Monday, May 5, 2014

1) Interview with Benny Wenda


4) Australia must be wise in dealing with boat people: Indonesian minister

The Warwick Globalist

1) Interview with Benny Wenda

On March 14th Benny Wenda gave a speech to Warwick International Relations Society, and I was lucky enough to sit down with him for a half hour-long interview. Benny, a West Papuan, has been a long time campaigner for the independence of his country from Indonesia, which occupied in 1963 and annexed the huge territory of West Papua in 1969. Whilst campaigning in his home land he was imprisoned, escaped, and fled to Britain where he was granted asylum. Since then, he has had to fend off an Indonesian Interpol red notice seeking his extradition to Indonesia, which was struck down by Interpol as “politically motivated”,  heads the Free West Papua campaign, travelling around the world raising awareness of West Papua’s harrowing plight, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. We spoke of the history of West Papua, the prospects for the campaign, the role of violence, and Western interests preventing West Papuan freedom.
Connor: Could you just say a little bit about where West Papua is and the history of West Papua since the 1960s?

Benny: West Papua is about 500 km north of Australia, it’s very close to the North of Australia. It has been occupied by Indonesia since 1962/3, and since then up until today the people of West Papua cry for justice, freedom, and democracy. For the last 50 years no one has really known the details of what has been going on, because Indonesia has been able to shut off NGOs and the media – the international media is completely closed off. Even diplomats are closed off. That is why nobody knows what has really happened and what is going on today. I always call what the Indonesians have done genocide – they have committed genocide against my people. 500,000 men, women and children have been killed in the last 50 years, and it still continues today.
The whole island is called New Guinea; the Western half was occupied by the Dutch, and the Eastern half was occupied by the Germans, British […] and then Australians, who granted independence in 1975. The Western half, West Papua, gained independence in 1961. In 1963 the Indonesians occupied. We were given a referendum in 1969 –
Connor: – ‘The Act of Free Choice’ –
Benny: ‘The Act of Free Choice’, that’s what Indonesia claims, but we West Papuans call it ‘The Act of No Choice’. The population at the time was 800,000 but just 1,024 were selected to vote on Indonesian rule, including my father, which is why I grew up to fight to liberate my people –
Your father was one of the 1,000 chosen to vote?
Yes, he was one of them. He represented an entire village of around 1,000.
Was he coerced to vote in favour of Indonesian rule?
Yes. He was arrested and beaten and trained to vote for Indonesian rule […].
So that’s why we are campaigning for self-determination – to have a new referendum in West Papua, because we didn’t have any chance to express ourselves at the time. I myself am a victim of Indonesia – when I was 5 years old my village was bombed, my mum was beaten up and my aunty was raped in front of my eyes. A lot of terrible things have happened. People talk about this as being the past but it’s not – it’s the present. Oppression still continues, killing continues, rape continues, up until today, this present day. That’s why it’s not the past but still continues.
Sukarno, who was the post-independence leader for Indonesia, is often held up as a non-aligned icon, but he was the one who initiated the invasion of West Papua. Do you think this should lead people to re-evaluate his legacy?
Yes. The Dutch colonised Indonesia and they experienced a lot of terrible things under the Dutch. They got independence in 1945, and then they colonised us. It’s the same, you know. They get out of this colonialism and imperialism, but then they impose upon us what the Dutch did to them. For instance – if you hold up the West Papuan flag today you will get 15 years in prison. When Indonesians raised their own flag they were jailed under the Dutch – this law is actually copied from the Dutch to oppress the West Papuan people. That’s why I always say we are not against the ordinary Indonesian people but the government and the army. They carry this imperial attitude through the 1960s, 70s, 80s until today. I hope the new generation will re-evaluate what is going on, whether this is real democracy or not. People talk about democracy in Indonesia today, but what I’m talking about, specifically in West Papua, it’s different. There is no democracy, there is no freedom, freedom to speak, freedom of assembly – we are intimidated every day. So Indonesia tries to promote democracy internally but in West Papua it’s not democratic. I hope that maybe the new generation will revaluate […] but today they look at us as a colony, they treat us as people of a different colour. If they pick a Papuan to be governor, or some other job, they just want to show that they are good to the Papuans, but these people are just puppets. The entire population is screaming for freedom.
You mentioned that Indonesia is now considered a democracy after the fall of Suharto. Why do you think this democratisation has made so little difference? There haven’t been any major calls inside Indonesia for West Papuan independence. You had for instance the 2000 Special Autonomy Law [Note: a law passed by the Indonesian government that purported to give greater autonomy to regions like West Papua] but it is generally considered to be ineffective – what is it about Indonesian society that has meant democratisation has had no effect?
Because every president [of Indonesia] is ex-military. They just change their clothes –
So you don’t think it’s true democratisation within Indonesia?
I don’t think so – what do you call it – nationalism is very rooted within Indonesia itself. Maybe the new generation will come out, study overseas and then they will get there. Within Indonesia you look at yourself as being in prison. When you come outside of Indonesia you will see what is happening, what is going on inside. That’s why I think the new Indonesian generation – maybe 10 years’ time – they will look back and feel different […]. For the West Papuan case Indonesia is not interested in us as human beings, they are interested in our resources. We are one of the richest nations on the planet, West Papua is very rich [resource-wise], so this is why they are trying to hold on to West Papua. So as I said they look at West Papua as different, as a colony, and as a colony they can do to us whatever they like. So that’s what’s happening to West Papua. But hopefully the new generation will change Indonesian democracy.
Many people in the West, I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but particularly in the West haven’t heard of West Papua at all, have no idea what’s happening. Why do you think this is?
One thing is because Western interests are big in West Papua, particularly for the UK, because a British company, BP, is in West Papua. The second biggest asset in West Papua belongs to the British. Also Australian interests, American interests.
Second, because Indonesia doesn’t allow journalists to visit West Papua. That’s a big problem for us. That’s why I always say – not even talking about independence – if Indonesia are confident about the democracy in West Papua then let journalists, international journalists, visit West Papua. Why close it off?
It’s an admission of guilt isn’t it?
Yes – it’s a simple question I always ask. Always.
Do you ever get an answer?
No. So if you’re confident that you’re a democracy, why can Western journalists come into Indonesia to cover everything except West Papua? Why have they been banned since 1963? We are human beings; people want to hear our voice too. If you say that West Papuan people are citizens [of Indonesia] then treat them as citizens. Why have you excluded West Papua from the rest of Indonesia? This is always my question.
So that’s the media. I mentioned to you before we started that no one seems to talk much about West Papua – the only person I can think of in the West who has written much about it is George Monbiot, who obviously spent 6 months there in 1987 and wrote a book about it. Why do you think activists don’t do much on West Papua, especially relative to East Timor where there was quite a lot of activism on the issue?
Again it’s because nobody knows – if they physically visited there would be a lot of interest but it’s because nobody knows. Now a few tourists visit West Papua, come back and start talking and that’s very important. But if you write about West Papua you need to have physically been there to write something.Also there is no public pressure because the only West Papuans, for instance in the UK, are myself and my family. There are no West Papuans here, so how can our voice be heard? Even in the US, there is one Papuan living. But now in Australia there are 42 activists and student working on it, after they used the canoe –
The Freedom Flotilla? – [Editor’s note: the Freedom Flotilla was a boat ride from Northern Australia to the Torres Strait to protest the Indonesian occupation and raise awareness. In response, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said “Australia takes a very dim view … of anyone seeking to use our country as a platform for grandstanding against Indonesia”.]
Yeah. That’s made big noise in Australia so that’s very good, it made news in the UK, America, and other countries. Because it’s like we’re in prison, and only with the voice of the Papuan people can we escape. That’s the only way.
So I’ve mentioned East Timor, obviously Indonesia was invaded and occupied by Indonesia in 1975, a near genocide took place for 25 years, then they pulled out when Suharto fell and the UN came in. How close an analogue is the West Papuan case to East Timor?
It’s very similar because they are both colonies and it’s the same military. The current president was a military commander in East Timor. And now he’s the president, SBY [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, current President of Indonesia]. Now, one of the candidates for the presidential election also committed war crimes in East Timor. In East Timor, 11 years ago, 12 years ago, Indonesia committed genocide. The same military is now in West Papua, so there’s no difference. The situation is terrible – the same. So Indonesia also did terrible things to those people. But West Papua is far from the world’s eyes, and they can do whatever they like. I always call West Papua the home of the military. The people are really scared, mentally they are intimidated, there is harassment every day. But you cannot defend yourself, and this carries on.
What’s your opinion on the role of violence in West Papua? There is something of an armed movement in West Papua. Do you see that as being a part, a legitimate part of the struggle, or does it all need to be peacefully-based?
In the 1970s, 80s, the revolutionary era, maybe, but now everything is changing. West Papua has just a few freedom fighters – they’re like the home guard from 1960-70s until today – they still exist, I don’t deny that. They are like the home guard, they have a bow and arrow, defending themselves; this is our land. But if we use the weapons now I don’t think the world will be interested because world opinion is changing. For my generation now it’s better to come out on the street and demonstrate peacefully and that will open up everything. If you use violence then Indonesia will say “look, this is a terrorist group, this is a criminal group”, they’ll stigmatise us.
So tactically it’s counter-productive.
Yes tactically it’s counterproductive, so that’s why we have changed. I changed when I went to university and studied politics and then realisedthat coming out on the streets and leading peacefully – they don’t like it. That’s why they will put you in prison for 25 years. So that’s why the best way is the peaceful way, that’s my belief, that through the peaceful way you can convince the world and convince the international community. But I cannot control the people in the jungle or the people in the field, I’m here, far away from them, so I don’t know. But my belief is that the only way to convince the world is to peacefully show them the history of what has happened. And in our history the big countries, Britain, America, they were all involved in victimising us and our right to self-determination. The only peaceful way is to take it back to the UN and to look at what happened in history.
I want to move on to talk about Western policy a little bit more. What’s your opinion on the US role in the 60s, before the Act of Free Choice, and when the Act of Free Choice was accepted by the General Assembly at the UN? Do you think the US betrayed West Papua at that time?
Yes, first the US was involved because President Suharto and Henry Kissinger [national security advisor to Richard Nixon] signed an agreement over our resources in 1967, two years before the referendum.
For Freeport [a major US mining company which entered into West Papua after the 1967 deal was signed]?
Yes over Freeport. Indonesia and the US are more interested in our resources. So that’s why the referendum is also part of the conspiracy – always I blame the big powers as well as the UN. The UN need to correct their own vote.
You met David Cameron. What did you raise with him and what was his response?
I raised the West Papuan issue – I said I really need your generation to support me so I can go and be a free man. He promised me that his government would act – he was in opposition at the time – but he knows. What is very important is that when SBY [the Indonesian President] came to the UK he raised directly with him the situation of human rights in West Papua. That’s never happened before. So that’s one good thing that he raised his concern.
But Britain does have a long record of arms sales and diplomatic support for Indonesia.
As far as I’m aware that hasn’t really changed. In 2012 he went on a tour of Indonesia with his arms dealers in tow and human rights weren’t particularly high up on the agenda. Do you really think Britain has a positive role here?
I don’t know what I would say, maybe – double standards -
- It’s hypocrisy.
Something like that, I don’t know what the best word to use is [laughs]. But to go on the record like he did, it’s encouraged me and other Papuan campaigners because we have never seen other world leaders speaking about, questioning about human rights issues in West Papua, so this is the first time. Questioning is the best medicine for me, just mention it – at least he mentioned it. I know that in British politics behind everything is money, dealing and this and that, and I’m not defending anything, but the most important thing for me is that he mentioned West Papua to the President of Indonesia.
Well I’m glad you’re optimistic about him, because I’m not.
Turning to the US, Obama has some interesting connections to West Papua; as you know, his [step]father served with the Indonesian military in West Papua and told him about it when he was a child. But in 2010 I think it was, he re-initiated aid to Kopassus, the extremist Indonesian ‘counter-terrorism’ unit. Why did he do this?
Yeah, I think people gain power and then always look at the business interests and national interests. I hope one day he’ll change his mind. I met the whole foreign relations department and we discussed West Papua, and this is the first time the entire team came down to meet me, and I told them that in the West Papua case, the US is directly involved and taking away our right to self-determination. We were betrayed by the old generation and I hope the new generation can support us, including President Obama […]. But I cannot expect Obama will speak about West Papua because of his background and his father – maybe another president, a different president.
You don’t have much hope for Obama?
Because he was raised in Indonesia?
Yeah, raised in Indonesia, personal connections, I think that’s what’s happening.
You’ve previously said that the US is key for freedom for West Papua. Why is this, what is it that makes the US most important here?
The movement [for West Papua], I think always looks at what’s happening in the UK, what’s happening in the underground, what’s happening in Australia. If this issue is becoming big, it will first be in these countries. For now they ignore us, but it’s my belief that something will change if Britain changes. Britain is very important, because the rest of Melanesia [the region West Papua is in] was under the British. So whenever I give a talk in a parliament or whatever in a Pacific Melanesian country they always look to Britain, because their head of country [head of state] is the Queen.
So you think that Britain is actually more important?
Yes. It’s more important, very important.
Talking about Australia – their official position is that they recogniseIndonesian sovereignty over West Papua and it’s come out that they trained Detachment 88 which is another so-called ‘counter-terrorist’ unit which documents have shown has been involved in assassinations of peaceful leaders etc. Can you talk a little about the Australian government’s record with regard to West Papua?
The Australian government’s position is always the same, they are scared of Indonesia. But the people are 100% supporting West Papuan independence. They don’t want to support this issue – it’s like East Timor, the government said “no way will we support East Timorese independence” but people came out on to the streets and they supported it, and that’s why things changed. West Papua will change; this is like a time-bomb waiting, one day it will explode, no doubt.
On a slightly less positive note, the policy of transmigration [transferring Indonesians to West Papua in large numbers], destruction of Papuan culture, whole-sale massacres – how long do you think West Papua has before time runs out and West Papuan civilisation no longer exists? Or do you think they will always keep going?
No you cannot stop us. At the moment they [Indonesia] are in power and one of the things they are trying to do is move people into West Papua to try to destroy our culture, our identity, our forest, our mountain, and wipeout our entire identity. West Papua is very unique for the planet. Culturally, its identity, the way of life; it’s very different from the rest of the world. We still exist. Things haven’t really changed – maybe in the towns but in the villages the culture is still really powerful. I don’t want this to be destroyed, I hope it will still exist in the future. Before it’s too late I really need support, especially of the younggeneration like yourself. History tells us that every generation changed the world. Every generation changed their opinions, wherever they were. That’s why I’m really confident – I never doubt my people will be free.
The last thing I want to ask, and most importantly, is what can citizens of the West, students in Britain in particular, what can concretely do to help you with your campaign?
I think very simple things, it’s not a big job. First start to learn about West Papua itself. You learn, you educate yourself, then tell the others, because you aremaster of the story itself. You study yourself then you convince the people – you are the voice of the Papuan people, because at the moment we are voiceless. And then you organise events on university, campus, tell your family and friends, they can tell their MP, write letters to your MP, ask them what the government is doing, I think this is all very important. Also a small blog, a small article, research West Papua and write on it, I think that’s very important. Join the Facebook page, join the campaign, the mailing list, we have fundraising events – just simple things you can do that’s very very helpful.
Benny Wenda, thank you very much.
For more information:
Official website of the Free West Papua Campaign, headed by Benny:
Tedx Talk on Benny’s life by Jennifer Robinson, Benny’s lawyer and co-founder of International Lawyers for West Papua:
Article by George Monbiot, British journalist at the Guardian, who secretly travelled across West Papua in 1987, nearly losing his life in the process:
Connor Woodman is The Warwick Globalist‘s Perspectives editor, former President of Warwick International Relations Society and writes a regular blog for the website. He can be reached at



