As I stated last week, the people of West Papua face a new double crisis: a humanitarian crisis caused by Indonesian military operations, and a medical crisis caused by coronavirus. Indonesian colonialism, which has destroyed our way of life and left us without healthcare or the natural support of our environment, has increased the risks of coronavirus to my people. There has never been a more urgent time for Indonesia to allow the UN to independently monitor the situation, and for the people of West Papua to assert their independence and traditional ways of life.

The Indonesian government must immediately grant the long-standing request of the ULMWP, supported by 18 countries in the PIF and 79 countries from the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group States (ACP), and allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights into West Papua. With military operations ongoing around Grasberg and elsewhere, we need urgent international observation of our humanitarian crisis.

The situation around Freeport McMoRan’s Grasberg gold and copper mine continuous to decline. I am deeply saddened by the news that two members of the West Papuan military wing, our traditional land owners and defenders, have been killed by the illegal Indonesian occupation forces.

Freeport must immediately halt production at the mine. The company knows that the problems around the mine run deep, and will not stop until there is a just solution for the people of West Papua – until our right to self-determination is respected, and we are granted a referendum on independence. Freeport: do you want to carry on aiding and abetting the genocide in West Papua?

To my people back home, you must prepare for a difficult year. I know you suffered so much in 2019, but this virus is likely to enter West Papua soon.

We must not panic, but we must prepare. I call on all my people to return to the way of life we have left, to grow our own gardens in our villages and sustain our livelihoods in the face of this pandemic. We can no longer rely on the Indonesian colonial regime to protect us from this virus. We must support each other and rely on the strength of our traditional way of life.

We have water, fruit, land, gardens – we can return to fishing, to eating our staples of sago and the vegetables of our villages. This is our best chance of avoiding the coronavirus and continuing our struggle for self-determination.

Our thoughts are with everyone around the world affected by this virus.

God bless you all.

Benny Wenda