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Wenda stunned by NZ Parliament ‘bar’, but fights on for West Papua cause

West Papuan campaigner Benny Wenda talks to PNG journalist Henry Yamo at the Pacific Media Centre yesterday. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

Henry Yamo, Pacific Scoop

13 February, 2013

West Papuan independence advocate Benny Wenda is stunned to find New Zealand  “ignoring human rights issues on its doorstep” after Speaker David Carter denied him the opportunity to speak about his cause at Parliament.

“The Australian Parliament gave support last November and I was looking forward to the same in New Zealand, but my entry to Parliament has been blocked,” he says.

But he says the plight of his people is far too serious for him to give in.

Wenda has witnessed his people being beaten, tortured, imprisoned and killed and has been motivated to fight in this struggle to free his people.

Benny Wenda, a tribal chief of West Papua and founder of International Parliamentarians for West Papua, visited the Pacific Media Centre yesterday as part of his world tour visiting governments and parliamentarians.

International Parliamentarians for West Papua is a global group of Parliamentarians who are committed to raise West Papuan issues in parliaments and to raise the case for self-determination.

Benny’s visit to governments around the world is to raise the issue of West Papua with various Parliamentarians to seek support for West Papuans call for a free referendum, which had been going on for the last 50 years.

Overwhelming support
Although he has received overwhelming support and has been welcomed by parliamentarians in countries he has visited, his planned visit to the New Zealand Parliament hit a snag when Speaker Carter rejected a meeting with parliamentarians in the Beehive.

However, Benny, who campaigns peacefully for self-determination and human rights for the people of West Papua, said this did not dampen his spirits – but it encouraged him.

He said his trip between countries was to raise awareness about the issues affecting the people and what they were going suffering back at home. He also wanted to get international support to raise the issue of human rights.

His aim is to represent his people in putting forward their desire for self-determination to the governments around the world because he believes the so-called 1969 “Act of Free Choice” was not carried out according to international standards but done according to Indonesian standards.

“The Western world calls it an “Act of free choice”, but we call it the “Act of no choice” and part of my campaign is to seek support from world governments to see that through that process West Papuans’ right to self-determination was betrayed in 1969,” he said.

“The 1969 vote must be reviewed, by the UN Decolonisation Committee as the legitimate body that was involved in accepting the process then which was a mistake,” he said.

“They never acted by free choice, they were forced by Indonesia to take the vote – including my father. They are lying, before the referendum they gave touches and axes as bribe. That referendum is not true,” he said.

‘Cry for freedom’
“We do not have any freedom of speech and assembly, and for the last 50 years the world has ignored this because Indonesia has been able to close this off to the outside world.

“In the 20th century we are still a colony; my message is “please hear my people cry for freedom,” he said.

Wenda was a political prisoner, accused of inciting an attack on a police station. The fact that he was not in the country at the time and certainly had nothing to with, does not matter.

However, it was widely speculated at the time that the charges were brought against Wenda because of his political leadership of the Koteka Tribal Assembly, a political council of tribes which advocates self-determination for West Papua from Indonesia.

Speaking at a public meeting in Auckland last night, human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, also co-founder of International Lawyers for West Papua (ILWP), said the road had been a long one for Wenda, but his testament and commitment to his people had gained good momentum.

The ILWP movement is a group of lawyers who want to make the case for West Papuans’ self-determination and to set out to support their international legal case needs.

Robinson said Indonesia had tried to silence Wenda’s international campaign by “abusing” the Interpol system and listing him as a “wanted terrorist”.

Indigenous persecution
“His case is indicative of what goes on in West Papua and the persecution that any indigenous West Papuan leader suffers when they stand up and speak on behalf of their people, “she said.

“This points out that Indonesia is so concerned about the strength of his cause and the strength of his voice speaking on behalf of his people, that it had taken such a drastic step to try to silence him,” she said.

But Robinson and her team were able to challenge the warrant posted on the Interpol system and in September 2012 it was removed on the grounds that the arrest was politically motivated.

Since then Wenda, who was granted political asylum in the UK, has been able to travel to many countries raising awareness about the on-going human rights abuse in West Papua.

Wenda will return to Australia and then travel on to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Benny Wenda’s interview with Radio Australia

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About the authors

PMC profile photograph

Henry Yamo

AUT postgraduate journalist

Henry Yamo is a journalist and communicator from Mendi/Ialibu in the Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea.

PMC profile photograph

Pacific Scoop

Pacific affairs 'hub' website

Published as a partnership between the AUT Pacific Media Centre and Scoop Media Ltd. Contributions include items from student journalists at AUT University, DWU University and the University of the South Pacific.
Editorial policy


Pacific media research and West Papua

Good journalism can help the Pacific and free West Papua from foreign abuse but only if journalists make use of new research and bring new issues to the public instead of repeating old copy.

The old and incorrect copy is a myth that the UN granted sovereignty of West Papua to Indonesia in 1969.

Background: Friends of the mining company Freeport in 1961 convinced JFK that he should force the Dutch to surrender West Papua to others. But as a member of the United Nations that was not legally possible.

News issue: In 1962 the Netherlands signed a 'trusteeship agreement' as defined in chapter 12 of the UN charter, which was then approved by the General Assembly in resolution 1752 (XVII) - a legal requirement under article 85 of the UN charter.

West Papua is a UN trust territory and will remain a trust territory until article 78 of the UN charter comes into effect once the colony becomes a member of the UN. Every other trust territory has been allowed self-determination and been welcomed to the UN either in their own right or as a willing part of an existing member, and that is because the UN charter makes that the only means for UN trusteeship to come to an end.

A LOT of money and political influence was at play when UN officers without legal excuse with-held West Papua from the agenda of the UN Trusteeship Council in and since 1962... but that influence does not change the legal facts that UN forces occupied West Papua in 1962 and that West Papua is still a "trust territory" today.

The news media merely needs to publish a question for legal experts and the authority of the UN International Court of Justice, "is West Papua a trust territory ?"

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