Urgent Call to action: Ask your elected representatives if they know about West Papua


By: Herman Wainggai

Control over West Papua is maintained by the Indonesian government through systematic repression and restriction; in particular around communication and transmission of information.

The Indonesian government effectively prohibits entry of foreign media, non-government organizations (NGOs), or diplomats to West Papua. Foreign journalists or activists who do enter under a tourist visa do so at great risk to their personal safety.

Internally, West Papuan communications – especially that of known activists – are strictly monitored. Nationalist activities are clamped down on.

West Papuan people found to be sharing information or seeking international support, face police threats, prison, torture or execution.

Transmission of information outside of Papua has historically been difficult due to limited infrastructure, challenging geography and tightly controlled borders.

Rough seas: pre-digital era

In 2006 Facebook had not arrived in West Papua, Melanesia. The only way to share footage or testimony was to smuggle it out of the province at great risk.

It was in that year that non-violent human rights activist leader Herman Waingaii fled West Papua by clandestine canoe under the cover of darkness in his bid to share information with the outside world.

The four nights journey saw extremes of hunger, thirst and heat. On arrival on a remote beach in northern Australia, the forty three asylum seekers on board were forced to swim crocodile infested waters to safety.

This ordeal has reaped reward; Wainggai has since played a key role in his nonviolence leadership of building international solidarity networks, sharing urgent information with the global community and mobilizing critical resources for activists who remain in West Papua.

Social media: a mixed blessing

Increasingly, West Papuan people are engaging social media to campaign, connect and organize. To expose and document atrocities. To share and disseminate stories and hopes.

In so doing, activities have successfully strengthened international support and shed light on the ongoing human rights violations taking place.

With new opportunities however comes new risks.

As exemplified below, social media activities are under Indonesian surveillance and responses are swift and often severe.

· Riki Yakarimilena: A member of West Papua National Student Solidarity Group (SONAMAPA), Yakarimilena was detained for 10 months in Indonesian prison for sharing images of the Morning Star flag – the symbol of hope for West Papuan people – painted on his home. He was arrested on 18 November 2019.

· Sister Sayang Mandabayan: A former political prisoner recently released from Indonesian custody, Mandabayan was subject to interrogation by Indonesian authorities at 10:00am 29 July 2020 regarding online content to the message of justice and freedom of West Papua.

· Agus Doga: On 29 June 2020, Agus Doga was asked by the Indonesian government police to take responsibility for the status of his Facebook account which shared his activities against the rule of law in West Papua.

· Diamond Langi: Earlier in 2020, the 2019 Miss New Zealand, Langi shared the #freewestpapua hashtag in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement in an effort to shed light on the oppression experienced by West Papuan people. For this, her feeds were subject to trolling and abuse by pro-Indonesian sympathisers.

As demonstrated above West Papuan people and their international allies, remain willing to confront these challenges and risks in pursuit of their basic human rights and aspirations for independence.

Indigenous peoples of West Papua have experienced 57 years of human rights violations under Indonesian rule.

However this is not a population defined only by their repression and victimization; but rather by their strength, courage, and tenacity to fight for justice. It is our hope, and the hope of West Papuan people, that one day the human rights, democracy and freedom of West Papuan are respected and the Morning Star flag will wave proudly. 

Urgent Actions

1. Tell the story of West Papua to your friends, family and colleagues. You could ask them to tell others to and direct them to this website.
2. Write letters and make phone calls to your congressional representatives asking them write letters to put pressure on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to fulfill his promise to open international access to West Papua, Melanesia.
3. Take a picture of yourself holding a paper with #IStandWithWestPapua written on it and share it on your Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
4. Subscribe to the West Papua Human Rights Center Youtube Channel and join us on our West Papua Human Center Facebook Page.

Further reading

· New York Agreement https://wphumanrightscenter.org/west-papua/

· West Papua Human Rights Center https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Papua_Human_Rights_Center

· Sister Sayang Mandabayan https://independentaustralia.net/life/life-display/west-papua-repressive-crackdown-on-protests-and-freedoms,13139

· Miss New Zealand 2019 received some protests from Indonesia https://indonesiaexpat.biz/featured/miss-new-zealand-blasted-over-west-papua-comments/