My dream for West Papua – Herman Wainggai

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My deepest desire is an independent West Papua

I am committed to helping my people realize their struggle for self-determination: freedom for West Papua. I have personally been involved in non-violent activism in my country of West Papua since 1989. My organization and I are both committed to using non-violent action to one day realize merdeka, or our independence. Why? Violence will not help us; the Republic of Indonesia will always have more weapons and soldiers than the West Papuans. I believe we can secure more support from friends in West Papua, Indonesia, and the international community through nonviolent action. The rest of my family is also active in the movement, and I have learned much through practicing nonviolent resistance with them. I have experience in organizing peaceful rallies and taking steps to gain support for my people on an international scale.

I believe we can secure support from friends in West Papua, Indonesia, and the international community through nonviolent action and I know that that is crucial in stopping the human rights abuses and the violence in my country. I am one of the few West Papuan leaders who is blessed to live in these amazing United States and I want to tell you, the situation of the West Papuan people is extremely dire. Day by day, more soldiers of the ABRI (Angkatan Bersenjata Republik Indonesia, the military of the Indonesian government) are being sent into West Papua. Fortunately, the world is more transparent and interconnected today than ever before, and the systematic oppression of the indigenous peoples of West Papua cannot be hidden from the world. International acceptance of basic human rights is at odds with the suppression of these rights by the military and police of the Indonesian government.

That’s why I escaped from West Papua; I was being targeted by the Indonesian police (POLRI) and military (TNI). I remember one circumstance in particular that continues to stay with me today. I was imprisoned twice in a police station jail cell in Jayapura, West Papua. They arrested me and put a gun into my back, and forced me to the police station. They tortured me. They locked me up in an interview room and put a gun in my face, and they threatened to kill me. I thank God that I am still alive today and can continue my advocacy works here in exile Washington DC. Although I left my country in 2006, I continue to stay in contact with and get information from my friends and comrades fighting for independence for West Papua from Indonesia. The military still terrorizes our people. They try to stifle our growth and fight our growing political maturity. For example, on December 1, 2015, the Indonesian military and police (TNI/POLRI) shot to death native Melanesian civilians. The incident happened when the native indigenous West Papuans were celebrating West Papua morning star day in Yapen Island.

The people of West Papua are being intimidated, tortured, raped, killed, imprisoned and neglected. Those who speak up against the oppression face the harshest of penalties; jails and cemeteries are where they are being silenced. The Yale University Law School conducted a study that found strong evidence that the Indonesian government is committing genocide against the people of West Papua; hundreds of thousands have been killed in the last six decades. However, we will continue to fight this battle, we struggle for independence because we have been repressed by Indonesia since the beginning of their brutal military occupation of our country beginning May 1st 1963. We have been denied our fundamental human rights, like freedom of speech and right to justice.

We have already known that, despite the democratic reforms in Indonesia following the fall of General Suharto in 1998, terrible human rights abuses continue to this day. A military buildup in West Papua has continued under Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo, and the government recently banned journalists traveling to West Papua.

Therefore, I ask of the United States and the international community to call on the Indonesian government to urgently to permit a United Nations team to enter the province to investigate and monitor the human rights situation there in West Papua.

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