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Freedom for West Papua. May you find peace in Paradise

December 5, 2016

A Tribute to my fallen hero, brother, and friend
Niko Pode Mote
By Herman Wainggai

With a hand upon my heart, I feel The pride and respect;
My reverence is revealed

In the tears that now stream down my upturned face
As our flag waves above you, in her glory and grace.
Freedom was the gift that you unselfishly gave
Pain and deathwas the price that you ultimately paid.
Every day, I give my utmost admiration
To those who had fought to defend our nation.

~ Author Unknown ~

The sun will continue to shine over West Papua and the struggle will continue, but we will miss you tremendously! We walked together in this painful journey for years, now I can’t believe you not there anymore. You’ve been taken away too soon!

You were a true believer in our fight for freedom. Prior to my escape from West Papua, we worked together extremely hard to make sure our voices were heard. We worked together on many things, with the knowledge that if caught, we would be tortured and imprisoned for many years, or perhaps executed. You never gave up because of the danger we faced! Those precious time we spent together before I escaped to Australia will forever be cherished.

I remember all the things we did together as activists and your contributions to the cause. I Remember your smiles, jokes, and strength when we were hiding up in the mountains. Our walk along the beaches, and swim in the cold waters of Jayapura and how we always laughed in the midst of so much pain and turmoil. You and I knew, as activists, our danger was all around us yet we pressed on! It was a risk we took with so much courage!

In 2001, after I left prison, you accompanied on a flight to Timika flying over our beautiful home – West Papua. You and I marveled at the beauty of our land; the wonderful coasts of Jayapura, the Snowcapped mountains. We talked about the future and the possibility of our own country. We looked down to our beautiful land and dreamed of that day when we will be free to run our own political affairs. We also flew over the huge hole created by the “Freeport Mining Operation” in the mountains of our beloved land. We saw the destruction of our lands by foreigners who took them by force. That sight made our struggle worth everything. It made us ever more determined to fight on!

I just can’t believe you’re gone, my brother! Thinking about your death brings back painful memories; the pain you and I endured over the years. Some of the most painful experience I attempted to put behind my head are now occupying my mind. I tried to think about the good times we had together with other activists, but I’m so overwhelmed by the fact that you are not there anymore. In my heart, you are on a different a different journey; a metaphorical plane – a peaceful journey, in that “black coffin.” It’s time you rest from all the evils of his world. Aro sayang, sore tru…yu go pinis! (I’m sad indeed you gone)

The fight continues. Our journey continues. Our struggle our freedom rages on regardless of how determined Indonesia is to silence us. We will continue on with the same determination you had when you were with us. We’ll never quit!

Before I sign out, I want to leave you with the following words: thank you for everything you had done for the freedom of our people; the courage you’d shown in supporting our journey. You were there to greet us at the designated area where our canoe landed on the shores of Timika on our journey out of West Papua. I remember we ran out of petrol and you showed us where to get petrol and other supplies. I will never forget that my brother. It never occurred to me that it would be the last time I would see you.

When I heard you were killed, I wasn’t surprised because I know there was a tremendous risk in this struggle. Fate would find us one way or another. In this struggle, death was always at our doorstep. Your passing is hitting me hard because of who you are in our struggle and your courage and willingness to put your life on the line to make sure we escape West Papua. You are sorely missed!

Freedom is coming! It will be here soon, and how I wish you be there to witness it.

We will reap the fruits of our labor! We’ll enjoy the freedom that you gave your life for. All our West Papuan Melanesians will remember you and others who laid their lives down for their freedom!

We miss you so much!

May your soul rests in peace with our Lord.


wp Indigenous West Papuans send solidarity to Standing Rock

December 4, 2016

Indigenous West Papuans send solidarity to Standing Rock

By PMC Editor
December 5, 2016

A previous activist video on West Papua Independence Day. Video: Free West Papua

Indigenous groups from around Oceania have sent their support to the ongoing struggle in North Dakota in the United States.

While protesters at Standing Rock and West Papua may seem worlds apart, they share a common bond from an indigenous struggle against a larger oppressor, says West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda in a letter of solidarity and friendship.

“On behalf of the people of West Papua we offer solidarity to our indigenous brothers and sisters as we intimately understand the complicated struggles they are facing,” said Wenda via his website.

