Below is the speech that ULMWP Interim President Benny Wenda gave at Oxford Town Hall on December 1, 2022.
On this day, as we raise the Morning Star above Oxford Town Hall, we remember all West Papuans who have been murdered, imprisoned, arrested for raising our flag. We remember Filep Karma, a hero of our struggle. Filep spent eleven years in jail for raising our flag.
We also remember Zode Hilapok, one of the eight West Papuan students arrested last December 1st for raising the Morning Star flag. Hilapok died in October.
I would like you all to join me in a minute’s silence for all flag raisers and other West Papuans who have died over the last year.
December 1st is the day that the West Papuan nation was born.
On this day in 1961, the New Guinea Council raised our Morning Star flag for the first time, symbolising the beginning of a new Pacific nation. But only two years later, our country was stolen from us, as Indonesia announced their invasion. What has followed has been six decades of genocidal, colonial, military occupation.
West Papuans have always resisted Indonesian occupation, from the creation of the freedom struggle, to the Papuan spring in 1999 and the uprising in 2019. In this spirit of continued resistance to colonialism, we mark the two-year anniversary of our Provisional Government.
Here in Oxford, in London, in the Netherlands, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, US, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Fiji and across all seven regions of West Papua, the Morning Star will be proudly flown in solidarity with the West Papuan struggle.
I call on all West Papuans to unite behind the ULMWP Provisional Government. For sixty years, Indonesia has fought to divide our unity, to present us as separatists, as terrorists, to do anything they can to undermine our cause. But I stand here today as Interim President of a Provisional Government that is ready to take charge of our country. We want to show the world that we are ready to engage with the international community.
We are making incredible progress towards our goal of Merdeka – freedom. In 2020, we announced our Temporary Constitution and our Provisional Government, the first unified provisional government in the history of our struggle. In 2021, we formed our Cabinet, which has twelve departments. To the people of West Papua, you now have your own governing structures in all seven of your provinces.
Today, we announce our institutional government structure, including our Executive, Judicative, and Legislative. We have seven regional executives (Governors) on the ground in West Papua, representing the seven regions of our country. We also have our military wing, the West Papua Army. Our administration is complete. We are ready to govern. We do not recognise Indonesia’s illegal occupation or province division of West Papua. I am calling upon my people to reclaim the freedom that was stolen from us. This is your country, your Provisional Government. We will not bow down anymore. We will liberate ourselves.
Those on the ground in West Papua continuing this work are making a great sacrifice. They face constant danger from the Indonesian state. We saw this danger only last month, as Buchtar Tabuni, Chairman of the West Papua Council, was arrested by Indonesian police after holding a peaceful ULMWP meeting. I want to give thanks to Buchtar Tabuni, as well as to ULMWP Prime Minister Edison Waromi, and all ULMWP Ministers. Through your actions and your courage, you are proving to the world that we are ready to run our own affairs.
I call on all West Papuans to unite behind the Green State Vision. The Green State Vision is our promise to the world: a liberated West Papua will protect the world’s third largest rainforest from Indonesian destruction and deforestation. For indigenous West Papuans, our forest has always been our supermarket, our garden, our medicine cabinet. Everything we need is there. But it is being rapidly destroyed by Indonesian colonial developments like the Trans Papua highway and the Wabu Block Gold Mine. International leaders must recognise our government in waiting as the only solution to this problem. There can be no climate justice without West Papuan freedom.
Our movement continues to make international progress. In 2015 we became Observer Member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, and When we become full membership. We will sit round the table with Indonesia as equals. In 2019, 18 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum and 79 countries in the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States recognised our struggle and called for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be allowed into West Papua. Today, 84 countries, plus the European Commission, have called for the UN to be granted access so the world can finally see what is happening in West Papua.
We can see that our success is building. At the UN General Assembly this year, the Marshall Islands called for West Papua to be granted the right of self-determination. This is the same demand we are making. More and more countries are recognising that there is no place for colonialism in the world today. It needs to end.
The humanitarian crisis that began in 2019 has not stopped. We have great sympathy with the people of Ukraine, who are being occupied and killed by Russian forces. But where is the world’s sympathy for West Papua? We have suffered 60 years of occupation, annexation, and genocide. Over 500,000 West Papuans have died since the 1960s. Today, there are still tens of thousands of people displaced in Nduga, Puncak Jaya, Intan Jaya, Oksibil, and Maybrat. They live as refugees in their own lands, they are hungry, they lack water and medical facilities. Hundreds of people have died. Hundreds more have fled across the border into Papua New Guinea. The people of West Papua urgently await the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
At the same time, we have seen brutal, inhuman abuses by Indonesian occupation forces. In August, four West Papuan civilians were tortured, murdered, and mutilated by Indonesian soldiers. Another man, Bruno Kimko, was tortured to death soon after. The soldiers who commit these crimes are rarely punished – in fact, they are often welcomed as heroes by the military. In Indonesia, peacefully raising the Morning Star flag is a worse crime than murdering West Papuans in cold blood.
I have asked all our solidarity groups, in the Pacific, in Europe, in North America, and in Indonesia, to raise the flag today in respect of all those who have sacrificed themselves for the struggle. I want to say thank you to all those groups across the world who are supporting our struggle. Thank you to Government of Vanuatu and Marshall Islands, who continue to advocate for our cause. Thank you to Catalonia and the Basque Country, Senator Gorka and President Puigdemont, who have given us vital support this year. Thank you to the Dutch Parliamentarians and the Christian Union, and the All-Party Parliamentary group for West Papua in the UK Parliament. Thank you to the International Lawyers for West Papua, and to Alex Sobel, chair of International Parliamentarians for West Papua. Thank you to all Pacific and Melanesian leaders, thePacific Council of Churches, and the West Papua Council of Churches for your unwavering support. Also, a special thank you to the Free West Papua board members, and our family and friends who support our struggle.
When we win our independence, the Morning Star will fly freely alongside its Pacific neighbors. Until then, we need our friends around the world to fly it for us, to show Indonesia that they stand behind West Papua and our right to self-determination.
I want to say a special thank you to the people of Oxford, my home. Since I arrived here in 2003, we have gone from forming the Free West Papua Campaign to launching a Provisional Government. The people of Oxford, the Mayors, the Green Party, Conservatives, and the Labour Party have stood behind us and our mission the whole way. I am proud to have been given the freedom of Oxford. West Papuans know they will always have friends in this city.
All West Papuans, whether in the cities, in exile, in refugee camps, or in the bush, must unite behind the ULMWP and our Provisional Government. Our national symbol says ‘One People One Soul’. We must continue in this spirit of unity if we are to succeed in our long struggle for freedom.
Now is the time for Indonesia to recognise our right to self-determination. Under international law we have the right to a referendum, the right to liberate our homeland, just like Indonesia liberated itself from Dutch rule. Our mission is peaceful – we are not using bullets or bombs, we are demanding peacefully for our national rights. I am asking once again for Indonesian President Joko Widodo to sit down with me and discuss an internationally mediated referendum to resolve this issue once and for all. Indonesia knows that this is the only peaceful solution to the West Papuan issue. We will never stop fighting for our freedom.
The Morning Star is the symbol of our homeland, representing our unified dream of independence. It is the last light we see in the night sky before the sun rises. Just as it has guided people to our shores, the Morning Star will guide the West Papuan people to our freedom. One day soon we will tend our gardens and walk our forests in peace. We will have our independence.
God bless you. Papua Merdeka.
ULMWP Provisional Government