Today, Indonesia has shown that even humanitarianism is illegal in West Papua.
Twenty West Papuans who were fundraising for the victims of cyclones in Vanuatu were this morning arrested by Indonesian police in Jayapura. This was a peaceful, compassionate action, with Papuans taking to the streets to raise money for those affected by this latest Pacific natural disaster. The Indonesian response was to disband the march at the barrel of a gun. Armed Indonesian police sought to block activists at several points, forcibly disrupted the procession, and eventually conducted a series of arbitrary arrests.
Vanuatu was hit by two successive cyclones within 24 hours earlier this month. Homes and schools were destroyed, many were forced to flee to evacuation centres, and people lost access to water and electricity for several days. West Papuans see ni-Vanuatu as family; we naturally want to support them in their hour of need, just as they have always supported us in ours. By criminalising this act of solidarity, Indonesia have demonstrated they will not accept any form of Papuan assembly or self-expression.
This was not a political protest. Those present did not raise the Morning Star flag or call for independence. They only raised awareness and money for a fellow black Melanesian nation that has always supported the West Papuan struggle. Indonesia, like the ULMWP, is a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) along with Vanuatu. They have an obligation to allow West Papuans to raise money to stop the suffering of their fellow member.
Indonesia has behaved in this manner before. In March 2015, after Vanuatu was hit by a large typhoon, Papuans in the Yahukimo Regency held a similar solidarity fundraiser. In response, police violently broke up the meeting, shooting six Papuan civilians and killing one.
We must remember that climate change is the sole reason Vanuatu is so vulnerable to cyclones and other natural disasters. Despite producing zero carbon emissions, Vanuatu is being punished for the actions of rich countries and big corporations. West Papuans stand with all Pacific nations in our joint fight against this existential threat. Our island is the lung of the world, with its third largest rainforest and thousands of unique plants and animals. But Indonesia is ripping down our forest and our mountain to build highways, mines, and palm oil plantations. To fight for climate justice we must also fight for West Papuan independence and the fulfillment of our Green State Vision.
I also want to alert the world to the murder of yet another Papuan child. Enius Tabuni, a 12-year-old boy, was killed by Indonesian soldiers who then videoed his dead body, labelling him as OPM. The way that Tabuni was killed is the logical conclusion of Indonesia labelling OPM and all Papuan resistance as terrorists. If we are stigmatised as terrorists, then we can be killed like terrorists.
Tabuni was not OPM, he was a school boy. His death is a continuation of the last few years, as Indonesian occupation forces have committed unprecedented atrocities against civilians. The murders of Pastor Yeremiah Zanambani and his brothers; the murder of 12-year-old Makilon Tabuni; the killing and mutilation of four West Papuans last August; the beheading of a 35-year-old Papuan mother last month: none of these people were combatants. The Indonesian occupation kills all West Papuans equally.
In an attempt to crush our spirit, Indonesia is deliberately targeting the next generation of West Papuans. This kind of military violence is the reason that 100,000 West Papuans have been forcibly displaced since 2019, and why tens of thousands are still in the bush, unable to return to their homes.
I reiterate my call for Indonesia to immediately withdraw their military from West Papua. Demilitarising West Papua is a precondition for this situation to be resolved peacefully. They must also release all twenty Papuans arrested today, alongside all political prisoners including Victor Yeimo. International journalists must be allowed to report on West Papua. Lastly, I repeat the call of 84 countries for Indonesia to finally allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit West Papua.
This is an important moment for the world to reflect on what Indonesia is doing to West Papua. In reclaiming our sovereignty, we are aiming to restore our fundamental human rights – the right to show solidarity, to exercise freedom of assembly, and the rights of our children to live without fear.
ULMWP Provisional Government