While last Thursday marked “West Papuan Independence Day,” the indigenous Melanesian people in West Papua are still subject to neo-colonial rule by Indonesia and have been struggling for independence for more than five decades.

West Papuans raising the banned Morning Star flag in defiance of Indonesian authorities in Yahukimo in the Highlands last Thursday. Image: Benny Wenda

Wenda said his independence movement was drawing parallels and inspiration from the ongoing protests in North Dakota and was “alarmed that their people, lands, and traditional ways of life have become threatened to the point of extinction.”

“As we witness militarised law enforcement agencies commit acts of violence against peaceful water protectors in the US, it reminds us of our own mistreatment at the hands of those intending to overpower and silence our voices,” he said.

Wenda, who is currently living in exile in the United Kingdom, added that “the urgent situation at Standing Rock reminds us to advocate for the right of every Indigenous person to protect their culture and religion, tribal systems and natural resources”.

Celebration hashtags
Around the world, supporters joined the celebration of West Papuan Independence Day through the hashtags #GlobalFlagRaising and #LetWestPapuaVote.

Because of a widespread media blackout by Indonesia, the independence movement gains little international coverage, but has increasingly taken to social media to raise awareness.

Wenda and Melbourne producer Airileke Ingram also released the track Sorong Samaraito coincide with the day.

On 1 December 1961, Melanesian West Papuan first raised their Morning Star flag, but were then annexed by Indonesia in 1969 in a controversial referendum after previously winning their independence from Dutch colonialism in 1963 and then being invaded by Indonesian paratroops.

In ongoing oppression, about 500,000 Melanesians are thought to have been killed by Indonesian authorities and face restrictions of movement and assembly, with many protesters being held as political prisoners.

Indigenous groups in Australia and New Zealand have also expressed their support for West Papua and Standing Rock.

A solidarity for West Papua rally at the Sydney Opera House at the weekend. Image: Australia West Papua Association (AWPA)

A number of New Zealanders from the Māori community have started posting versions of their traditional haka war dance to social media as a show of solidarity to the North American protesters.

“When one group of relations is being hurt, abused, being bullied, being ripped off, we all feel that – especially us as Māori – we are very much a leader to the indigenous people,” Te Hamura Nikora told Radio New Zealand.

Nikora, a New Zealand media personality, helped to create the Facebook page “Haka With Standing Rock”.

Huge news today: The Obama Administration just denied the final permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Yes, you read that right. Finally — after months of sustained resistance at Standing Rock and a chorus of protest from around the world — the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not grant permission for the pipeline to cross under the Missouri River, and ordered that the project undergo an environmental review.1

After a month of heartbreak and violence, I almost can’t believe that I get to write you this email. Organizing works. Resistance works. Indigenous leadership is powerful.

If you’re feeling as grateful and heartened as I am in this moment, take a minute to write a note of thanks to the Standing Rock water protectors whose victory this is.

This good news comes after months of Indigenous-led resistance at Standing Rock, where thousands of water protectors endured extraordinary violence at the hands of a militarized police force. Police and private security forces hired by the pipeline company used attack dogs, mace, rubber bullets, and water cannons — yet the water protectors stood their ground.

Their courage inspired and mobilized millions of people across the globe to take action for Indigenous sovereignty, clean water, and climate justice.

If you’re one of those people, click here to thank the water protectors at Standing Rock for the courage, the inspiration, and the hope.

As Indigenous leader Joye Braun said, "This is a day of victory, but we are still fighting a war." We’ve got so much more work to do, and under a Trump administration that work will be far from easy.

But today I feel like we can win. Today I know it.

Thank you, water protectors. Thank you, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Thank you, Indigenous-led organizations and organizers.

Thank you, movement.


Kendall & the team

221 arrested in three cities during West Papua pro-independence protests

December 2, 2016

221 arrested in three cities during West Papua pro-independence protests

Suara Papua – December 1, 2016

Arnold Belau, Jayapura — Indonesian colonial police arrested 221 people on December 1 in three different cities with 203 people arrested in Jakarta, four in Sentani, West Papua and 14 people in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

In Jakarta, a peaceful demonstration commemorating the anniversary of the birth of the Nation of West Papua which was led by the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-West Papua) and the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) ended with brutal arrests by the Metro Jaya regional police. Before being arrested, the protesters from the AMP and FRI-West Papua said they were ruffed up and protest materials seized.

