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Benny Wenda
Benny Wenda
Benny Wenda is a West Papuan independence leader and Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua. He is an international lobbyist for the independence of West Papua from Indonesia. He lives in exile in the United Kingdom.

All eyes on Papua

#AllEyesonPapua hashtag news

For years, West Papuans have been telling the world that we are the victims of two connected crimes: genocide and ecocide.

Over 500,000 Papuans have been killed since the Indonesian occupation began in the 1960s, while millions of acres of ancestral land – forests, rivers, and mountains – have been destroyed and poisoned for Indonesian and corporate profit.

Now, through the #AllEyesonPapua hashtag, which has gone viral on Indonesian social media, we are seeing Indonesians finally waking up to the crimes their government is committing in West Papua. For decades, Indonesia has hidden West Papua from the world, through a combination of media blackouts, torture, murder, and a brutal ban on international and domestic journalism that has made our country the Pacific North Korea.

But technology and social media are helping break down Indonesia’s information prison in West Papua. Indonesian NGOs, solidarity groups, and most importantly, ordinary citizens, are all finding out the truth about the giant Palm Oil plantations, mines, and energy estates that are ripping apart the West Papuan environment. The struggle of the Awyu people to protect their lands against the massive Tanah Merah project – set to become the largest Palm Oil plantation on earth – has captured the hearts of Indonesian citizens. The Awyu people are facing the loss of their land, their hunting grounds, their livelihoods. The forest is our supermarket and our medicine cabinet; everything we need is there. How can we survive without it?

It is important that Indonesian citizens realise that the environmental damage they are witnessing cannot exist without genocide, ethnic cleansing, and racism. Ecocide and genocide: they are one package in West Papua. Indonesia clears our forest and displaces our people in order to open access to our land for big corporations. People must also realise that self-determination is the root cause of all environmental issues in West Papua. To stop the destruction, we must be allowed to manage our own affairs, as we did for thousands of years before colonialism. Papua Merdeka is the answer to #AllEyesonPapua.

Against Indonesia’s ecocidal devastation, the ULMWP are offering the world our Green State Vision for a liberated West Papua. Drawing on our Indigenous Papuan knowledge to combat the climate emergency, the Green State Vision will restore balance to our land after 60 years of deforestation. It is our promise to the world: support our independence, and we will help you fight climate change by protecting the world’s third largest rainforest. Since we launched the Green State Vision at COP26, we have only seen more destruction, more mining concessions, more bio-ethanol oil estates, more plantations constructed on stolen Papuan land.

Nowhere will suffer more from climate change than the Pacific. Whole countries are at risk of disappearing due to rising sea levels, while in Vanuatu and PNG we are seeing more cyclones and other natural disasters than ever before. Pacific leaders must resist Indonesia cheque-book diplomacy and support West Papua to take real action on climate change. With one hand, Indonesia offers aid to Pacific nations following natural disasters; with the other, they count the money from multi-national corporations in return for chopping down West Papuan forests.

The ULMWP are calling on all international media to keep All Eyes on Papua, not to look away as Indonesia destroys our land.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Shame we can’t get the story of West Papua into mainstream NZ television and press.
    I’ve met Wenda and others from West Papua. They are truly to be supported.

  2. I worked in West Papua between 2008 and 2012 & more recently in 2023.
    Most indigenous land ownership movements are very complicated, look no further than New Zealand!
    As a pilot I saw first hand & can confirm there has been substantial growth in palm oil plantation acreage in West Papua, but large scale logging and clearing of rainforest is not evident like Sumatra. Whether Indonesia can find a balance between protecting the Rainforests and creating opportunities for its people remains to be seen. I was largely impressed by what I saw of communities working in both mining & agricultural sectors. When I visited Merauke last year it was evident it had grown from a sleepy town to a productive food growing region with a sizeable Port facility. The local people appeared to be living well and benefitting from agricultural developments & flow on prosperity of local service businesses.
    There is often talk of genocide in West Papua, I would not dispute there have been cases of very poor treatment of local peoples, however on the flip side a small minority of West Papuans are also equally aggressive and use deadly force towards not only Indonesians but other nationalities. I’ve worked with many Papuans from both sides of the border and they are fantastic people to work with, most are incredibly hard working, many are uneducated despite this they are keen learners. Across the border in PNG I believe is quite a different story they have the same plantations and mining opportunities yet the Papua New Guinean people are noticeably more poverty stricken as a whole, their current government and economy is in a shambolic state, ask the Australians they pour money into PNG daily. You could quite easily make an argument if Australia still governed PNG their people would be undoubtedly better off. Many elders I spoke to still reminisce of a functioning society under Australian governance. Law & Order is key. The Indonesians aren’t necessarily the Big bad wolf lobby groups portray them as, they have 250 million people to govern & by all accounts many countries around the world care a lot less for their people than they do. Keep an open mind, Free Papua OPM have still got our own Phil Mertens in captivity, an innocent Kiwi pilot doing his job, helping support West Papuan communities and very limited information on his welfare. The OPM have regularly threatened to kill Phil during his captivity, these people are not friendly they are criminals.
    There is always two sides to a story and if you are going to make a case for freeing West Papua be careful what you wish for it is highly probable it will end up another South Africa.
    By which time the very people that supported such a movement will either deny their involvement or say they were young and misguided!

    • Are you trying to justify the Indonesian occupation and continuing repression of West Papua? Why shouldn’t West Papua have self-determination?

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