From the desk of Benny Wenda, Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)

History was once again made at the United Nations General Assembly last week, as the voice of the West Papuan people was amplified for the ears of the world to hear. Demonstrating enduring Pacific solidarity, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Republic of Vanuatu all spoke out in support of West Papua and the need for our cause to be returned to the United Nations. The Solomon Islands also voiced its concerns over human rights abuses and violations.

All nations, whether large or small, use the UNGA to address their most urgent needs and pressing issues. Therefore, the fact that Pacific nations prioritized West Papua in their UNGA addresses is a direct result of the growing, regional public outcry for West Papua, and testimony to our rising profile and solidarity from around the region. As the sixth consecutive year of support for West Papua at the UN General Assembly; the uprising of international support, diplomatic pressure, and mass public solidarity for West Papua continues to have impact and warrant a response.

On behalf of the people of West Papua and the United Liberation Movement (ULMWP), I would like to hereby convey our deepest thanks, gratitude and respect to the governments of Vanuatu, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and many West Papuan friends around the world.

Over the last week or so, we have seen a surge in collective action and peaceful rallies across every region of West Papua, supporting the efforts of Vanuatu and other nations speaking up for West Papua at the United Nations. Mediated by ULMWP’s action committee and many resilient Papuan civil society groups, united in the spirit of true bravery and defiance, the people of West Papua have been taking to the streets, to reassert their will for self-determination. Such acts of courage have taken place despite the brutal response of the Indonesian government, which involved a systematic crackdown of mass arrests, torture and shootings.

As Chairman of ULMWP, my message to the people of West Papua is this; you are not alone. Your voices have been heard, your messages seen, and your spirit felt by leaders even at the highest level of the United Nations.  I can therefore convey a strong message to the people of West Papua of the ongoing progresses made within the framework of the United Nations for West Papuan self-determination. In small steps and giant leaps, we continue to move ever closer forward towards an independent, decolonized West Papua. ULMWP is fully confident of both our role and mission and we are full of faith and certain in our knowledge that one day, our long struggle will bear the sweet fruit of freedom and independence for West Papua.

As well as continuing to strengthen the struggle and solidify the unity of the people of West Papua inside the country, we will continue to work tirelessly, day and night at the United Nations and all levels of the international community. Let us continue to keep a flame alight in the darkness of colonial oppression and occupation.

Our progress at the United Nations has much to do with the fortitude and moral integrity of the Vanuatu government and people. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government’s thinly veiled threatening remarks towards Vanuatu and other countries that have the bravery to stand up to its oppressive, colonial oppression of human rights in West Papua will not scare us. We will not be intimidated by threats of under the false pretense of “territorial integrity”. What about the territorial integrity of West Papua, which was stolen by Indonesia through its illegal occupation of our country in 1969? If anything, the Indonesian government finally addressing West Papua in their UNGA speech is a clear effect of sustained grassroots and diplomatic pressure.

We are not afraid of Indonesia’s aggressive, threatening colonial rhetoric at home, at the UN or anywhere else. Our message to the Indonesian government remains; the world is watching you and your crimes against humanity in West Papua.

Indeed, the road to freedom is long and will continue to take time to walk but we West Papuans do not walk down this road alone. We walk the long road to freedom arm in arm with thousands upon thousands of friends around the world who have and will continue to do all they can to support us until we are finally free from the chains of Indonesia’s colonial bondage. We also carry with us those great heroes of the struggle who have died for our future and those other moral leaders around the world who fought and died in defense of humanity everywhere.

The hope of a free and independent West Papua is getting ever closer.

Benny Wenda

Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)