The international community must immediately suspend Indonesia from the UN Human Rights Council. The treatment of Steven Yadohamang, a deaf West Papuan man who was crushed under the boot and knee of Indonesian military officers in Merauke this week, is only the latest in a long history of systematic racism and discrimination against my people.

The reality of everyday life for my people in West Papua is violence and racism at the hands of Indonesian soldiers, police and intelligence officers. In the middle of a pandemic, Indonesia has continued to launch military operations, displacing over 50,000 people. We have been traumatised by the impunity of the Indonesian colonial regime since the illegal invasion of 1963.

The image of Obby Kogoya being crushed under the foot of an Indonesian police boot in 2016 has been compared to the images of George Floyd before he died. There is no difference between what happens to African Americans in the U.S. and what happens to West Papuans at the hands of the illegal Indonesian occupation. My people rose up against racist treatment in 2019, and followed the global BLM movement with our own cry: Papuan Lives Matter. What we are suffering is the same as the Rohingya, the same as South Africa under apartheid.

Indonesia’s systematic, institutional racism against West Papuans violates international law. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Indonesia has ratified, ban racial discrimination. Indonesia’s military operations, racial abuse, ethnic cleansing, and systematic destruction of our health and educational opportunities represent clear violations of these conventions.

The international community must respond by suspending Indonesia from the UN Human Rights Council immediately. If our international human rights protections mean anything, there must be a global response to what is happening to my people.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government