By Herman Wainggai, West Papua Human Rights Center
What are the changes that have occurred in the past 55 years since West Papua has been ruled by Indonesia ?
Why do I reflect on my personal journey and write this?
Because this has been the reality of the lives of the Papuan people under the
Indonesian military system since
of May, 1963 and since the illegal “Act of Free Choice” in 1969 when
West Papua, through military and political pressure, was unjustly
integrated into Indonesia.
We [West Papuans] have maintained our dignity in the face of oppression,
and prejudice. So many of our people have suffered and died, and they
continue to suffer and die under the military regime of Indonesia. This
we cannot stop our struggle for justice and freedom.
Life is a
struggle for the West Papuan people under the brutal Indonesian
military occupation. The West Papuan people have become
victims of rape, murder, abuse, torture and intimidation. When I was in West Papua in the 1990s, I
studied at a university, I was also actively involved in the West Papuan
people’s struggle and I organized many nonviolent demonstrations against the
brutal government of Indonesia. I
knew there were many risks to face when I was in my country at that time
because I was unsure of how I could deal with the repressive authority of Indonesia. One
of the biggest challenges in my life occurred when my friends and I organized
a peaceful demonstration in my country.
As a result of the nonviolent protest I was convicted of
subversion and incarcerated twice for almost three years in my country of West
Papua. While I was in the Indonesian prison I thought that I would be killed
by the Indonesian government authorities if I was to be in prison for a long
period of time. Beginning at that moment, I started to think more about my safety
and personal life and staying alive was my biggest concern. I decided the best plan was to leave West
Papua if I was able to be released from the prison. It would be better for me to escape
from my country to exile. I would be
safe, able to increase international attention on the issue and also to
continue the struggle in a nonviolent manner from afar.
daily life in my country is a nightmare for the people, and many West
Papuan leaders and friends have been killed, either inside prison or
after being released. For me, to leave was big decision to make because
it meant I
would be leaving all my family and friends behind. This was an extremely hard decision to leave
my country of West Papua but I think it was the right thing to do and I was
also happy to help my other friends who came with me on the outrigger when I left the country and crossed the open ocean for four days seeking safety in Australia.
New York City is historically a significant place to the West
Papuan people because of the New York agreement, which ultimately handed
control of West Papua to Indonesia in the 1960s. The United Nations building is
also located in New York. Fifty years later, I found myself living in the
United States of America and every time I have visited to the United Nations building
I have developed a deep love for differences in culture, cities, experiences,
work ethics and ideas. These are everlasting
impressions that will be vivid in my mind and heart for the rest of my life and
have been significant in creating my own experience today. I am always impressed by
the architecture and inspired by the purpose of the United Nations and the work
that they do, and alway appreciate the many country flags that fly outside the building.
learned a lot of things about myself and the world that I
never would have had the opportunity to learn if I had not left my home
of West Papua. My time abroad has sometimes been lonely, difficult and
crazy but it is
also been the best experience of my life to be able to continue to fight
people from the USA and hopefully make a difference. I have had moments
have been extremely uncomfortable, or when I simply have to smile, laugh
embrace the awkward, but that’s what truly makes the experience of the
journey abroad so valuable. I have been forced out of my country and my
home and away from
the community but am able to experience another culture that is
different than my own, a valuable learning experience to say the least.
these significant experiences, I will never regret my decision to step
my comfort zone and risk this journey abroad because it has been the
best of my
life, filled with the mission, purpose, adventure, challenges, and of
course, the beautiful awkward.
This feeling of abandonment compelled me to meet people from
all over the world from every ethnic group, country, age and religious
background and I gained a broader and more accepting world view and obtained vast
amounts of knowledge all while continuing my advocacy work to help the people
of West Papua.
The United Nations was established after World
War II and
its most important service is being a place for the countries of the
come together every year to discuss, communicate and debate issues
around the world. It regulates the activity of the world’s governments.
issue of human rights violations in West Papua and brutal militaristic
of Indonesia is something I believe UN needs to act on in order to stand
their upheld values on judgment, human rights, and freedom. This has
ongoing conflict for over 50 years It is unresolved and the military
operations continue to destroy West Papua. Intimidation, terror, murder,
rape, and what
can be called ‘slow motion genocide,’ are the realities of life for the
trampled people of West Papua. It has been far too long that the West
being oppressed and it is for this reason that the cause of West Papua
be re-listed on the UN Security council agenda.
I have often seen the flags being flown outside of the UN
building. It is a beautiful and prideful
sight and is a constant reminder to me that the West Papuan flag should also be
flying outside the building, and someday it will. This is what the West Papuan
people have been and will continue to fight for. In the land of West Papua, a
man can serve fifteen years in jail simply for raising the Morning Star flag,
which has significant historical, political, and cultural meaning to the people
of West Papua.
Telling my story has become a new aspect of my dream and big part of my journey. This is a story that I want the world to know, so that my country and my people can live a life of freedom and independence like the other 193 countries who are UN members.
Is there any possibility that the West Papuan struggle will gain the support of the American people and their government ?
For justice, truth, freedom, human
rights and political rights for the people of West Papua,and for a free nation of
Melanesia, we ask the government of The United
States of America and all other International communities, to request the Indonesian
government to allow a U.N. “Fact Finding Mission” to enter West Papua and
carry out an independent investigation of the human rights situation.
We ask the US to recognize a West Papuan Declaration of Independence by allowing a “vote of self-determination “and their right to statehood, a destiny that was denied during the Act of Free Choice in 1969.