West Papuan People’s Petition signed by 1.8 million West Papuans handed to the UN by ULMWP

PRESS RELEASE

Petition for West Papuan self-determination signed by 1.8 million West Papuans and handed to UN by West Papuan leaders

ULMWP Spokesperson Benny Wenda thanking Solomon Islands Prime Minister H.E. Manasseh Sogavare after his UNGA speech supporting West Papuan self-determination. Photo: ULMWP.
  • Petition for decolonisation and internationally supervised vote for West Papuan self-determination, signed by 1.8 million people (and 70.88% West Papua’s indigenous population);
  • West Papuans risk arrest and their lives to sign petition;
  • Follows Global Petition for West Papua swum 69km across Lake Geneva to UN in August; supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Professor Noam Chomsky
  • West Papuan independence campaign supported by Pacific and Caribbean nations and UK Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

On September 26, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the West Papuan People’s Petition was handed over to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee by the West Papuan independence leaders. The petition is signed by an unprecedented 1.8 million people, 95.77% being indigenous West Papuans and the remainder Indonesian settlers. The number of indigenous West Papuan signatures represents over 70% of the indigenous population). The petition calls for a vote on self-determination. The news follows shortly after the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines governments made strongly-worded statements at the UN General Assembly, supporting West Papuan self-determination.

The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, described the petition as incredibly important and stated that the people of West Papua had effectively already voted to demand their self-determination. In his UNGA speech, he stated: “They have come in numbers to express their hope for a better future.”

Speaking in New York, Spokesperson of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Benny Wenda said: 

Today, we hand over the bones of the people of West Papua to the United Nations and the world. After decades of suffering, decades of genocide, decades of occupation, today we open up the voice of the West Papuan people which lives inside this petition. We reject the Indonesian government’s fraudulent Act of NO Choice that was a gross violation of international law.

UK Opposition Leader Hon. Jeremy Corbyn MP being presented with the West Papuan People’s Petition by ULMWP Spokesperson Benny Wenda

We the people of West Papua, supported by the international community have overwhelmingly put our faith and confidence in the demands of this petition. As a non-self-governing territory with the right to full freedom and independence, we demand to be re-enlisted on the list of non-self-governing territories after being illegitimately removed in 1963. We demand that our fundamental right to self-determination be peacefully exercised in an internationally supervised vote.

Signing the petition was a dangerous act for West Papuans: 57 people were arrested for supporting petition, and 54 tortured at the hands of Indonesian security forces during the campaign. One West Papuan, Yanto Awerkion, faces 15-year jail sentence for “treason/rebellion” for supporting petition.

Upon launching the petition, it was swiftly outlawed in Indonesia with threats of imprisonment for anyone caught signing it. The Global Petition for West Papua, run in tandem with the West Papuan People’s Petition, was also targeted and the platform that initially hosted it, Avaaz, was blocked throughout all of Indonesia.

Dr Jason Macleod from the University of Sydney’s Department of Peace and Conflict Studies helped to validate the petition and said:

The petition is an impressive example of community organisation and mobilisation across West Papua, one that reflects the sincere demands of the West Papuan people for self-determination. The petition needs to be understood as a fundamental rejection of the Indonesian government’s claim of sovereignty over West Papua. In a very clear and direct manner, the petition represents Papuans demand for decolonisation and self-determination, their desire to freely and fairly determine their own future. This right has been, and continues to be, denied.

Yanto Awerkion in his cell after being arrested by the Indonesian police on 30th May for organising a petition gathering. Photo: West Papua National Committee (KNPB).

 [ENDS]

CONTACT (interviews available): Office of Benny Wenda (office@bennywenda.org, +44 1865 403202, 10AM-4PM UK time), Ash Brennan (+44 7983 786174) Dr Jason Macleod (+61  402 746 002)

BACKGROUND

The manual petition inside West Papua was launched officially on April 5, 2017, by representatives from the 3 main organisations that make up the ULMWP, the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL), The Federated Republic of West Papua (FRWP) and the West Papua National Parliament (PNWP).

The text of the petition reads as follows:

We call on you to urgently address the human rights situation in West Papua and to review the UN’s involvement in the administration of West Papua that led to its unlawful annexation by Indonesia ‐- and the human rights abuse that continues today. We call upon you to: – appoint a Special Representative to investigate the human rights situation in West Papua; – put West Papua back on the Decolonisation Committee agenda and ensure our right to self‐determination – denied to us in 1969 – is respected by holding an Internationally Supervised Vote (in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolutions 1514 and 1541 (XV)).

The West Papuan People’s Petition follows the Global Petition for West Papua, which was swum 69km across Lake Geneva and delivered to the UN Human Rights Commission by the Swim for West Papua team.

The ULMWP and the West Papuans who signed the petition hope that it will provide key evidence to the United Nations and the international community that the people of West Papua have shown their overwhelming support for a referendum on independence.

Despite the legally binding promise of the New York Agreement and other international mandates, the people of West Papua have never had their fundamental right to self-determination expressed. This fundamental right was systematically violated and denied in the 1969 “Act of Free Choice”, known to West Papuans as the ‘Act of NO Choice’.