they can to help cover the situation and shine an urgent light on what is really happening. This has the very real power to help save lives.

Benny Wenda tweeted on Sept. 1, 2019: “As Indonesia deliberately tries to create ethnic conflict in #WestPapua with militia, I must stress that, for #WestPapuans, our enemy is NOT the #Indonesian people. Our enemy is only the system of colonialism. We will NOT be provoked. Our peaceful struggle is for a #referendum.”

With the internet and phone lines cut off and tens of thousands of social media posts being taken down, the world must do everything it can to expose the situation. If the world stops looking, Indonesia will launch a crackdown, as it did again and again in East Timor, and in West Papua in 1969, 1977-1978, 1998, 2001, 2014 and countless other occasions.

Hundreds of thousands of us have died already. The lives of my people today, fighting with great courage and dignity for their freedom, depend on the world acting.

Benny Wenda: My story

My name is Benny Wenda and I am a West Papuan independence leader.

When I was a child my village was bombed by the Indonesian military and many of my family were killed. Later, I began to campaign peacefully to free my country from Indonesian occupation. For this “crime” I was arrested, tortured and threatened with death.

I managed to escape to the UK, where I now live in exile. My people are still suffering. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, raped and tortured. All we want is to live without fear and for West Papua to become a free and independent country.

Please hear my peoples’ cry for help. Please support the Free West Papua Campaign.

Benny Wenda, West Papua independence leader, chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), and founder of the Free West Papua Campaign, #FreeWestPapua, can be reached at office@bennywenda.org or @bennywenda. He issued this statement on Aug. 29, 2019. See Benny Wenda on Facebook.