The Indonesian state is considering listing the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, OPM, as a terrorist organisation. This is a disgraceful attack on the people of West Papua, all of whom are in support of the OPM struggle for a free and independent West Papua. In reality, Indonesia is a terrorist state that has used mass violence against my people for nearly six decades.

The people of West Papua were forming their own independent state in 1961. On December 1 of that year, the West New Guinea Council selected our national anthem, flag, and symbols. We had a territory, a people, and were listed as a Non-Self-Governing Territory by the UN Decolonization Committee. Our flag was raised alongside the Dutch, and the inauguration of the West New Guinea Council was witnessed by diplomats from the Netherlands, UK, France and Australia.

This sovereignty was stolen from us by Indonesia, which invaded and colonised our land in 1963. The birth of the independent state of West Papua was smothered. This is why the people of West Papua launched the OPM struggle to regain our country and our freedom.

Under the international conventions on human rights, we have a right to self-determination, which legal research has repeatedly shown was violated by the Indonesian take-over and the fraudulent 1969 Act of No Choice. Under the 1960 UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, we have a right to determine our own political status free from colonial rule. Even the Preamble to the Indonesian constitution recognises that, ‘Independence is the natural right of every nation [and] colonialism must be abolished in this world because it is not in conformity with Humanity and Justice.’

Indonesia wants to describe us as ‘terrorists’. Terrorism is the use of violence against civilians to intimidate a population for political aims. This is exactly what Indonesia has been doing against my people for 60 years. Over 500,000 men, women and children have been killed since Indonesia invaded. Indonesia tortures my people, kills civilians, burns their bodies, destroys our environment and way of life. General Wiranto, until recently Indonesia’s security minister, is wanted by the UN for war crimes in East Timor – for terrorism. A leading retired Indonesian general this year mused about forcibly removing 2 million West Papuans to Manado – this is terrorism and ethnic cleansing. How can we be the terrorists when Indonesia has sent 20,000 troops to our land in the past three years?

We never bomb Sulawesi or Java. We never kill an imam or Muslim leader. The Indonesian military has been torturing and murdering our religious leaders over the past six months. The Indonesian military has displaced over 50,000 people since December 2018, leaving them to die in the bush without medical care or food.

The ULMWP is a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, sitting around the table with Indonesia. We attend UN meetings and have the support of 84 countries to promote human rights in West Papua. These are not the actions of terrorists. When 84 countries recognise our struggle, Indonesia cannot stigmitise us as ‘terrorists’.

The OPM back home is like a home guard. We only act in self-defence, to protect ourselves, our homeland, our ancestral lands, our heritage and our natural resources, forests and mountain. Any country would do the same if it was invaded and colonised. We do not target civilians, and are committed to working under international law and international humanitarian law, unlike Indonesia, which will not even sign up to the International Criminal Court because it knows that its actions in West Papua are war crimes.

Indonesia cannot solve this issue with a ‘war on terror’ approach. Amnesty International and Komnas HAM, Indonesia’s national human rights body, have already condemned the proposals. Since the 2000 Papuan People’s Congress, which I was a part of, we have agreed to pursue an international solution through peaceful means. We are struggling for our right to self-determination, denied to us for decades. Indonesia is fighting to defend its colonial project.

Benny Wenda
Interim President
ULMWP Provisional Government