As the Interim President of the West Papuan nation, I am issuing this response to Indonesian President Widodo’s crack down order in West Papua.

Indonesia is trying once again to label the West Papua Army and West Papuan people’s struggle ‘criminals’ and ‘terrorists’. Indonesia has illegally invaded and occupied our country for nearly 60 years, subjecting my people to a genocide. An illegal invasion and occupation is a criminal act. A genocide is a terrorist act. Resistance to these is legitimate and necessary.

My questions to the President of Indonesia are: Who invaded our country in the first place? Who has killed over 500,000 men, women and children? Who has displaced over 50,000 civilians since December 2018, leading to the deaths of hundreds more people? It is clear that the Indonesian state is the real terrorist group operating in my land.

We know what this order will lead to: more killing, more torture, more suffering of my people. Speaker of the Indonesian house, Bambang Soesatyo, has urged to the Government to ‘destroy them first. We will discuss human rights matters later.’ This is the mentality that led to the torture and killing of Pastor Yeremia Zanambani last year. This is the attitude that resulted in three men being beaten to death in a hospital in February this year. This is why Amnesty Indonesia has already condemned the speaker. In the last 24 hours we have reports that people are fleeing the villages in anticipation of the crackdown. Helicopters are being deployed over the villages, reminding me of what happened in 1977 when I was a child.

President Widodo, you are admitting that there is a war going on in West Papua. Why was a Brigadier General stationed in there in the first place if there is no war? Why have you deployed over 21,000 new troops in the last three years? We are not talking about ‘criminal’ groups or gangs, we are talking about combatants in a national liberation struggle to expel an illegal coloniser. The West Papua Army is defending our independence, our forest, our mountain. The military wing of the West Papuan struggle is not a ‘criminal’ group; it is committed to following international humanitarian law and the laws of armed conflict, unlike the Indonesian state.

West Papua was listed on the UN Special Committee on Decolonization as a non-self-governing territory before Indonesia invaded in 1962 and held the fraudulent Act of No Choice in 1969. We are struggling for our fundamental right to defend our state, legally sovereign since 1961. Indonesia fought for its independence and sovereignty from the Dutch colonial power, like East Timor fought for independence by any means. Did this make the people of Indonesia or East Timor ‘criminals’ or ‘terrorists’ under international law? Like them, we are continuing our legitimate struggle to regain our stolen independence.

The Indonesian President must immediately withdraw the military from West Papua. Your troops and helicopters have done nothing but strike fear into women and children in the villages. Your occupation forces are terrorists, intimidating and harassing the people of West Papua on every street corner. You must allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua, in accordance with the demand of 84 international states, to show the world what is really happening on the ground.

Instead of reacting with further human rights abuses, you must sit down with me, President to President, and find a way to peacefully resolve our conflict. Military force cannot solve this 60-year-old issue; only an internationally-mediated referendum can. For the good of my people and for the good of your people, let us sit down and find a just solution that will last forever.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government