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Vital year for West Papua

17 November 2009

A West Papuan Independence leader in the United Kingdom, Benny Wenda has described 2009 as a vital year for the indigenous people of West Papua.

Mr Wenda, the Chairperson of the Koteka Tribal Assembly based in UK said it is 40 years since the former Indonesian President Suharto announced the result of the so called "Act of Free Choice".

"The claim is outrageous and totally false that 100 per cent of West Papuans wanted to be annexed by Indonesia. 40 years ago all UN members including UK recognised our right to self determination but until now we have never been allowed to exercise our right freely and legally. "We did not want to become Indonesian in 1969 and after so many years of Indonesian oppression; we certainly do not want to be Indonesia now. We want to be free," he said.

Mr Wenda said that is why West Papua so desperately needs friends from around the world.

He said as an important step forward in international solidarity Andrew Smith MP and Lord Harries of the UK Parliament launched the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (IPWP) in October last year. "We are immensely grateful for the messages of support we received from parliamentarians from every corner of the world and political parties in UK," Mr Wenda said.

Last week in Port Moresby NCD Governor Powes Parkop convened and launched the PNG Charter of the IPWP saying that West Papua’s Melanesian brothers and sisters in PNG cannot remain silent on the issue any more.

Mr Parkop said although the PNG government policy on West Papua is that it is an integral issue for Indonesia, PNG leaders like him feel that it is against their conscience to remain silent any longer. Another MP who signed the charter at a press conference at Parliament last Thursday, Mr Jamie Maxtone Graham said PNG leaders including Mr Parkop and himself will ‘shine the spotlight" in the international forum on the West Papua issue especially in relation to Indonesian’s military response with brutal force by killing, torturing and imprisoning peaceful Papuan activists.

Mr Graham showed photos of these atrocities sent last month on e-mail to the media.

The Indonesian Embassy was contacted for comment last Thursday but an officer there said most of the senior officials including the Indonesian Ambassador Bom Surijantoe were out of Port Moresby, organising a repatriation of some hundreds of West Papuans who had agreed to return back to their home provinces.

Harlyne Joku

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