"We hadn’t even reached the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle [in Central Jakarta] when we were blocked by security personnel. They (the security personnel) tore the Morning Star head bands off our heads, our command line was cut. Then we were sprayed with water from a water cannon. After this we were taken in four trucks to the Metro Jaya police headquarters", one of the protesters Roberta Muyapa told Suara Papua in Jakarta on December 1.

He said that after being taken to the Metro Jaya police headquarters the protesters were left to dry out in an open area for around four hours. All 203 of them, he said, were arrested by fully equipped Indonesian colonial police along with hundred of officers from the Metro Jaya regional police and Mobile Brigade paramilitary police.

Those arrested included FRI-West Papua spokesperson Surya Anta, AMP general chairperson Jefry Wenda, AMP Bandung activist Markus Medlama, Social Movement for Democracy (Gema Demokrasi) activist Yohanes Damian alias Galesh, Anka Thomas, Jefri Wanda, Frans Nawipa, Iriantibus Murib, Frans Douw, Pyan Pagawak and Minus Gibian.

Three of the 10 people arrested — Surya Anta, Jefry Wenda and Markus Medlama — were abused and assaulted by Indonesian colonial police. All of those arrested in Jakarta have now been released.

In Yogyakarta meanwhile, protesters from the AMP and FRI-West Papua who were holding a peaceful demonstration were reported to have been forcibly disbursed by Indonesian colonial police and members of intolerant mass organisations.

According to information received by Suara Papua, at 1pm Indonesian police together with scores of members of mass organisations lined up to block protesters from FRI-WP and then seized protest materials. A short time later police were ordered to arrest the protesters.

Fourteen people were forced into a truck and removed from the location. According to information from police they were taken to the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) but according to the latest information received at 2pm the 14 were taken to the Yogyakarta metropolitan district police (Polrestabes).

"We invite our comrades from pro-democracy groups to go to the Yogyakarta Polrestabes offices this afternoon to provide solidarity to our activist comrades that were arrested so that they will be released immediately", they said.

The 14 people arrested were Reza (Socialist Study Circle, LSS), Kukuh (Working People’s Association-Organisational Saviours Committee, KPO-PRP), Gevan (Student Struggle Center for National Liberation, Pembebasan), Opan (Muhammadiyah Regional Leadership, PMD), Randi (Pembebasan), Edo (LBH Yogyakarta), Adli (Pembebasan), Danial (Indonesian People’s United Resistance, PPRI), Opik (PMD), Asrul (Pembebasan), Andi, Aruk, Katek and Edi (Pembebasan). The 14 remain under arrest.

In the Papuan provincial capital of Jayapura meanwhile, West Papua National Committee (KNPB) General Secretary Ones Suhuniap when asked for confirmation by Suara Papua confirmed that four activists were arrested and taken to the Doyo municipal police.

Ones said that the four KNPB Sentani Ryang activists who had planned to attend a religious ceremony were stopped and arrested and that the KNPB Sentani secretariat was vandalised by officers from the Sentani municipal police.

"That’s correct. Four people were arrested in Sentani. But I don’t have their names yet. What is clear is that the information on the arrests is correct. We have asked that the state release them and all of those who were arrested in Yogyakarta", he said.

Based on information gathered by Suara Papua, 203 people were arrested in Jakarta, four were arrested in Sentani and 14 people were arrested in Yogyakarta.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the report was "221 Orang Ditangkap Pada 1 Desember 2016 di Tiga Kota".]


ULMWP Secretary General Speech: December 1st, 2016 Speech

December 2, 2016

ULMWP Secretary General Speech: December 1st, 2016 Speech

Papua Merdeka (3x) — Freedom (3x) for Papua!

To all the people of the Nation of West Papua, scattered all around the world, especially those who are gathered at the Balim Grand Valley, the heart of Papua, in the traditional region of Lani Pago.

On my behalf, that of my family and on behalf of the Board members of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), overseas as well those back in the home country of West Papua, I would like to welcome you with a unique form of greeting from this region which is now popular in the whole world: waa…waa…waaa… waaa (please reword this greeting with a unique form of greeting from your traditional language and culture and please remember to mention the name/s of the traditional landowner/s where the celebration festivity/ceremony is being held).

Today, as usual on every December 1st we gather to celebrate the events that occurred 55 years ago in New Hollandia. This has to do with the time when the Morning Star, our national, flag was flown for the first time and the National Anthem “Hai Tanahku Papua” (O, Papua my country) was sung along with the proclamation of other national symbols, i.e. the name of the Nation and the Country of West Papua. Of course such a viewpoint is true, because if only the Netherlands and other western nations did not betray us, the West Papuans, in relation to what they preached, the Papuan Nation should be the first country that would have gained their independence from the various colonial rulers in the region who controlled the Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian nations.

It is a pity that the history goes to a different direction. The Dutch colonial state left West Papua with its original character, a nation of merchants, did not care about the fate and the future of the West Papuan nation. They did not involve the official leaders of the Papuan people they had prepared more than 10 years earlier. Both the Dutch and the American governments conspired to sell the Papuan people to a new colonial regime, Indonesia, through the New York Agreement which was signed at the UN headquarters in New York on August 15th, 1962. This agreement was more than a slavery transaction. As what was sold was not only the freedom of 1025 Papuans who were threatened at gun point by the Indonesian armed forces, but what was traded were the fate and the future of a whole nation, the Papuan Nation. In return, the Dutch nation enjoyed an economic advantage from various trade transactions up to the present moment and Indonesia paid the Americans by handing over the gold and copper mountain of Nemangkawi in Papua which is mined by the giant gold and copper mine company, Freeport McMoRan.

Dear fellow Papuan brothers and sisters whom I respect, each time we behold the Morning Star from whatever angle, it always strengthens our national sentiments. Every time we sing the National Anthem “Hai Tanahku, Papua”, it always burns our sentiments of love even brighter for our home country, Papua (West Papua). All of these activities are just like life blood that flows within each one of us, children of our country who help each other reach the ultimate goal of the formation and founding of the Nation State of West Papua. This freedom movement has been fought for, taken turn by various national leaderships through various national forums which were initiated by the West Papua National Committee (1961), Second Congress of the Papuan People (2000) to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (2014).

In the first Papuan Congress national symbols were produced, then in the 2nd Papuan Congress, the Papuan people, through a resolution, decided that the history of the integration of Papua into the Republic of Indonesia be straightened out. That is to say that (aa) the people of Papua have been sovereign as a nation since December 1, 1961, and (bb) that the Nation of Papua reject the New York Agreement morally and legally, as it was set up without the involvement of the representatives of the Papuan Nation and that (cc) the People of the Papuan Nation, through the Second Congress, rejected the results of the Act of Free Choice, since it was carried out by force, intimidation, sadistic killings, various other criminal and immoral actions that are in violation of human rights, all carried out by the Indonesian Armed Forces. That is why, the people of the Papuan Nation, through the 2nd Congress, demanded that the UN cancel Resolution 2504 of November 19th, 1969.

Through such a historical journey of the Papuan Nation, ULMWP is aware of its duty in to bring into fruition the sovereignty of the Papuan Nation. The challenge is how to ensure the support of at least one third of the total number of the UN member nations. That is why ULMWP changes its diplomatic pattern, not like in and after the 60s of the last century, i.e. lobbying not out of Papua anymore to the Western world and Africa. ULMWP is focusing its support from the countries in the Pacific Region. In the first two years, ULMWP is strengthening its support base in this region through its network sought and received from the traditional and customary institutions, NGOs, Church/Ecclesiastical, Educational and Political institutions. Institutionally, ULMWP started out by becoming an observer and now it is in the process of becoming a full member of MSG (Melanesian Spearhood Group). In the second year that support will increase or spread out from Melanesian Region to Polynesian and Micronesian regions though a new forum called Pacific Islands Coalition on West Papua (PICWP) which was formed through the initiative of the Solomon Island Prime Minister, Mr. Manase Sogovare, who is also the Chairman of the MSG.

From the viewpoint of political support, the ULMWP’s lobby has succeeded in making the Papuan freedom issue become one of the important issues in the Pacific Region. In its 2015 annual conference the member nations of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) decided to send a team of facts gatherers to Papua. Indonesia disagreed and refused to allow this team to gather the facts, however politically we have scored a win in this diplomacy. In their 2016 conference all the PIF leaders in their communique again made a decision that the Papuan issue will always be an agenda of discussion in their annual meetings. Besides this, there are at least 7 member nations who collectively put forward the Papuan issue. Besides basic human rights violation issues, they also demanded UN’s responsibility to intervene, including opening and revisiting the validity of the decisions made during the implementation of the Act of Free Choice in 1969 carried out under the New York Agreement.

Brothers and sisters of the Papuan Nation, the hard work of ULMWP is not limited only to the Pacific Region, but it covers also the State of Indonesia. The people of Indonesia, especially the educated segment of the population are now beginning to admit that a lot of ciminal activities/actions have been carried out by the Indonesian Government and its armed forces against the West Papuan people. Moreover, this week we have witnessed the declaration of the Front Rakyat Indonesia untuk West Papua (FRI-West Papua), i.e. Indonesian People Front for West Papua. This movement of the Indonesian People at the moment has increased to support the right of the West Papuan people to be independent as a sovereign nation.

On the other hand, various groups of the Papuan People in the Netherlands have emerged to demand a legal litigation against the Dutch Government which did not carry out its responsibility in protecting the rights and the interest of the Papuans as its subjects. In that process of legal litigation, from its outset they have consulted with ULMWP.

Finally, it should be noted that the rise of the Pacific nations has caused quite a few UN member nations from different parts of the world that are flabergasted and as a result have seriously followed every development that are currently happening in Indonesia and Papua.

We should be praising God and be thankful to Him for all the progress reported above. These all happened as a result of His mercy and love. However, we are still faced with a lot of challenges that are building up. Hence, ULMWP needs a lot of prayer and financial support to carry out political diplomacy in various parts of the world, as the focus of our lobbying has moved from the Pacific region to cover the whole world since September 2016. Hence, the focus of ULMWP has widened its scope from ensuring the MSG membership to forming a coalition of Support for West Papua in other parts of the globe. The support should be consistent, not just once or twice, including taking part in securing support from other UN member nations. All the Papuans should rise up to lobby in their own ways to look for support from various nations of the world wherever we are. Let them know that we want their support in cancelling the 2504 Resolution of 1969 and let the Papuan have their sovereignty in a peaceful way.

May God of the Papuan Nation, our Ancestors and the blood of those freedom fighters that have gone before us be with us and bless us all. Papua … Merdeka (3x)

UNIQUE_PEOPLES Day of West Papuan Independence

December 1, 2016

1st of December – Day of West Papuan Independence
West Papuans have been dying for their freedom and independence over the past 54 years

Historic injustices caused in West-Papua at first by the colonial entities of Germany and The Netherlands, enforced by corrupt United Nations manipulations and the greed of the Anglo-American military-industrial complex still provide the playing field for mercenaries, missionaries and corporate mischiefs under the OverLord-ship of the so-called Republic of Indonesia, a brutal regime developed by dictators like the communist Sukarno and US-vasal General Suharto, as well as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who are all guilty of genocide against the aboriginal peoples of West-Papua. Since the Suharto dictatorship annexed the region in a 1969 UN referendum largely seen as a fixed land grab, an estimated 500,000 West Papuans have been killed in their fight for self-rule.

The current president of Indonesia, Ir. H. Joko Widodo has the duty and chance to finally release West Papua into independence, but recent, illegal and unwarranted mass-arrests of West-Papuan freedom supporters show that the Indonesian armed forces and the administration, backed and instructed by corporate interests, have their own ways and means to maintain the horrific situation under which the indigenous peoples of West Papua suffer since 54 years.

Decades of military and police oppression, kidnapping and torture have created a long-standing culture of fear. Local and foreign journalists are routinely banned, detained, beaten and forced to face trial on trumped-up charges. Undercover police regularly trail indigenous, religious, social and political leaders. And children still in primary school have been jailed for taking part in demonstrations calling for the independence of West-Papua from Indonesia.

The Grasberg mine in West-Papua, one of the biggest gold mines – and third largest copper mine – in the world is majority-owned by the American mining firm Freeport McMoRan. Grasberg is now Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, with reserves worth an estimated $100bn (£80bn). But a recent fact-finding mission described a genocide is taking place there and warned that the indigenous population of West-Papua is still not benefiting from these exploitations but put at serious risk not only to loose their unique cultures and sustainable livelihoods but actually become extinct.

Free eBook CRYING FREEDOM on illustrates 50 years of heroic peaceful resistance in #WestPapua #LetWestPapuaVote #PapuaMerdeka

For those of you interested in reading the book’s current synopsis without having to find it online, here it is:

A young indigenous woman struggles to find hope and courage amid political intrigue and imminent danger in this interactive, illustrated story for adults. Vivi’s story is set against the true-to-life backdrop of the continuing global conspiracy to hide genocide, persecution and injustice in West Papua, a massive but obscure part of the world that rivals the Amazon for biological and cultural diversity as well as significance for climate change.

