President Wenda: Mass displacement in Paniai

Indonesian state terrorism in West Papua continues.

In the latest internal displacement, over 5000 Papuan civilians in Paniai have been forced to flee their homes by yet another Indonesian military raid. Men, women, and children have scattered, some of them hiding in the bush, some sheltering in a local Catholic Church compound. Fifteen villages have been completely emptied of inhabitants.

The 5000 Papuans in Paniai are added to over 100,000 West Papuans who have been displaced since 2018, becoming refugees in their own ancestral lands. All across West Papua, from Intan Jaya to Nduga, Maybrat to Puncak, Papuans have fled into the bush, leaving their families and villages behind. Over 1200 have died due to the harsh conditions in the forest. Many babies have died, as childbirth has become dangerous due to a lack of medical facilities. Food and water are in short supply. Churches, schools, and hospitals have all been transformed into Indonesian military posts – a crime under international law. Many civilians have now settled in the places they fled to, having being forced to start new lives away from their families and tribes.

Indonesia’s support of Palestine is pure hypocrisy. The displacement crisis in West Papua has reached every corner of our country, from the highlands, to the coasts, to small and isolated islands. Every week brings news of another mass evacuation, as terrified Papuans flee Indonesian military violence. Yet Indonesia condemns Israeli displacement in Gaza. What is happening in Gaza is happening in West Papua too. The UN Human Rights committee recently condemnedIndonesia’s extrajudicial killing of West Papuans: now consider what the High Commissioner would find if Indonesia permitted him access to West Papua.

The world needs to pay greater attention to the ongoing refugee crisis in my country. The Indonesian military uses rape as a weapon of war and torture as a ‘mode of governance’. They have never wanted our people, only our resources. Only by chasing the people away can the government steal our gold, copper, nickel and timber.

West Papua is not just another sovereign territory of Indonesia. It is under military occupation, and is only secured via continual military force. This is why another 450 troops were deployed there this week. West Papua is the most heavily militarised zone in the Pacific.

On behalf of the ULMWP and the people of West Papua, I issue the following simple demands to Indonesia:

  1. To immediately withdraw their military to allow the 5000 Paniai refugees to return home.
  2. To urgently facilitate the visit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to West Papua, in accordance with the demand made by over 100 countries.
  3. To revoke their ban on international NGOs and allow Amnesty International, the Red Cross, and others to report from West Papua and offer support to West Papuan refugees.
  4. To stop the media blackout and allow international journalists to freely report from West Papua.
  5. To finally facilitate the internationally-supervised self-determination referendum that West Papuans have been denied for over 60 years.

This is not simply the path to ending ecocide and genocide in West Papua: it is also the only viable way to secure a long-term peaceful solution in the Pacific.

Benny Wenda

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