Benny Wenda on the West Papuan People’s Petition
October 20, 2017
The West Papuan people’s petition is no hoax: it is the voice of our people – signed by the majority of West Papuans
The real hoax is Indonesia’s justification for its occupation of West Papua
This week I delivered a petition signed by the majority of West Papuans to the United Nations, calling on the UN to act over human rights abuses in West Papua and to carry out its 1962 commitment to ensure West Papuans have the opportunity freely to exercise their right to self-determination.
This petition is more than just paper. These signatures are the bones and blood of my people who have been killed and who have suffered; and who continue to suffer and die under Indonesian occupation. This petition was presented with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart as I handed over the spirit of my people, people who have struggled and died in a neglected genocide for over 50 years, for the world to finally hear their voice.
I personally delivered the 1.8 million voices of my people to a senior representative at the UN, in the presence of my fellow United Liberation Movement for West Papua leader Rex Rumakiek and my lawyer who advises the movement. I have also communicated it to the Secretariat of the Decolonisation Committee and the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the General Assembly, with a request that the UN review the situation of West Papua.
Suggestions by Indonesian officials that the petition is a hoax or that it was not delivered to the UN are baseless and part of the continuing smokescreen of disinformation aimed at denying the West Papuan people their inalienable rights.
Since I received the names and signatures into my possession, I have felt a great responsibility and an honour. The Petition is an unprecedented effort of mass mobilisation by my people, conducted and delivered to me at great personal risk – under threat of violence, arrest and torture. I have carried it with me on every journey I have made since I received it, including to UK parliament, to the UN in Geneva and in New York. I have shown it to everyone I have met, including political leaders, friends, and UN delegates.
This was my responsibility and I will never let my people down. The petition is the democratic voice of the West Papuan people and we will not be silenced or denied our rights.
The West Papuan Peoples Petition is an unprecedented democratic act demonstrating the will of my people for self-determination. It was signed by 1,804,421 people: 1,708,167 indigenous West Papuans and 96,254 Indonesian settlers. The number of indigenous signatories represents an estimated 70.88% of the indigenous population of West Papua according to the latest independent research.
This shows to the world what would have happened in 1969 if we had been given the free and fair vote promised to us by the UN and to which we are entitled to under international law.
West Papua would have been the first independent Melanesian state – before Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Kanaky/New Caledonia.
Instead, West Papua was taken off the Non-Self Governing Territories list, placed under UN administration and then Indonesian administration with the stated requirement that we would be given a free and fair vote for self-determination. Indonesia knew it had obligations to us and to the international community to give us a vote where all Papuans would have a say.
Instead, Indonesia hand-picked 1,026 people and forced them to vote under threat of violence – and then told the world that my people had voted to join Indonesia. This is the real hoax.
The West Papuan People’s Petition shows the true will of my people and proves the words of former UN Under Secretary-General, Chakravaarthi V. Narasimhan, about the 1969 vote:
It was just a whitewash. The mood at the United Nations was to get rid of this problem as quickly as possible … Nobody gave a thought to the fact that there were a million people there who had their fundamental human rights trampled.
The Petition serves to remind the UN of this legacy, its cost to the lives of my people, and of their sacred duty under the UN Charter to bring West Papua to self-government and independence. It proves that, had we been given the vote we were entitled to, we would be celebrating over 50 years of independence instead of decades of Indonesian occupation and oppression.
As expected, Indonesia will do anything and everything to try to discredit the People’s Petition, discredit myself and other West Papuan leaders, and discredit the West Papuan people themselves.
Indonesia claims our Petition is a hoax, but their actions to try to prevent the signatures from being collected only underlines its authenticity: West Papuans were arrested and tortured for signing this Petition and Yanto Awerkion remains in jail, charged with treason, for organising a gathering in support of it.
As we grow in strength, Indonesian efforts to crush the West Papuan people will intensify. I implore all West Papuans and our supporters not to let rumour and sabotage weaken, deflect or neutralise this unprecedented democratic appeal to the United Nations. We must stay united.
Our road to freedom is long. We invite all governments and people around the world to join us and stand up for truth and justice in our struggle to end colonial Indonesian colonial rule in our land. We, the people of West Papua are fully confident that one day we will finally be free.
With the West Papuan People’s Petition, we the people of West Papua appeal to the United Nations and to the world to see our aspirations for the future. We call upon the UN to support our fundamental right to self-determination that was illegitimately and unlawfully taken by Indonesia in 1969. Let the will of the West Papuan people finally be tested under the scrutiny of the world through a genuine act of self-determination for all West Papuan people; an Internationally Supervised Vote.
West Papuan Independence Leader
Spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP)