Benny Wenda: West Papua a killing field under Indonesian rule

Two very worrying trends are emerging from Indonesia’s current military escalation in West Papua: the targeting of children and the targeting of religious leaders. 

After the massacres earlier this month in Yahukimo and Fakfak, Indonesian police have conducted a brutal raid on the headquarters of the Kingmi Church in Nduga. As church leaders were sleeping in the head office in preparation for a church event the next morning, the police forced the door down and baselessly accused them of working with TPNPB leader Egianus Kogoya. Twelve people were tortured during the raid.

Victim of the Nduga raid

Indonesia has consistently targeted religious figures in their efforts to wipe out the West Papuan resistance. Just like Pastor Yeremia Zanambani, who was murdered in Intan Jaya in December 2020, the Tabernacle church leaders in Nduga are peacemakers between migrants and Papuans. The Indonesian occupation is an enemy of peace.

While they are targeting West Papuan church leaders, Indonesian state terrorism is also being inflicted on West Papuan children. As the Guardian documented this week, Indonesia consistently tortures and murders young people who have been detained for arbitrary reasons. In Yahukimo, five Papuan teenagers were hunted and killed like animals. 

We must not ignore the reasons behind this brutal escalation. In West Papua, business and military are deeply connected: military operations are based on business interests. Luhut Pandjaitan, a former TNI General who is now the Minister for Maritime Affairs, is one of the main investors in the huge Wabu Block gold mine in Intan Jaya. Wabu Block is the same size as Jakarta and has displaced thousands of Papuans from their gardens and traditional hunting grounds.

According to the UN Charter, torture is against international law, targeting specific ethnic groups is against international law, and the prevention of genocide is the highest duty under international law. Yet all these crimes are happening in West Papua and the world does nothing. Where is this international law the UN talks about? Does it not apply to West Papuans? 

We urgently need all big powers, the UN, the UK, America and others, to listen to the warning the UN Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention gave in July. If the international community does not act, the Indigenous population of West Papua will be wiped out and replaced in their ancient ancestral homeland.

Our demands of Indonesia are: A) Immediately withdraw their military forces, in order for villagers to be able to return to their homes B) Facilitate a visit to West Papua by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as demanded by over 85 countries C) Allow foreign and domestic media to freely report from West Papua D) Allow NGOs and human rights groups to freely operate in West Papua.

Benny Wenda
West Papua Independence Leader
ULMWP Executive