The dirty secret of the Pacific
Leader-in-exile of the West Papua freedom movement Benny Wenda yesterday issued a desperate plea for solidarity from New Zealanders and the government.
Benny is travelling the world on a mission to remind us of the horrific atrocities being carried out against the people of West Papua by the Indonesian military. The occupation has been on-going for more than 40 years when Indonesia interrupted West Papua's trajectory to becoming free of colonial rule.
Benny Wenda was denied the opportunity to speak at New Zealand's parliament by the new speaker of the house. Demonstrating yet again what a banana republic New Zealand is, and flying the face of the self-inflated proclamation of 'punching above our weight,' the New Zealand government bowed to pressure from the Indonesians not to allow Wenda to speak. This is despite the fact that he has spoken at the United Nations and British Parliament.
As importantly, the NZ government is currently helping to train police in West Papua. The police would have us believe that this is to improve the behaviour of the police towards the people of West Papua. It is astonishing that anyone would buy this nonsense given the systematic racism of the NZ police to Maori, and indeed pretty much anyone brown. The roughly $5million in aid given by NZ to West Papua is not getting to the people, he said, and simply ends up funneled off to corrupt politicians.
The Indonesian government is carrying out a genocidal policy towards West Papuans: a brutal military occupation on one hand, and massive 'transmigration' e.g. resettlement of people from the island of Java and others in order to eventually outnumber the indigenous people on the other. Benny said that, 'within 50 years, the Melanesian people of West Papua will be gone.'
Benny Wenda's own story is an illustrative history of Indonesian brutality: his village was bombed in 1977. While travelling to the garden one day with his mother and aunty, the military stopped them and attempted to rape his aunty. When his mother intervened, she was beaten with a rifle butt. Covered in blood, she was told to 'wash up.' When she returned, she and her sister were both raped in front of Benny. A young boy at the time, he was unable to help but was forced to watch.
His uncle was beaten in front of him, tied up at the neck, hands and feet and asked if he was a Christian. The military decided he was and so 'crucified' him on the cross like Jesus Christ and left him in the blistering sun all day. Following that, they buried him alive.
As a political leader, Benny Wenda was targeted by the state and framed for crimes he didn't commit. He was imprisoned and sentenced to 25 years. He escaped, and was eventually granted political asylum in Britain. He now uses his life to secure the freedom of West Papua.
Benny Wenda's main request at this stage is getting journalists into West Papua. He wants to expose what is going on, and provide the people of West Papua with a way to tell their stories.
For more information on West Papua:
Indonesian Human Rights Committee (Auckland Based)
Campaign for a free and independent West Papua (UK)
West Papua Media reports