As people across West Papua mobilise in favour of the ULMWP gaining full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), Indonesia is ramping up its repression of peaceful activists.

Ten KNPB activists were arrested yesterday while handing out leaflets advertising a peaceful rally supporting West Papua gaining full membership of the MSG. The following day, ULMWP rallies in Jayapura and Sentani in favour of full membership were forcefully disbanded and 21 people arrested.

These rallies were not for independence: the activists were not chanting ‘Merdeka’, they were simply demanding that our birthright as a Melanesian nation be fulfilled. West Papua is entitled to full membership of the MSG by our ethnic, cultural, and linguistic ties to the rest of Melanesia. With our black skin, our indigenous languages, our tribal values and traditions, we are undeniably Melanesian.

If Melanesian leaders needed further proof of the necessity of ULMWP full membership, then Indonesia has provided it. Only as full members will we be able to expose grave abuses such as these arrests on the international stage, and to defend our identity as a Melanesian people.

Indonesia claims that they are entitled to membership of the MSG because they represent other Melanesian populations. If that is the case, then why are these populations staying quiet? Indonesia cannot claim to represent West Papuans in the MSG, because we already have representation through the ULMWP.

On behalf of the ULMWP and the West Papuan people, I demand that no further arrests are made of Papuans rallying peacefully for full membership. Indonesia has nothing to fear from us returning to our Melanesian family. At the same time, they must understand that West Papuans are speaking with one voice in demanding full membership. All groups, ages, genders and tribes are totally united and focused on achieving our mission. We will not be deterred.

Benny Wenda

KNPB rally in Sentani

ULMWP rally in Jayapura

Activists being arrested by security forces