Office of Benny Wenda image

Benny has written this statement about the recent mass arrests and Indonesian military and police action near the Grasberg mine in Timika, West Papua

Dear everyone,

Photos have recently emerged from Timika in West Papua, showing scores of my people being stripped, tortured, herded like animals and then arrested, with their houses burnt down by the Indonesian authorities, simply for calling for our right to self-determination.

West Papuans being stripped, rounded up, and interrogated by Indonesian police in Timika
West Papuans being stripped, rounded up, and interrogated by armed Indonesian police in Timika

I am appalled that such police barbarism can go ahead unnoticed against innocent and defenseless people, especially at such close proximity to the world’s largest goldmine, Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer.

A few days ago in Utikini village near Timika West Papua, up to 116 West Papuans were tortured and arrested by armed Indonesian police and soldiers. 68 of the victims were men, 48 were women and 3 were children. It has been reported that more than 1000 Indonesian police and military personnel have been deployed to crush my people’s pro-independence aspirations in Timika. According to an Indonesian police chief, the Papuans in Utikini were arrested with dozens of their houses burnt down simply because the Indonesian authorities found banners in their possession, calling for an independence referendum to be held in West Papua.

The Indonesian police and soldiers had no right whatsoever to cause such rampant brutality in Utikini. This is another example of Indonesian forces trying to suppress my people just because we are calling for self-determination.

Indonesianpolice arrest and torture Papuans in Timika, West Papua
West Papuan civilians in Timika being herded together by the Indonesian police

This recent attack in Utikini village comes after 2 police officers were found killed by unknown persons in Timika a few days before. This sparked outrage among the Indonesian police and military who have mobilised more than 1000 troops in response. Papuans have been tortured with houses burned down and more than 100 people were arrested. I feel that this is a deliberate attempt by the Indonesian authorities to create more violence and killings in West Papua to try and drag public attention away from the massacre of 5 West Papuan schoolboys in Paniai last month. Why is it that when 5 Papuan schoolboys are killed, no-one is arrested? Yet when 2 Indonesian policemen are killed, more than 100 Papuans are arrested with dozens of homes burned to the ground?

West Papuan houses being burnt by the Indonesian military and police in Timika
West Papuan houses being burnt by the Indonesian military and police in Timika

The Indonesian authorities are always trying to create more violence and chaos in West Papua to hide their atrocities and legitimate more state attacks against us. Much of this violence occurs in the Timika area, around the Grasberg mine, operated by US Company PT Freeport. This mine pays the Indonesian military over 3 million dollars a year as “protection money” but we Papuans know the truth that the Indonesian military is not doing any protection but is instead trying to stir up more and more conflict in an effort to be given more “protection money” from the mining company. It has become a tradition of the Indonesian military to create violence around this mine. Many people have been killed by so called “unknown persons” and thousands of innocent Papuan villagers continue to be tortured and murdered by the Indonesian authorities.

“We are blamed for violence we did not create and persecuted for expressing our desires to be free.”

I am asking the world to please look and see the suffering of my people before it is too late. We West Papuans are being butchered like animals for the mining interests of the Indonesian government. How can the international community stand aside and look while images such as these continue to come out of West Papua of my people being stripped and treated like slaves by armed Indonesian police?

Indonesian police burn houses and arrest and torture innocent Papuans in Timika, West Papua4
Indonesian police interrogating innocent West Papuans after burning down dozens of houses in Utikini village

The real situation in West Papua is clear; all we want is our human right to self-determination. We want the freedom to determine our own future to live in our own country but the Indonesian government sees us Melanesian Papuans as merely obstacles in the way of their exploitation of our resources. They see us as subhuman, simply because of our difference in culture and skin colour and they continue to orchestrate the mass arrests, torture, murder of my people in villages like Utikini and other places all over West Papua, with no regards for our human rights or freedom of expression.

I am calling for organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to please help to condemn and expose these human rights atrocities in my country, as they did with the recent massacre of children in Paniai. To everyone reading this statement, please use your voice to help my people who are themselves voiceless.
Please write to your elected representative and ask them to raise support for my people’s self-determination in parliament so that an independence referendum can be held for West Papuans to finally have the freedom to decide what they want to happen to their country.

The violence being committed against my people by the Indonesian authorities is only increasing day by day and is continuing relentlessly under the reign of the new Indonesian president. My people do not want empty excuses from the Indonesian government or false promises of “development” or “autonomy”. We simply want the fulfillment of our human rights to self-determination and independence.We want West Papua to be given back to the Papuan people in order to end the cycle of violence being committed against us.

Please Take Action to help to stop the secret genocide in West Papua. Please help us to live freely in our own land before it is too late.

Thank you

Benny Wenda
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee
Founder of the Free West Papua Campaign