On December 1, our national day, eight West Papuan students were arrested by Indonesian police for peacefully demonstrating with banners and hand-painted Morning Star flags in Jayapura. They have been charged with ‘treason’, and may face 25 years in prison.

The students are:

1. Malvin Yobe, 28

2. Devio Tekege, 26

3. Ambros Elopere, 22

4. Maksi You, 19

5. Paul Zode Hilapok, 25

6. Luis Sitok, 19

7. Ernesto Matuan, 21

8. Melvin Waine, 25

Amnesty Indonesia has already called for their immediate release. These students have had enough of the military operations, the internal displacement, the murders and the bombings. They are reacting to 60 years of oppression. An elderly women in Merauke, Paulina Imbumar, who leads prayers, has also been arrested and must be released.

We already notified Indonesia that we would be commemorating our national day on December 1 with prayer meetings and peaceful gatherings. We called for Indonesia to allow our people the freedom to express themselves, and to respect our independence day as we have respected yours.

These eight students and the elderly woman in Merauke who have been arrested must be immediately released. All Indonesian troops must be immediately withdrawn to put an end to the bloodshed, particularly in Intan Jaya, Puncak, Yahukimo and Nduga. Stop bombing villages, stop firing upon civilians from helicopters, stop burning hospitals and occupying schools. These actions are violations of international law.

The Indonesian government continues to attack my people and blame it on the West Papua Army, the guerillas. This is the pattern we see every time, like in 2020 when Indonesian soldiers killed the relatives of Pastor Zanambani, burning their bodies and throwing the ashes in the river to hide the evidence. The military then tortured and killed Pastor Zanambani and blamed it on the West Papua Army, even when their own Indonesian organisations proved the military’s involvement. Everything is covered up because the military and ex-generals at the top of Indonesian politics are heavily invested in logging, palm oil and gold mining in West Papua.

200 refugees have fled into PNG from Oksibil and 30 more have fled into Vanimo. This crisis needs the urgent attention of the PNG government, as Prime Minister Marape has already promised to welcome West Papuan refugees. According to the West Papua Council of Churches, 60,000 people have been displaced since December 2018. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must visit urgently to witness this situation. Indonesia must end this by granting us our right to self-determination and an internationally-monitored referendum on independence.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government