On July 30, the Republic of Vanuatu will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its independence from the two colonial powers, France and Britain. From the United Liberation Movement for West Papua and the people of West Papua, we wish Vanuatu all the best as you celebrate the special journey you have made over the past 40 years.

This anniversary marks a very important moment for the people of Vanuatu. We must remember and honour all those leaders and others who sacrificed themselves fighting for independence, and celebrate the success and prosperity that Vanuatu has achieved since then. We have stood by Vanuatu as you have stood by us, as you have become a global example of what the unity of the people can achieve. You have gone from a colonised people to a world-leading nation at the forefront of global efforts to stop climate change and end 21st century imperialism.

We cannot join you for the celebrations, but your example gives us hope and courage. We know the time will come when an independent state of West Papua, free from Indonesian colonialism, will be able to celebrate its independence anniversary with Vanuatu and the whole Pacific region.

Thank you for your continued support for our struggle throughout the good and bad times. As the late Father Walter Lini said, the Pacific is not free until we are all free – including West Papua. Vanuatu’s civil society, churches, tribes, government officials and diplomats live Father Walter’s words every day as they work to help their brothers and sisters in West Papua achieve freedom. We may still be a colony, but we see freedom on the horizon, shoulder-to-shoulder with Vanuatu.

From everyone in West Papua, God bless you all.

Benny Wenda