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West Papuan leader gathers Pacific support

West Papua’s leader Benny Wenda who claims to be the interim president, is on a Pacific tour to garner support in his quest to force Indonesia to allow the United Nations High Commissioner to visit the nation.

Mr Wenda is the head of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and said ultimately the people of West Papua want independence from Indonesia who have claimed the nation as theirs.

In New Caledonia, Mr Wenda has signed a memorandum of understanding with the nation’s pro-independence FLNKS movement supporting the cause of the independence.

The FLNKS movement has also been trying to get independence from France and the two parties have agreed to provide support to each other.

The memorandum aims to support each other internationally and develop a list of common goals.

Mr Wenda said they had appointed 12 interim cabinet ministers and this was the right time to seek independence.

He has also called on Indonesia to remove the 25,000 troops in West Papua which had led to more than 100,000 people being displaced and almost 500 killed in the last five years.

West Papua’s leader Benny Wenda. Picture – Asia Pacific Movement of Environmental Defenders

He said the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting supported the visit of the UN High Commissioner to West Papua and hoped that the Forum members still have the same stand.

Mr Wenda’s second stop has been in Vanuatu, a nation that has been supportive of the cause of the UMLWP.

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“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,” Mr Wenda told the Daily Post.

“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”.

Mr Wenda currently lives in exile in London and this is a point which has been used by Indonesia to state that he is not a true representative of the people of West Papua.

Indonesia took over the western half of New Guinea island after a controversial 1979 UN-backed referendum, with West Papua now seeking inscription on the UN decolonisation list.

New Caledonia has been on the UN decolonisation list since 1986, and between 2018 and 2021 has held three referendums on independence from France.

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