Mass arrests, assassinations and torture in West Papua continue to this day, adding urgency to this woman’s shocking yet tender story about her love for her brothers, her struggle to protect them, and a shared quest to free their ancient homeland from military occupation and militarized commerce.

Warning: Brutal violence is briefly described in the first chapter and depicted in some of the paintings and illustrations.

CRYING FREEDOM was created by a collaboration of artists, academics and activists from four continents as an outcry against more than fifty years of non-violent resistance in West Papua. It includes sixty paintings and illustrations, as well as fifty (optional) pop-up footnotes and image descriptions for readers who want to learn more about the current situation and the astonishing people who inhabit the western half of the world’s second largest island.

All proceeds from the sale of this eBook will be used to fund translations or otherwise support the West Papuan struggle for self-determination.


Papua Merdeka!

Why not inspire others to join the struggle for freedom of West Papua? You can help explain the complexity of the West Papuan conundrum through story and visual art. Suggest they visit (the new free release of "Crying Freedom: Heroic tales from the unstoppable nation of West Papua"). is also running as much online advertising as possible leading up to the crucial Melanesian Spearhead Group decision in December 2016.

But your help remains the most effective marketing tool to broadcast the West Papuan message of Crying Freedom. It’s what West Papuans have been dying for over the past 54 years. Please do what you can, and do it now.

Use your website, email list, Facebook page, Twitter, or any other means to help us broadcast the urgent message of Crying Freedom.

For best effect, you can also include an image of the eBook cover at

And here’s a suggested Tweet:
Free eBook on illustrates 50 years of heroic peaceful resistance in #WestPapua #LetWestPapuaVote #PapuaMerdeka

Leaders agree to disagree on West Papua

November 30, 2016

Islands Business, October 2016

The Region

Leaders agree to disagree on West Papua

by Nic Maclellan

THE issue of West Papua remains a headache for the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

Member countries like Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are reluctant to grant full membership to the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP), which is lobbying for . regional support. But the issue will not go away, as civil society networks call on their leaders to support the right to self-determination.

First adopted in 2014, the Framework for Pacific Regionalism (FPR) is the new policy mechanism for business and community organisations to put forward submissions for regional action by the Forum. In both 2015 and this year, the largest number of submissions through the FPR called for action on West Papua.

In Pohnpei, civil society representatives also met over breakfast with a troika of island leaders, lobbying for the Forum to take the West Papuan issue to the international community. Despite this, the final Forum communique simply states that "leaders recognised the political sensitivities of the issue of West Papua (Papua) and agreed the issue of alleged human rights violations in West Papua should remain on their agenda. Leaders also agreed on the importance of an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the issue."

After the meeting, Emele Duituturaga, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO) said: "We know that the draft text reflected their intention to take West Papua to the United Nations, but when the final communique was released, it had been watered down." "We know that a couple of members had hoped the issue of West Papua would be removed altogether," Duituturaga said. "It is obvious that geopolitics were at play, which brings to question whether in fact our leaders can be bold and courageous in the presence of neighbouring powers like Australia and New Zealand."

Sources from the leaders’ retreat confirmed to Islands Business that Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull personally changed the language from the communique.

The reference to "alleged" human Dame Meg Taylor … the West Papua issue "is just not g( it’s very Important to our region". rights violations is much weaker language than used in other regional statements – for example, the 2013 Melanesian Spearhead Group summit supported "the inalienable rights of the people of West Papua towards self-determination" and condemned ‘human rights violations and other forms of atrocities relating to the West Papuan people"!

The reluctance of some Forum leaders to state the obvious is striking. More than 100,000 people have died in West Papua since Indonesia’s annexation under the Act of Free Choice in 1969. Ongoing human rights violations by Indonesian police and military have been documented by a range of independent bodies – from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to Indonesia’s National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).

Speaking after the leaders retreat, Forum host FSM President Peter Christian explained: "There are two main issues. One of them is the allegations of human rights violations. The other is the wish of the West Papuans to have a more sovereign independent state. These two issues are very important, but the second one is kind of tricky because West Papua is under Indonesia. So we decided that we should deal with this as a bilateral issue with the state of Indonesia."

