On behalf of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and the people of West Papua, I want to thank, from the bottom of my heart, everyone who showed solidarity with the seven West Papuan political prisoners before their sentencing yesterday. The Indonesian prosecution wanted up to 17 years for the prisoners. Instead, they were sentenced to only 11 months. There is still a possibility of an appeal by the prosecutor, so we must keep up the pressure to ensure total freedom for the political prisoners.

This is a great victory for our movement worldwide. Although it is still at outrage that victims of racism have been found guilty of ‘treason’ for alleged involvement in anti-racist demonstrations, it could have much worse. The world-wide pressure, from civil societies to legislatures, made all the difference.

Firstly, thank you to the solidarity groups around the world, from the Pacific to Africa to Europe. You are our main source of strength and support: the Free West Papua Campaign, international NGOs and all groups that stood with us during this trial. The global solidarity actions, posts on social media and speeches at Black Lives Matter rallies were a huge help. We really need your continued support to win the total liberation of our country from Indonesian colonialism.

We must thank the international governments, diplomats, academics and the prisoners’ legal team who mobilised to support the Papuan prisoners. The Pacific media played a major role in exposing the issues of racism and discrimination in West Papua and in raising the case of the prisoners. Every one of you has played a vital role in defending the dignity, human rights and freedom of West Papuans.

We must mention in particular the International Parliamentarians for West Papua, including the All-Party Parliamentary Group on West Papua, and the International Lawyers for West Papua, who made important interventions on behalf of the prisoners.

Thank you to the many ordinary Indonesian citizens who stood against their government’s attacks and confirmed that, for some Indonesians, Papuan lives really do matter. The Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP), Indonesian academics and NGOs who worked with us: your support is vital.

The Papuan university students across West Papua and Indonesia, the local Papuan parliamentarians and customary council (MRP) who denounced the treatment of these prisoners: you support is incredibly important. In West Papua, many religious denominations, Christian and Muslim, provided support for the release of the prisoners. This religious unity, across Papuans and Indonesians, is a historic moment.

We need ordinary Indonesians to be the voice of voiceless West Papuans. We need you to show the same support for Papuan Lives Matter as you do for Black Lives Matter. We need your help to achieve the total liberation of the people of West Papua. With your assistance, one day you will be proud that West Papua is free, and we will live peacefully, side-by-side, as good neighbours.

When Indonesia was colonised by the Dutch, the Netherlands used the makar (treason) law to repress and imprison Indonesian separatists, anti-colonialists, nationalists. Today, the Indonesian government is using that same law to crush and oppress the people of West Papua. This is why the ordinary people of Indonesia understand our situation. You have suffered as we have. The people of Indonesia must demand an immediate review of the makar law.

There is much more to do until we achieve our full liberation. The ULMWP is continuing to lobby international and region fora. In December last year, 79 countries called for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be allowed to visit West Papua. We need our international solidarity networks to help raise this request at every opportunity, and to pressure the Indonesian government to let the High Commissioner see the reality in West Papua.

None of this could be possible if not for the tireless sacrifices of the people of West Papua, and of the prisoners themselves. The mobilisations of my people, particularly of the exodus students struggling to free us from colonialism, are most crucial of all. Thank you. You continue to stay strong in the face of imprisonment, killing and torture. This week we have shown our strength. We will only get more powerful until we win our full freedom and independence.

Benny Wenda