Below is the speech that ULMWP Interim President Benny Wenda gave at Queen Mary University of London on December 9th, 2022.
Interim President Wenda opened the “Resisting Ecocide: Restoring Balance and Harmony to West Papua” conference with a reflection on the Green State Vision, Indonesian ecocide, and his own upbringing in West Papua. Featuring speakers including Raki Ap, Chris Saltmarsh, Joan Martinez Alier, and Lisa Tilley, the conference explored the link between Indonesian state violence and environmental destruction in West Papua.
The Green State Vision was a focal point of speakers’ contributions. Its combination of customary guardianship, environmental protection, and modern democratic governance was discussed as both a model for an independent West Papua, and a solution to the climate crisis at large. As Benny Wenda put it, the Green State Vision is West Papua’s offer to the world.
Thank you to everyone here for their contributions. Thank you to Roy Lee and David White for organising this conference. Thank you to everyone who is speaking, and thank you to everyone watching here and online.
This is an important day. The people of West Papua need to be heard by the world. For sixty years, Indonesia has tried to shut down our speech, to prevent us from protesting against their illegal occupation.
Academics have a big role to play in securing the West Papuan vision. This conference should be the opening for a wider discussion of Indonesian ecocide in West Papua. The world needs to know our struggle, the hidden genocide we are suffering, the destruction of our beautiful country by Indonesia. You can help us by using your voice and showing solidarity with our struggle.
West Papua is a green land in a blue ocean, the Pacific. We have thousands of miles of rainforest, the third largest in the world. We have hundreds of animals and plants that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. But Indonesia is tearing up our forest, destroying our mountain and poisoning our river.
The world needs to know that there can be no climate justice without West Papuan freedom. That is why we announced the Green State Vision for an independent West Papua, free from Genocidal and Ecocidal Indonesian colonialism.
The Green State Vision says that we need to reclaim and restore our nature, otherwise we will become voiceless and separated from our being. The Green State Vision means peace and harmony. It means self-determination, independence, and freedom.
But the Green State Vision is also our offer to the world. We have the solution to the global climate crisis. Indigenous people should be able to manage their lands as they have done for thousands of years. If you support us, you are making history in this global struggle against global warming.
The forests of West Papua are the lungs of the world. Growing up in nature, the forest is our friend. It is our supermarket, our medicine cabinet. You cannot separate West Papuans from our environment. We have always been at peace with nature and with all beings in our land.
I grew up in the forest, but Indonesia’s illegal occupation forced me to move to the town. This was a different world. And while I was growing up in the town, our forest was being destroyed.
In West Papua, climate change and colonialism are connected. By removing indigenous West Papuans from our land, Indonesia is able to build big new developments, like the Trans Papua highway and Wabu Block gold mine. Wabu Block is a gold mine the size of Jakarta. Business and military are connected –removing West Papuans from our land also allows Indonesian military to control us.
Since 2019, the Indonesian Military occupation has become more violent, causing a crisis of displacement in West Papua. 25,000 new Indonesian troops have been deployed to West Papua since then. Between 60,000 to 100,000 West Papuans have been displaced by Indonesian militarisation in the last four years. In so many regions, like Nduga, Maybrat, Intan Jaya, and Puncak Jaya, West Papuans are refugees in their own land.
My people have had to abandon their homes, churches, schools, and flee into the forest. Young children have been shot dead, women have given birth in the bush, people do not have food or medical care. Hundreds have died. Hundreds have fled across the border to Papua New Guinea refugee camps.
Indonesia says that they are doing this for our own good. They say West Papuans need colonial development, that we need palm oil plantations and gold mines.
This is racism. It is the same racism that calls us ‘monkeys’. They want the world to think that West Papuans cannot manage our own land – the land we have been custodians of for thousands of years.
We are not asking for development, we are asking for freedom.
The world needs to understand. Indonesia doesn’t want the West Papuan people. They only want our resources. That is why they are committing genocide – to clear us away from our land and take our gold, copper, gas. Over 500,000 West Papuans have died since we were colonised in the 1960s.
Who caused Global Warming? The big powers and big corporations – not the indigenous people. We do not intend to destroy our forests, our environment. Our environment makes us who we are.
When we become independent, we make these promise to the world. We will be the first country to make ecocide a criminal offence. We will fight for it to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court. We will tell corporations operating in our land that they must stop destroying nature or their license will be revoked.
In a free West Papua, the rights of all beings will be placed above the rights of private corporations.
The struggle of the West Papua liberation movement is growing in strength. We have our provisional government, our temporary constitution, and our cabinet. With the Green State Vision, we have the solution, for us and for the world. We are ready to take control of our country, for the good of all our people – not just for profit.
Now is the right time for everyone – ordinary people, academics, world leaders –to stand behind us. On behalf of the people of West Papua, I invite you to support us in our fight for independence and climate justice.
ULMWP Provisional Government