Christian noted: "The leaders made a decision to move forward, but to take it to another forum that is larger than us, and that’s the United Nations, most particularly on allegations of human rights violations. At this point. Pacific Island Forum leaders cannot say with certainty there were human rights violations. What we’ve decided is we will go to the United Nations and try to project our views to them to see if they could help address the issue of West Papua."

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi – who will host the 2017 Forum in Apia – told journalists: "It must be understood that West Papua ing to go to sleep … it shouldn’t go to sleep, because is part of Indonesia and any other way of handling it is interfering with Indonesia’s national interests. That is why the only way to do this is through the United Nations under the right to self-determination."

PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill reaffirmed the same stand: "We’re quite happy for member states to debate on those issues, but we’ve always stated that we must engage meaningfully with Indonesia on this issue."

O’Neill noted: "Papua New Guinea is in a very sensitive position because of the border that we share with Indonesia. Our position has been very clear from day one. This is not an issue that Pacific Island Forum leaders and the Forum itself has been mandated to do, but it does not stop Forum members from listing this issue at the United Nations and for the United Nations to determine under their decolonisation program."

Given the lack of agreement in the Forum, individual countries will now work through the Pacific Coalition on West Papua (PCWP), to lobby at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other UN structures. Under the coalition umbrella, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia’s FLNKS independence movement are now joined by Nauru, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands, as well as churches and civil society groups like PIANGO.

The leaders’ agreement that West Papua should remain on next year’s Forum agenda in Apia reflects ongoing concern from citizens around the region. In Pohnpei, Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor noted: "It’s an issue that needs to be pursued and it’s not going to go away. Our bigger countries in the region like Australia and New Zealand realise that this issue is just not going to go to sleep – and it shouldn’t go to sleep, because it is very important for our region."

• nicmac3056
Islands Business, October 2016

Interview with Herman Wainggai, a leader of a nonviolent movement in West Papua to discuss their fight for self determination

November 30, 2016

Indonesia came to absorb the region known as West Papua in 1969 following the withdrawal of the Dutch colonial administration. This occupation resulted in a protracted conflict over freedom and autonomy between the Indonesian government and the indigenous people of West Papua. For more than five decades, the West Papuans have organized many protests and ceremonies aimed at attaining self-determination or joining Papua New Guinea as part of a federation of independence states. This interview was conducted with Herman Wainggai, a leader of a nonviolent movement in West Papua to discuss their fight for self determination and prospects for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your struggle for freedom in West Papua faces?

There are many challenges that stand in the way in our fight for self-determination and freedom; physical and psychological torture, long term imprisonment, and death are some of severe challenges political activists and their families face every day. Growing up in the 1970s, I heard tons of sad stories about the circumstances leading up to the occupation of West Papua – my home, and the struggle that ensued. As I grew older, I came to witness the severe nature of the struggle. I witnessed many heartbreaking events that affected me tremendously. When I stepped and participated in the struggle and became a political activist, I was arrested twice and jailed just for leading peaceful indigenous people in public demonstration. In jail, I came to experience firsthand the horrible treatment of political prisoners and the real danger we faced just for speaking out peacefully about the history of our home and our disagreement with the way Indonesia took control of our people and land. Today, hundreds of younger activists are in jail, going through the same treatment I did in what I think violated international convention on human rights. The sad thing is that most of them are being arrested under false charges, yet, they are compelled to serve long prison terms without proper legal representations.

In your opinion, why do you think Indonesia is doing this?

These are not opinions, they are facts. Since Indonesia occupied West Papua in the 1960s, its main objective in keeping West Papua under its control was “militarization” of our lands. They do not want to give up West Papua to the pro-independence movement knowing that if West Papuans get the opportunity to vote for self-determination it will be the last time they [Indonesia] will be occupy our lands. In fact, there are more military and police posts throughout West Papua and they exert tremendous control of our indigenous people. Certain activities you see in democratic countries are banned in West Papua and the consequences of violating them often ranged from arrest, prolonged incarceration, or execution by order of the government. All of these actions by Indonesia are designed to keep West Papuans under control. What was invented during the days of Sukarno and Suharto remain unchanged even though the Indonesian government has gone through internal shake-ups in the late 1990s. Every president after Suharto has maintained this military approach. We are being denied our rights to the kind freedom enjoyed by our fellow Pacific Islanders – including Australia and New Zealand.

