Prominent West Papuan independence leader visiting Aotearoa
Benny Wenda: Prominent West Papuan independence leader is visiting Aotearoa New Zealand and will be speaking in Auckland, Wellington, Lower Hutt and Christchurch
Benny Wenda, spokesperson for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) and tribal leader, will visit Aotearoa New Zealand around 23 August to 1 September. He is seeking support for the campaign for justice and self-determination for the people of West Papua.
He will be welcomed to Orakei Marae on arrival and invited to address Ngati Whatua Orakei whanau and public before travelling to other main centres to meet with parliamentarians, iwi representatives, human rights groups, church groups, students, and youth.
Benny Wenda’s last visit to New Zealand in 2013 was notable for a rebuff by the Speaker of Parliament, David Carter, who refused to allow him the chance to speak at parliament. However, this time with an expanded group of parliamentarians supporting West Papua we hope that he will receive a more encouraging reception from Government representatives.
Occupied by Indonesia since 1963, West Papuans are victims of ongoing human rights abuses, killings, torture, beatings, military and police intimidation, and gross neglect of basic services. When Papuans resist occupation non-violently they are labeled as ‘separatists’ and risk severe penalties under Indonesia’s outdated treason and incitement laws.
Benny Wenda was arrested in 2002 by Indonesian authorities for allegedly leading an independence rally. He was tortured, held in solitary confinement, and was facing a 25 year prison sentence. Rumours were circulating that he might even by killed, but fortunately Benny was able to escape and was granted political asylum in the UK. Nowadays he is tirelessly advocating for his people travelling throughout the Pacific, Africa, and Europe where support for West Papua is growing steadily.
Benny is particularly looking forward to meeting with the new wave of Maori and Pasifika activists in Aotearoa and meeting with New Zealand members of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua. The International Parliamentarians for West Papua met in May 2016 and resolved to call for an internationally supervised vote on independence in West Papua. The meeting, held in the Houses of Parliament, UK, was attended by MPs from the Pacific region and the UK including Jeremy Corban and Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva the Prime Minister of Tonga.
Benny Wenda will be available for interviews.
Confirmed events include (further details to be confirmed):
- · Benny Wenda to be welcomed to Orakei Marae and invited to address Ngati Whatua Orakei whanau. 6.30pm, Tuesday, Orakei Marae, Auckland. Public are warmly invited. Oceania Interrupted is supporting this event.
- · Meeting with New Zealand members of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua (invite only). Wednesday 24 August, Wellington.
- · Talanoa with Youngsolwara Pōneke, 11am – 1pm, Thursday 25 August, Pasi Haos, Victoria University, Wellington.
- · Public Forum with Run it Straight, 6pm, Thursday 25 August, Law School, Victoria University, Wellington.
- · Youth Hui with Run it Straight Rangatahi, 6.30 -8pm, 26 August, Walter Nash Centre, Lower Hutt.
- · Public Forum with West Papua Action Canterbury, 2pm, Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, Christchurch.
- · Combined Church Service, 11am, St Marks Methodist Church, Somerfield, Christchurch.
Benny Wenda is a West Papuan independence leader, International Spokesman for the United Liberation Movement for West Papua(ULMWP), and founder of the Free West Papua Campaign. He lives in exile in the United Kingdom.
Read Benny’s story here: https://www.freewestpapua.org/info/benny-wendas-story/