On behalf of the ULMWP Executive, I call for the immediate and unconditional release of Papua Governor Lukas Enembe. Enembe’s arrest by the Indonesian state follows his criminalisation in September 2022, when he was accused of corruption and banned from travelling abroad for essential medical treatment. 

Enembe is only the latest West Papuan to be criminalised in this way: Eltinus Omaleng, the head of Mimika Regency, was arrested last year on spurious corruption charges. Corruption is what they claim when West Papuans try to better their people’s condition. 

As West Papuan protesters took to the streets to call for Enembe’s release, armed Indonesian police beat, shot, and arrested them in large numbers. So far, one protester has been killed by police while calling for Governor Enembe’s release. This is what the Papua police chief calls a ‘small incident’ – killing a West Papuan civilian is nothing to Indonesia’s occupation forces. 

Enembe’s treatment cannot be separated from his increasingly vocal stance against Indonesia’s colonial policies in West Papua. He opposed Indonesia’s division of West Papua into new provinces, a divide and rule tactic designed to steal our natural resources and allow further militarisation of our villages. The provincial division is part of the package for the renewal of colonial ‘Special Autonomy’, which has only brought twenty years of destruction in the name of ‘development’. Special Autonomy means the murder and mutilation of four West Papuan civilians by Indonesian soldiers. It means the devastation of our mountain and forest for new plantations and mines the size of Jakarta. Over 600,000 West Papuans have signed a petition rejecting the fake ‘Special Autonomy’ programme. When he speaks out against new provincial division, Enembe speaks for the people.  

Enembe’s arrest shows how Indonesia responds to any dissent, even from figures who accept their illegal presence in our land. We cannot forget that Enembe is being targeted despite working within Indonesian institutions. We also must not forget the many Papuan leaders who have died in mysterious circumstances over the past three years. At least sixteen have passed away since 2020, many of them on their own, in hospitals or hotels. There is strong and justified suspicion that they were poisoned. This is why Governor Enembe must be immediately released: no West Papuan is ever safe in Indonesian custody, especially not one who is already in such poor health. 

These events remind us of what happened last year, when Zode Hilapok died ten months after his arrest for raising the Morning Star flag on December 1st 2021. Hilapok was already ill when he was arrested, but Indonesia refused to treat him in a civilian hospital. Instead, they took him to Bhayangkara military hospital, where his treatment was kept secret.   

Indonesia does not want peace in West Papua. They want tension and violence, they want West Papua to remain a war zone in order to justify the deployment of more and more troops. Over 25,000 additional troops have been deployed to West Papua since the uprising in 2019. This dramatic increase in militarisation has created mass displacement, with up to 100,000 people displaced by four years of military operations. And as Indonesia cleanses West Papua of its Indigenous people, they build big highways and ecologically disastrous plantations in their place. In West Papua, business and military interests are one and the same. 

This arrest comes as Indonesia are ramping up their campaign to whitewash their occupation. The new ‘Rainforest OPEC’ they are forming with Brazil and the DRC is pure PR, a smokscreen they are erecting as they continue to destroy our rainforest. President Joko Widodo also recently announced that he “strongly regrets” the gross human rights violations that have taken place in Indonesia’s past. But the genocide in West Papua is not a past crime to be waved away or apologised for – it is happening right now.  

Despite Indonesia’s efforts, the issue of West Papua is not going away. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been trying to gain entry to West Papua for years, but has been barred by Jakarta. Indonesia is ignoring the will of 18 countries in the Pacific Islands Forum and 79 countries in the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States by refusing to allow the UN in.  

No matter how many of us Indonesia arrests, beats, or kills, we will continue to fight until our struggle for self-determination is complete. 

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government