I want to offer my deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the New Zealand pilot taken hostage in Nduga. At the same time, the ULMWP Executive reiterates and reassures the New Zealand government and the world that we are committed to a peaceful, diplomatic approach. Our roadmap is very clear: we are pursuing the unified West Papuan goal of Merdeka – national liberation – peacefully, through diplomatic political mechanisms.  

We must not lose sight of the fact that Indonesia uses this kind of violence as part of a distinct strategy of occupation. Their aim is to intensify militarisation in West Papua as a way of strengthening their colonial grip on our land. Last year, Indonesia’s parliament passed a law creating three new provinces in West Papua, as part of the renewal of the 2001 ‘Special Autonomy’ programme. West Papuans overwhelmingly reject ‘Special Autonomy’, with over 700,000 of us having signed a petition against it. Provincial division is a justification for increased militarisation in West Papua, pure and simple. By creating new administrative divisions, Indonesia justifies the establishment of new colonial infrastructure and new military posts. They do not want dialogue or peaceful protest: they want chaos and violence, for West Papua to remain a warzone.  

As our land is militarised and destroyed, our people are forcibly displaced. Depopulation is another key part of Indonesia’s colonial strategy: by removing West Papuans from our ancestral lands, they allow for massive exploitation of our natural resources. Up to 100,000 West Papuans have been internally displaced since 2019, including close to half of Nduga’s entire population. They continue to live in the bush, deprived of education, food, and adequate medical facilities, unable to return to their homes. Indonesia labels us as terrorists while committing state terrorism in our lands. 

At the same time, the coloniser burns our forest and destroys our mountains, creating mega-developments like the Wabu Block gold mine, which is bigger in size than Jakarta. This is not development for West Papuans, it is big business for Indonesia. West Papuans refuse to be Jakarta’s colony any longer.  

Indonesia have consistently ignored or manipulated our demand for a peaceful solution. For years now, I have offered to sit down with President Widodo and discuss the path to an internationally mediated referendum, but have been ignored.  

If Indonesia wanted to reduce violence in West Papua, they would listen to the call of more than 80 countries and allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate there. They would allow foreign media to report on abuses in West Papua. They would not employ Generals trained in genocide in East Timor to run their occupation. The world must understand that Indonesia stokes violence in West Papua to justify brutality, militarism and racism. They have even gone so far as to regularly stage attacks on their own military.

I again offer my sympathies to the pilot’s family, and reiterate the ULMWP’s following peaceful demands:

  1. The withdrawal of all Indonesian troops from West Papua;
  2. Immediate access to West Papua for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;
  3. Cancellation of ‘Special Autonomy’, including the new provincial division;
  4. An immediate referendum on independence.

The kidnap of a foreign pilot naturally brings West Papua to the attention of international media. But West Papuans are tortured and murdered daily by Indonesian forces, and international media are banned from seeing it. The international community must help to end the violence in West Papua by forcing Indonesia to come the table and discuss a referendum, the only path to a peaceful resolution. We will continue going to peacefully continue our long fight for freedom, until the world finally hears our cry. 

Benny Wenda