Wenda accuses Jakarta of crackdown in response to Papuan MSG rallies

Huge rallies across West Papua region in support of MSG membership
Huge rallies across the West Papua region in support of MSG membership have triggered a draconian Indonesian crackdown. Image: ULMWP

Asia Pacific Report

Indonesia has stepped up its campaign of repression against West Papuans peacefully rallying for full membership of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), says a Papuan advocacy leader.

Benny Wenda, interim president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), said a “massive military and police presence” greeted Papuans who had taken to the streets across West Papua calling for full membership.

In Sorong, seven people were arrested — not while raising the banned Morning Star flags of independence and shouting Merdeka (“freedom”), but for holding homemade placards supporting full membership, according to Wenda.


In Jayapura and Wamena, protesters were chased by security forces, beaten and dragged away into police cars, Wenda said in a statement.

During a protest in Dogiyai, 20-year-old Yosia Keiya was alleged to have been summarily executed by Indonesian police on July 13 while he was peacefully sitting on the roadside.

“Eyewitnesses reported seeing two police cars arrive in the vicinity and shoot Keiya without provocation,” Wenda said in the statement.

“This crackdown follows the mass arrest of KNPB (West Papua National Committee) activists handing out leaflets supporting full MSG membership on July 12.

‘Ocean of violence’
“But Keiya and those arrested are only the latest victims of Indonesia’s murderous occupation — single drops in an ocean of violence West Papuans have suffered since we rose up against colonial rule in 2019.”

Both Indonesia and the ULMWP are members of the MSG – the former as an associate and the ULMWP as an observer.

The full members are Fiji, FLNKS (New Caledonia’s Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front), Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

“Melanesian leaders must ask themselves: is this how one group member treats another? Is this how a friend to Melanesia treats Melanesians?” asked Wenda.

“The fact that they brought an Indonesian flag to the Melanesian Arts Festival in Port Vila, only shortly after their soldiers shot Keiya dead, is an insult.

“They’re dancing on top of our graves.”

Wenda said West Papua was entitled to campaign for full membership by virtue of Melanesian ethnicity, culture, and linguistic traditions.

“In all these respects, West Papua is undeniably Melanesian — not Indonesian,” he said.

“While Indonesia won its independence in 1945, we celebrated our own independence on December 1, 1961. Our separateness was even acknowledged by Indonesia’s first Vice-President Mohammed Hatta, who argued for West Papuan self-determination on this basis.

“More than anything, this crackdown shows how much West Papua needs full membership of the MSG.

“Right now, we are defenseless in the face of such brutal violations; only as a full member will we be able to represent ourselves and expose Indonesia’s crimes.

“West Papuans are telling the world they want full membership. By coming out onto the streets with their faces painted in the colours of all the Melanesian flags, they are saying, ‘ We want to return home to our Melanesian brothers and sisters, we want to be safe.’ It is time for Melanesian leaders to listen.”

The MACFEST 2023 — the Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival — ends in Port Vila today.

The MSG meeting to decide on full membership is due to be held soon although the dates have not yet been officially set.

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