Jayapura, 3/4 (Jubi) – Deforestation in Papua is threatening natural reservation programs that carried out at the Lorentz National Park and the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) may revoke its status as a world heritage site.
“Currently, two natural world heritage sites, Lorentz National Park and Tropical Reinforest Heritage of Sumatra or commonly known as Bukit Barisan are under threat and both status as world heritage sites might be revoked,  Deputy V for the Coordination of Culture,Tourism,Youth and Sports Welfare Coordinating Ministry, Haswan Yunaz said.
The government has implemented several efforts to preserve the world heritage sites in order not to satisfy Unesco .
“For example, we’ve been asked to relocate residents who live in national park areas and construct the road that does not damage the nature conservation activities which is in line with the analysis of the environmental impacts, ” he explained.
The Indonesian government has proposed to UNESCO to fix the damage that occurs in the two national parks up to 5 years ahead.
Other 15 cultural heritages in Indonesia are Komodo National Park, Ujung Kulon , Subak in Bali , Borobudur Temple, Prambanan, Keris, Angklung ( traditional instrument) , Camshaft/Noken , Saman dance and Sangiran monument.
Early April , Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare, Agung Laksono said that it is necessary to consider the local layout when conducting road infrastructure development.
Therefore, the Minister reminded that the road infrastructure is not expected to cross the Lorentz National Park because it is a natural reservation.
“We refuse the road construction through Lorentz National Park because it will undermine our commitment to keep and preserve it. We will find an alternative solution,” he said.
Lorentz National Park was included as a world natural heritage site by UNESCO in 1999 and as a representative of the complete ecosystem. ( Jubi / Victor Mambor/ Tina )



