Benny Wenda: Welcome West Papua People’s Forum

As a leader of the West Papuan liberation movement, I welcome the opening of the 2023 West Papua People’s Forum today in Jayapura. The role of a leader is to stand behind the people and listen to their demands. We must therefore consider the demands made today very carefully. 

The joint statement (shown below) released by the People’s Forum is clear. The people demand democracy: the right to elect their own leaders, as provided for by our provisional constitution, not have them rotated in and out of power. They no longer want their leaders chosen on foreign soil – they want to elect their leaders inside West Papua, where our struggle and our constitution was born. This statement comes from all seven Regional Executives, representing the seven Customary Regions of West Papua. We must remember that our seven Regions correspond to the seven stripes on our Morning Star flag, representing the unity of the West Papuan nation. For the sake of unity, we must listen to the people’s voice. 

The seven regions declare their presence

The people also demand that the ULMWP follows our Constitution. They reject all decisions undertaken outside of the constitutional mechanism, including the dissolution of our provisional government at the ULMWP Summit in August. Our constitution must continue to be our guiding light. By following our constitution, by electing our leaders, West Papuans are demonstrating to the world that we are ready for statehood. I hope the Legislative Council heeds the people’s demand and calls a Congress to scrutinise our leadership, hold the ULMWP to account, and determine our elected leadership. Whatever the outcome of the Congress is the will of the people.  

The statement reaffirms support for the ULMWP roadmap, and firmly rejects and refuses internal dialogue with the Indonesian government, which is dialogue on Indonesia’s terms. West Papua is not an internal matter for the Indonesian government. We are a colonised country, not a province. Because the UN violated our right to self-determination in 1969 through the so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’, we must be assisted by the international community and the UN. The people are refusing dialogue and demanding an internationally supervised vote on self-determination – the vote that we have long been denied. Self-determination will continue to be our main demand, as it has been throughout the history of our struggle.  

The West Papuan people have spoken today, and the primary duty of a leader is to listen to the people. I welcome this Forum and look forward to the outcome of the Congress.

God bless the people of West Papua. 

Benny Wenda

The opening of the Congress can be viewed here, and a representative’s speech can be viewed here.

Attendees demand a Congress