Since Indonesia invaded and occupied our country in 1963, Black Melanesian West Papuans have been killed, shot and arrested by Indonesian police and military every day. In 2020, the Indonesian State is twisting the Covid-19 crisis to attack and further undermine the people of West Papua and our resistance. I need the world’s media and ordinary people to stand in solidarity with us now.

I recently released several statements warning that dozens of West Papuan political prisoners lounging in Indonesian jails face a possible death sentence from Covid-19 if not released immediately. Now, Bazoka Logo, Chair of the ULMWP’s Political Bureau, has reportedly been infected with the virus whilst in prison. Bazoka needs urgent medical assistance – instead, Indonesia has moved him to a police station. The refusal to release non-violent West Papuan political prisoners is a deliberate attempt to eliminate some of the Indonesian State’s most effective opponents.

This awful news follows from a series of repressive escalations by the Indonesian State as the world attempts to confront the pandemic:

  • In Timika, two activists, Gerson Son Tabuni and Kalep Kilungga, part of the mass non-violent organisation, KNPB, were arrested by police without explanation on May 26. We need all international supporters to call Detective Andi Suhidin of the Criminal Investigation Police in Mimika and demand their release (+62 812 485 864 97).
  • On May 16, a West Papuan land defender, Marius Betera, was beaten to death by police in Merauke. He sought to protect his land from the palm oil companies that ravage our natural environment and ancestral domains;
  • On May 25, a 25-year-old West Papuan man, Silas Dimara, was killed in Jayapura after being struck down by an Indonesian police water cannon for allegedly violating social distancing rules.
  • In Intan Jaya, where Indonesian military operations have been going on for months, two Covid-19 health workers, Heniko Somou and Almalek Bagau, were shot dead by the Indonesian military on May 22. The Indonesian State has attempted to discredit the victims as part of the West Papuan military wing, with no evidence.

These incidents are part of daily life for my people. From the invasion of 1963, to the genocidal military operations in the late 1970s, to the violent end to the West Papua Uprising last year, we Black Melanesian West Papuans have known that, to the Indonesian State, our lives do not matter.

In response to this dehumanisation, we will only intensify our struggle to protect our lives and our right to self-determination. Indonesia must immediately release all West Papuan political prisoners and halt its military and police repression. And, then, Indonesia must give us our right to freely determine our future, our right to self-determination: a referendum on independence.

Benny Wenda
United Liberation Movement for West Papua