Veteran West Papua independence leader elected ULMWP president

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West Papua's Benny Wenda
West Papua's Benny Wenda (left) with PNG journalist Henry Yamo at the Pacific Media Centre on his visit to New Zealand in 2013. Image: Del Abcede/APR

Veteran West Papua independence campaigner Benny Wenda has been elected as president of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP).

The ULMWP held its first ever congress in Jayapura this week, which was attended by 5000 indigenous West Papuans from all seven regions.

The congress was called in response to the ULMWP leaders’ summit in Port Vila where the leaders’ announcement that they had unilaterally dissolved the ULMWP provisional government angering many.

“The ULMWP has officially restored the term ‘provisional government’ which had been removed through the unconstitutional process that took place at the ULMWP Summit-II in Port Vila, Vanuatu [in August],” UNMWP congress chairman-elect Buchtar Tabuni said.

At the meeting, Reverend Edison Waromi was elected as prime minister and Diaz Gwijangge, S. Sos as head of the Judiciary Council.

Tabuni said that the appointment of executive, legislative and judicial leadership as well as the formation of constitutional and ad hoc bodies would be for five years — from 2023 until 2028 — as stipulated in the ULMWP constitution.

Honoured by election
Wenda, who is based in the United Kingdom and well-known across the South Pacific, stepped down as ULMWP leader and Menase Tabuni was appointed as president.

Menase Tabuni’s election was planned for ULMWP to maintain its presence and solidarity with the Papuan people on the ground.

“We must do this from within West Papua as well as campaigning in the international community,” he said at the time.

Wenda said he was honoured to have been elected as the ULMWP president at this “historic congress” in Port Numbay (Jayapura).

He said he and Reverend Waromi took their mandate from the people very seriously and together they would continue to work to free their people.

“I have always represented the people of West Papua, but true representation comes from election,” he said in a statement before the election.

“The people are demanding a choice, and we must listen.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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