All Eyes on Papua: President Wenda statement

June 10, 2024

For years, West Papuans have been telling the world that we are the victims of two connected crimes: genocide and ecocide. Over 500,000 Papuans have been killed since the Indonesian occupation began in the 1960s, while millions of acres of ancestral land – forests, rivers, and mountains – have been destroyed and poisoned for Indonesian and corporate profit.

Now, through the #AllEyesonPapua hashtag, which has gone viral on Indonesian social media, we are seeing Indonesians finally waking up to the crimes their government is committing in West Papua. For decades, Indonesia has hidden West Papua from the world, through a combination of media blackouts, torture, murder, and a brutal ban on international and domestic journalism that has made our country the Pacific North Korea.

But technology and social media are helping break down Indonesia’s information prison in West Papua. Indonesian NGOs, solidarity groups, and most importantly, ordinary citizens, are all finding out the truth about the giant Palm Oil plantations, mines, and energy estates that are ripping apart the West Papuan environment. The struggle of the Awyu people to protect their lands against the massive Tanah Merah project – set to become the largest Palm Oil plantation on earth – has captured the hearts of Indonesian citizens. The Awyu people are facing the loss of their land, their hunting grounds, their livelihoods. The forest is our supermarket and our medicine cabinet; everything we need is there. How can we survive without it? 

It is important that Indonesian citizens realise that the environmental damage they are witnessing cannot exist without genocide, ethnic cleansing, and racism. Ecocide and genocide: they are one package in West Papua. Indonesia clears our forest and displaces our people in order to open access to our land for big corporations. People must also realise that self-determination is the root cause of all environmental issues in West Papua. To stop the destruction, we must be allowed to manage our own affairs, as we did for thousands of years before colonialism. Papua Merdeka is the answer to #AllEyesonPapua.

Against Indonesia’s ecocidal devastation, the ULMWP are offering the world our Green State Vision for a liberated West Papua. Drawing on our Indigenous Papuan knowledge to combat the climate emergency, the Green State Vision will restore balance to our land after 60 years of deforestation. It is our promise to the world: support our independence, and we will help you fight climate change by protecting the world’s third largest rainforest. Since we launched the Green State Vision at COP26, we have only seen more destruction, more mining concessions, more bio-ethanol oil estates, more plantations constructed on stolen Papuan land. 

Nowhere will suffer more from climate change than the Pacific. Whole countries are at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels, while in Vanuatu and PNG we are seeing more cyclones and other natural disasters than ever before. Pacific leaders must resist Indonesia cheque-book diplomacy and support West Papua to take real action on climate change. With one hand, Indonesia offers aid to Pacific nations following natural disasters; with the other, they count the money from multi-national corporations in return for chopping down West Papuan forests.

The ULMWP are calling on all international media to keep All Eyes on Papua, not to look away as Indonesia destroys our land. 

Benny Wenda