Jakarta is holding its 20th ‘National Games’ (PON XX) on the bones of my people in West Papua. Whilst we mourn for three years of Indonesian military operations, these games are a dance on top of our graves, on top of our suffering, on top of our cries. I call on my people to ignore these games and focus on liberating us from this tyranny.

We have gathered new information that in the past three years, at least 26 local West Papuan political figures, and 20 intellectual and religious leaders, have died in suspicious circumstances after speaking out about human rights and injustice. Some of them were official heads of their local districts, others were prominent church people. Many turned up dead in hotel rooms after unexplained heart attacks, usually with no forensic evidence available.

This is systematic killing, part of Jakarta’s plan to wipe out all resistance to its rule in West Papua. These deaths have occurred at the same time that Indonesia has sent over 20,000 new troops into West Papua. They are killing us because we are different, because we are Black.

As President Joko Widodo visits my land like a tourist, over 50,000 people have been internally displaced by Indonesian military operations in Nduga, Intan Jaya, Puncak and Sorong since December 2018. High school children and elders were recently arrested and blindfolded like animals in Maybrat (see photos below). The PON XX is a PR exercise by the Indonesian government to cover up the evidence of mass killings.

Any use of the Morning Star flag, or even its colours, has been totally banned during the games. One Papuan Catholic preacher was arrested for wearing a Morning Star flag t-shirt during a football match. Our Papuan rowing team was banned from the games for wearing red, white and blue, the colours of our flag. This has happened at the same time as 17 people were arrested for holding the Morning Star in Jakarta. A West Papuan woman was sexual assaulted by police during the arrests.

Indonesia continues to hold this PR stunt even whilst Vanuatu and PNG call for a UN visit to West Papua in line with the call of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States. There is no reason Indonesia cannot allow the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to take place. If Indonesia wants to use the Covid-19 crisis as an excuse to stop the visit, why are they sending tens of thousands of troops into West Papua? Why are they holding the National Games in the middle of military operations and a pandemic?

President Widodo, do not ignore my call to find the peaceful solution that is good for your people and my people. The demand of the Provisional Government of the ULMWP is that we sit down to arrange a peaceful referendum, to uphold the principle of self-determination enshrined by the international community. You cannot pretend that nothing is happening in West Papua. The world is beginning to watch.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government

High school students and elders arrested in Maybrat Regency, September 28, 2021.

High school students and elders arrested in Maybrat Regency, September 28, 2021.

Internal displacement now affects at least five regencies across West Papua.