On Sunday May 9, the Indonesian colonial police arrested Victor Yeimo, one of our most prominent leaders inside West Papua. This is a sign to the world that the Indonesian government wants to use its ‘terrorist’ designation as a smoke-screen to repress the people of West Papua.

Victor Yeimo is the Spokesperson of the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB), a peaceful civil disobedience organisation on the ground. Any West Papuans who speak out about injustice – church leaders, local politicians, journalists – are now at risk of being labelled a ‘criminal’ or ‘terrorist’ and arrested or killed.

What is Victor Yeimo’s crime? To resist the Indonesian occupation through peacefully mobilising the people to defend their right to self-determination. He is accused of ‘masterminding’ the 2019 West Papua Uprising, which was started by Indonesian racism and violence, and ended in a bloodbath caused by Indonesian troops. Indonesia constantly creates violence and uses propaganda – and the fact that international journalists continue to be barred from entering – to blame it West Papuans.

Jakarta has used many labels to try and delegitimise resistance to its genocidal project: ‘armed criminal group’ (KKB), ‘Wild Terrorist Gang’, ‘separatist’. Indonesia has lost the political, moral and legal argument, and has nothing left but brute force and stigmatising labels.

It is clear that Indonesia is trying to distract attention from the huge military operations it is launching in Nduga, Intan Jaya and Puncak Jaya. Around 700 people from 19 villages have already been displaced over the past two weeks. Indonesia is using its ‘Satan Troops’, trained in the genocide in East Timor, to attempt to wipe out the entire Indigenous population. From the 1965 military operations to the 1977 Operasi Koteka, we carry the trauma of Indonesian military operations. What is beginning now is a 21st century version of this. Jakarta has no interest in pursuing a peaceful solution to this crisis.

I demand that President Jokowi and the Indonesian police release Mr Yeimo immediately. International governments and organisations must put immediate pressure on the Indonesian authorities to halt this sham prosecution.

This is a sign that all West Papuans must unite to resist this repression and achieve independence through peaceful means. We have our Provisional Government, constitution, and newly formed cabinet. We must come together and show the Indonesian government and the world that we are ready to take over the administration of our country.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government