Kizzy Kalsakau and Jason Abel in Port Vila – The interim President of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) provisional government, Benny Wenda, has condemned Indonesia for the arrest and torture of eight students, and appeals to Melanesian countries to support their plea.
The eight West Papuan students were arrested by Indonesian police for peacefully demonstrating with banners and hand-painted Morning Star flags in Jayapura, capital of the Indonesian-ruled province of Papua, on 1 December 2021.
They have been charged with treason, and may face 25 years in prison.
In an interview with 96.3 Buzz FM, Wenda said that this happened when West Papua celebrated its 60th year anniversary, which is significant for all West Papuans.
"The event is celebrated globally. Official celebrations took place in Netherlands, in United Kingdom, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu," he said.
"The university students peacefully raised their flags, marched and chanted withdrawal of the military and demanded self-determination.
"Just last month, I asked the Indonesian government to allow my people to express themselves because we always respect their independence on August 17 annually," Wenda said.
'Call for respect and release'
"We have called for respect and are not happy with this arrest. We are also asking the international community to monitor the situation."
Amnesty Indonesia has already called for the immediate release of the students. These students have been fed up with the military operations, internal displacements, murders and bombings.
Wenda also said that recently an elderly woman, Paulina Imbumar, who leads prayers, was arrested, and a request had been sent to the police station to release her.
The chair of the Vanuatu West Papua Association, Job Dalesa, said it was very sad to hear such actions taken.
He added that it was an independent human rights flag and the students were portraying their stand.
Dalesa called on the people of Vanuatu to unite in prayer for the people of West Papua. "We will appeal to Indonesia to stop such actions," he said.
The Vanuatu Daily Post contacted the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) headquarters in Port Vila for comments on the situation. However, there was no immediate response.
[Kizzy Kalsakau and Jason Abel are Vanuatu Daily Post reporters. Republished with permission.]