Len Garae – West Papua leaders are now ready to take over the affairs of their country, with 12 members of Cabinet with (Interim) Prime Minister Edison Warome.
That is the confirmation of the Interim President of West Papua, Mr. Benny Wenda, on his latest visit to Port Vila from London, where he is based.
"In 2019 I announced that I was ready to dialogue with the President of Indonesia on the way forward for my country West Papua through dialogue for recognition of our sovereign state that you have stolen from us. This is my position now. Since then Indonesia has become silent," the Interim President says in an exclusive interview.
"We are following in the footsteps of the Leaders of Vanuatu's Independence struggle with the raising of the Vanuatu Flag by the People's Provisional Government (of the then New Hebrides National Party in November of 1977.
"Finally the British and French Resident Commissioners agreed to listen to them talk about their political aspirations to secede from colonialism after 74 years of Joint Colonial Rule on July 30 of 1980".
Mr. Wenda is confident that while Jakarta "is silent now", that Indonesia would finally agree to sit down to talk about West Papua's Freedom like what Britain and France did because he says United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) leaders are now prepared to take their political destiny in their hands. "So trust us to start to engage with Indonesia. That is the position we are at currently," he says.
Asked how it feels to be back in Port Vila, Mr. Wenda replies, "For me Vanuatu is like my home because I am welcomed by 'wantoks' – a people who make me feel at home. On my present arrival at the airport, I was welcomed by the Vanuatu West Papua Independence Struggle Committee complete with the West Papua Flag waving. I became emotional by this gesture.
"Secondly, Vanuatu initiated the unification of the various factions of West Papua into the first ever ULMWP in 2014.
"The solid support of both former Prime Ministers Mr. Joe Natuman in 2014 followed by Mr. Charlot Salwai will always be remembered by my people.
"Then in 2018, they gave ULMWP a plot of land with an office to run my West Papua International Office in Port Vila to lobby for international recognition for West Papua.
"Now I am back in my Office and have met both Presidents of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs as well as the Vaturisu Council of Chiefs of Efate where Port Vila is located, and Vanuatu West Papua Committee and Vanuatu Free West Papua Association".
In 2019, PIF passed the Resolution in Tuvalu to support the visit of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua. "I am confident that PIF Leaders will reiterate the same call for the High Commissioner to visit West Papua", he says.
Meanwhile in the last three years, Indonesia sent 25,000 soldiers to conduct a military operation West Papua. This resulted in the displacement of 100,000 West Papuans from the prominent settlements of the country. Almost 450 people have died in the last five years. Seven pastors have been killed by the Indonesian military.
As he speaks, he says his people are still in the bush. For this reason he is calling for the UN High Commissioner to visit West Papua., as well as representatives from Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) and European Union (EU). "It is my prayer that the current Government of Prime Minister Bob Loughman is going to also shine a light for the UN High Commissioner to visit West Papua", he adds.
What is the Interim President's most urgent focus now?
First, Wenda says Indonesia must allow the UN High Commissioner to visit West Papua because this is the call of 79 ACP member countries as well as the EU increasing the total number of countries calling to 108, for the UN High Commissioner to visit my country.
However, he says Indonesia has been applying a delaying tactic for the last three years now. "It is my prayer that PIF is going to repeat its call in line with its Resolution", he adds.
"Also all 25,000 troops of the Indonesian Military must withdraw from West Papua. The indigenous refugees must then return to their villages. We know that many of them are hungry and many of them have died.
"Now people are focusing on the War in Ukraine but what about sixty years if war happening in the Region? This is why I am challenging the Melanesian brothers and sisters to first look at your brothers and sisters suffering in West Papua now".
Despite Vanuatu being a tiny country, Mr. Wenda says it is a tiny country with a big heart and is making bigger countries in the world sit up to take note of its presence.
In his opinion, the whole world needs to sit up to learn valuable lessons from Vanuatu – a small country with a powerful voice in the world. "With us in West Papua, without Vanuatu we would never have come this far", he says.
"Every day in West Papua, men, women and children are talking about Vanuatu. Vanuatu to the people of west Papua is everything. To them, Vanuatu is 'nambawan".
Finally, Interim President Wenda is appealing to the Vanuatu Christian Council and everyone in Vanuatu to pray for his country.