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COMMENTARY: By Benny Wenda

We celebrated the 51st anniversary of the independence declaration of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) at Markas Victoria on July 1, 1971.

The declaration, signed by Seth Rumkoren and Jacob Prai — who sadly passed away last month — was a direct rejection of Indonesian colonialism.

It sent a powerful message to Jakarta: “We, the people of West Papua, are sovereign in our own land, and we do not recognise your illegal occupation or the 1969 ‘Act of No Choice’.”

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

From that moment on, we have been struggling for the independence of West Papua. Through guerilla warfare, the OPM has helped keep the flame of liberation alive. They are our home guard, defending our land and fighting for the sovereignty that was stolen from us by Jakarta.

This day is an opportunity for all West Papuans to reflect on our struggle and unite with determination to complete our mission. Whether you are exiled abroad, in a refugee camp, a member of the West Papua Army, or internally displaced by colonial forces, we are all united in one spirit and determined to liberate West Papua from Indonesian oppression.

The OPM laid the foundations for the political struggle [that] the Provisional Government is now fighting. As expressed in our constitution, the provisional government recognises all declarations as vital and historic moments in our struggle.

Having declared our provisional government, our cabinet, our military wing, and our seven regional executives, we are ready to take charge of our own affairs.

Two new announcements
I also want to use this moment to make two new announcements about our provisional government.

First, I am announcing the formation of a new government department, the Department of Intelligence Services. As with our existing departments, it will operate on the ground in occupied West Papua, and reinforce our challenge to Indonesian colonialism.

In addition, I am announcing that we have appointed an executive member for each of the seven regional bodies we established in December 2021. With every step forward, we are building our capacity and infrastructure as a provisonal government.

Over 50 years on from the 1971 proklamasi, our people’s mission is the same.

We refuse Indonesian presence in WP, which is illegal under international law. We do not recognise “Special Autonomy”, five new provinces, or any other colonial law; we have our own constitution.

I again reiterate my call for President Joko Widodo to sit down with me and discuss an independence referendum. This remains the only pathway to a peaceful solution.

Benny Wenda, Interim President, United liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) Provisional Government.

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