What are some of the next steps that you and other leaders are taking in your struggle?

The next steps we need to take and will continue to pursue is to cement our reputation in the region and then reaching out to the international community and the United Nations to recognize our struggles and our fight for self-determination. And to hold Indonesia to the standard of conducted required by all UN member states, which means that if Indonesia claims to be a Democratic country, it must also respect our rights to speech and expressions – meaning Indonesia must be held accountable for beating up innocent protesters or incarceration of indigenous West Papuans without the due process of law.

First, our reputation in the region is extremely important. Over the years, the Melanesian organization known as “Melanesian Spearhead Group” (MSG) has recognized our struggle as a struggle between an occupied indigenous Melanesian people and its occupier – Indonesia. Its decision to recognize the United Liberation Movement for West Papua as the legitimate West Papuan organization is a step in the right direction. It makes the externalization of our struggle.

Secondly, the United Nations involvement in our struggle goes back to the 1960s and it is crucial that the UN leadership corrects the wrongs of the past five decades. We know for a fact that the UN was complicit the occupation of our lands and for decades ignored our plea for reparation and restitution. However, the past few years, there’s hope that the UN is taking the course of our people in the right direction. It starts with the recognition of the “indigenous people” of the world, which gives us (West Papuans) the opportunity to express our opinions outside of Indonesia. This very declaration is crucial to our nonviolent resistant movement.

Finally, accountability and Indonesian obligation to transparency are what we hope to achieve in the long run. As peaceful political activists, our hope is to bring Indonesia to recognition that that controversial agreement known as the New York Agreement and the referendum known as the “Act of Free Choice” were at best passed without a single representation of indigenous West Papuans. The failure of giving our indigenous people at least a voice in these controversial agreements is synonymous to the “taxation without representation” that trigged the US Revolution and the subsequent founding of the United States of America. Recognizing would be the beginning of a new era. Furthermore, Indonesia must submit to transparency – acknowledging that West Papuans are entitled, as a unique indigenous people, to the freedom and rights protected by International laws on human rights. Meaning, Indonesia must come clean in how it handled matters related to West Papuans peaceful self-determination struggle. It is not enough for the Indonesian government to herald its constitution when in action; it violated its own laws and International human rights laws. These are things we are hoping to active with the ongoing meetings at the United Nations on “indigenous peoples” and their “protected rights”.

Above all, we will continue to work hard to bring our case to the UN. Our freedom cannot be achieved if there’s no intervention from the international community. If Indonesia insists West Papua belongs to Indonesia, by all means – let the people vote for a referendum. A vote for self-determination or “integration with Indonesia” is crucial for transparency. If the people don’t want to be ruled or suppressed, they will vote for their own self-determination. Thus, it is suffice to say that Indonesian refusal to hold a referendum is because West Papuans would vote for their own freedom.

What we have seen over the years is the government of Indonesia fighting extremely hard to prevent West Papuan issues from external attention. Instead of helping West Papuans transitioned to a free society, it has spent millions trying to sway opinions against West Papuans in the Pacific region. This is the action of a government that wants nothing to do with freedom and transparency. We don’t want to fight; we want our vote – we want to exercise our legal rights to vote for our future.

What are some of the steps that the international community is taking in this conflict?

Academics have written about our struggle providing important data about the deaths, abuses, and illegal imprisonment of ordinary West Papuans, but to this day the world pretends nothing is there to see. So much crime committed against our people and no one seemed to ask why. It’s been years since Indonesia banned journalists from visiting West Papua and the reason is Indonesia doesn’t want reporters in West Papua to tell the world what’s going on. They don’t want their mass arrests, execution, and imprisonment of innocent people reported to the world.

Thus, to this day, the International community in general, except a few Pacific Island nations, is not actively working on bringing West Papuan issue to the fore when it comes to debate on global issues, but there are important developments that we believe will break this deadlock. The human rights forums at the United Nations is a very good newly created forums for indigenous people’s issues across the world. We’ve been attending this forum since its opening in about five years ago. Earlier this year, representatives from West Papua and I met at the UNGA where we expressed our concerns over Indonesia’s handling of our struggle, before leaders of the UN and various indigenous organizations around the world. This is a crucial move by the UN and the International community which will bring spotlight to our own struggle.

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