Len Garae – Benny Wenda is both an International Lobbyist for Independence of West Papua as well as Interim President of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) Provisional Government. But he is much, much more than that. His future was prophesied by his people to go to school in order to carry the message to the world with his "pencil" for West Papua freedom.
At the beginning he was a displaced child with his mother and Lani Tribe for seven years fending for themselves in the jungle and mountains of West Papua, while hiding from the Indonesian soldiers.
In his latest revelation, the Interim President tells me he saw with his own eyes what the Indonesian soldiers did to his mother. Out of Melanesian decency, it cannot be mentioned in this article.
His uncle insisted on sending him to school and Wenda was sent to school in Jayapura. "I was seated next to an Indonesian female student who immediately spat in my face. I wiped away her spittle with my hand and suspected that coming from the jungle, perhaps I needed to shower properly. So the next morning I showered three times before class. As soon as I sat down on my chair, she spat in my face again. My Indonesian teacher turned a blind eye as though nothing had happened," he says.
Despite the mistreatment in his own country, he bravely struggled to get an education for the freedom of his people. Between 1977 and 1983 Benny and his family, along with thousands of other highlanders, lived in hiding in the jungle. He was appointed leader by the elders in his tribe, and later after the Lani people surrendered to the Indonesian military he attended Cenderawasih University in Jayapura, studying Sociology.
Benny went on to complete a degree in sociology and politics in Jayapura. While at university, he initiated discussion groups for Papuan students in Jayapura – of all ages and from all tribes from both the highlands and coastal regions – so they could come together and talk about what it was to be Papuan.
Without going into detail, Benny said he was jailed for 25 years for raising the Morning Sun West Papua Flag.
While in jail, he recalls that he missed being assassinated once. "I knew that I had to pray for God's intervention to help me escape from prison. I also called on all my ancestors to intervene. Then one night in the middle of the night, I went to the toilet and executed my escape plan without knowing as to what the security lights searching the perimeter every few seconds should shine on me, as well as without knowing what awaited me on the other side of the wall," he said.
There were three walls to jump and the security lights came on and off when he executed his escape. Benny became the only West Papuan to have successfully escaped to freedom from an Indonesian prison.
He says he talked to his people and the news of his escape astonished both Indonesian and West Papuan.
Asked if he has any wish for a permanent job, he replies with his knockout smile that this is it – to free his people. He has never enjoyed another job.