Below is the full version of the speech that Benny Wenda gave to an IPWP meeting in the UK Parliament on October 18th. The meeting called for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be urgently allowed to visit West Papua, and supported the recent MSG Leaders’ communique urging a visit as soon as possible.
Thank you to everyone who has come here today, to Alex for helping to organise. Thank you to Catalan and the Basques, Senator Gorka and President Puigdemont. This is an important moment. There has never been this level of momentum for a UN visit to West Papua.
Over 85 countries have now called for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to be allowed to visit West Papua. First, the Pacific Islands Forum made this call in 2019. Then, the Organisation of African Caribbean Pacific states urged a UN visit, first in 2019 and then again in 2021. Hopefully, there will be another call at the OACP meeting coming up in November. Other countries including Spain, Netherlands and the UK have also joined the call.
Now, the Melanesian Spearhead Group have issued their own communique calling for the visit to happen as soon as possible. We are here to support this call. I welcome the MSG communique, but words have to mean action. Even since the MSG meeting Indonesia has killed many West Papuans, and tortured and displaced even more.
Melanesian leaders should ask themselves: are we trying to save West Papuans, or are we allowing Indonesia to carry on their occupation with impunity? The MSG and PIF must do all in their power to secure a visit.
Indonesia said they would facilitate a UN visit in 2018. But five years have passed and they are still refusing. In that time, there have been three different UN High Commissioners! West Papua is like North Korea – totally closed off from the world.
Now is the time for the UK Government to play a bigger role in pushing for the UN visit. The UK have already said that they support this visit happening, but what have they done to put pressure on Indonesia? Indonesia kill West Papuans because the world does not see. They have shown they will only respond to international pressure. This pressure is high right now – we cannot let the pressure for a visit fall away.
Indonesia has hidden their occupation from the world for sixty years. In West Papua there are two crimes: genocide and ecocide. Since Indonesia’s occupation began, over 500,000 West Papuans have been killed. There has also been a big military escalation this year, with thousands more troops deployed to West Papua, adding to the 25,000 extra soldiers deployed since 2018.
In Wamena in February, eleven Papuan civilians were murdered by Indonesian Special Forces. In the last month alone there have been two mass killings in West Papua, one in Yahukimo and one in Fakfak. In Yahukimo the victims were five teenage boys. Indonesia labelled them as guerillas but this was a lie – they were just boys. They are targeting the new generation to stop our voice from being heard. West Papua is a killing field under Indonesian rule.
There is a hidden refugee crisis in West Papua. Last month, nearly one thousand of my people were displaced from their homes by military operations in the highlands. According to the UN, up to 100,000 West Papuans have been displaced since 2018. Tens of thousands of people are still forced to live in the bush, without food, water, or medicalcare.
What this shows is how badly West Papua needs a UN visit. West Papua is not safe under Indonesian rule. They try and stamp out our Melanesian culture. They put us in prison for raising our flag. They criminalise us growing dreadlocks. They even burn our churches. They destroy our traditional crops like Sago and replace them with Palm oil.
This is why the UN Special Advisor on Genocide recently said that we need international intervention. Only a UN visit will let the world see what is happening to my people. If Indonesia has nothing to hide, why do they continue to deny a visit?
I am very sad to see what is happening in Israel and Gaza. On behalf of West Papuans, I call for peace there. I also have great sympathy for Ukraine, which is being occupied by Russia. But those calling for peace in Europe and the Middle East should also call for peace in West Papua, which for sixty years has been killed, occupied, tortured by Indonesia.
True peace in West Papua means that Indonesia must first open up to international community. To everyone here I say: keep pushing. Soon the world will see what is happening in West Papua.