West Papuans everywhere are today mourning the loss of Zode Hilapok, one of the eight West Papuan activists who were arrested on December 1st 2021 for raising the Morning Star flag. On behalf of the ULMWP Provisional Government and the people of West Papua, I send my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.

Hilapok was a young man, a student, and a future leader of our movement. He was already ill when he was arrested, but Indonesian Police refused to take him to a civilian hospital. Instead, they transferred him to Bhayangkara military hospital, where they held him in secret. We do not know how he was treated, or what medicine they gave him.

The eight students committed no crime. We had already notified Indonesia that we would be commemorating December 1st, our national day, with prayer meetings and peaceful gatherings. The group carried cardboard banners and hand-painted Morning Star flags. For this, they were charged with treason and held for eight months in jail.

By arresting, imprisoning, and killing the new generation, Indonesia wants to strangle their spirit and crush their desire for freedom. All West Papuans know how they will be treated if they protest the occupation. Indonesian ‘democracy’ does not apply to West Papuans – for us, it is a nightmare. If we raise our flag, call for self-determination, even if we wear our national dress or express our Melanesian culture, we will be ridiculed, jailed, or murdered. Hilapok and his fellow protestors showed great courage by protesting in spite of Indonesian oppression. His death is a great loss for his family, but also for all West Papuans, who have been deprived of the wisdom and strength of a future leader.

Indonesia has a history of denying prisoners adequate medical care. Hilapok’s case echoes the situation of Victor Yeimo, whose health has dramatically worsened since he was arrested and charged with treason for his role in a peaceful anti-racism protest in May 2021. Many international organisations, including the United Nations and Amnesty International, have called for Yeimo tourgently be released, but Indonesia has consistently refused. With Yeimo, with Kristian Yundun, and now with Governor Lukas Enembe, Indonesia has shown they will use health as a weapon in their war against West Papua. This practice is against human rights and in violation of international law. States have a responsibility to protect their prisoners, to look after their health when they cannot care for themselves.

I call on President Joko Widodo to immediately release all political prisoners, including Victor Yeimo. Indonesia has demonstrated that they will not protect West Papuans in their custody, and would prefer to let them die. Hilapok’s death is a symptom of the Apartheid system Indonesia has implemented in West Papua, which sees us as subhuman, as ‘monkeys’. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must urgently visit to investigate this situation.

To our international solidarity groups, I ask that you honour Zode Hilapok by raising the Morning Star flag on December 1st, a day of great importance to all West Papuans. It is the day a new Pacific nation was born, before our independence was stolen from us by Indonesia and the big powers. By raising our flag we remember our independence declaration, and look forward to the day when the Morning Star will fly freely, alongside other liberated Melanesian nations.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government