Jayapura , 2/5 ( Jubi ) – The central government’s delays in issuing a permit to construct roads in the conservation area of Mamberamo Foja shows it is not serious in developing Papua, Mambrena Raya regent Kyeuw kyeuw said.
“I think the central government is not serious in build Papua. Why are timber companies given permission to cut down trees and but local government isn’t given a permit (to build roads)? ” Kyeuw Kyeuw told in Jayapura on Friday (2/5).
The government plans to build a road linking Burmeso and Sikari and the project will pass through the protected forest. Therefore, Mamberamo Raya regent  personally met the Minister of Forestry to ask for permission, but there has been no response so far.
Mamberamo river which is used as a major transportation route by people who live in the upstream Mamberamo is not safe and has claim victims as passing through rapids of Marinavalen and Edivalen.
“So, we thought it is necessary and very urgent to build a road that people in the upper reaches of the river Mamberamo can use to get Mamberamo downstream, without passing through the rapids ” he explained .
Meanwhile, Asher Rumboirusi, a researcher from the Environmental Foundation of Papua said that it needs further discussions with the Ministry of Forestry that both parties understand and execute the joint commitment. (Jubi / Albert / Tina)


4) Australia must be wise in dealing with boat people: Indonesian minister

Mon, May 5 2014 19:31 | 446 Views
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesias minister of defense Purnomo Yusgiantoro said here on Monday Australia must be wiser in dealing with boat people and should not act unilaterally as patrol cooperation and others in the field were not reopened. 

"Our official stance is clear we want Australia to be wiser in dealing with the issue, because we (Australia and Indonesia) have not yet reopened our naval cooperation, including joint patrol cooperation or joint exercise cooperation," he said at the presidential palace compound.

He said the pattern of actions used by Australia to deal with the boat people so far were incorrect and caused discomfort.

"Yes. We feel that they must be done correctly and we appeal to the government of Tony Abbot to understand our stance that if the boat people came because of the initiatives of the people they must not be turned back to our country," he said.

He declined to comment on PM Abbots decision to cancel his visit to Indonesia to attend a conference in Bali this week.

(Reporting by Panca Hari Prabowo/Uu.H-YH/INE/KR-BSR/A014)
Editor: Priyambodo RH

No comments:

Post a Comment