Photo: Benny Wenda with Mayor John Marjoram who spoke passionately about the need to support this cause: in West Papua sentences of 10 and 15 years have been given for peacefully flying the West Papuan independence flag pictured here.
Last time Benny was here was in November 2005 - then Film-maker Nathan Hutchings of the Stroud-based film company SnakeBite Productions organised the talk to highlight the problems in West Papua - it was a good evening - I talked to Benny briefly then but due to a 21st birthday party (not mine!) I couldn't get to this event this week - Benny is a great green radical - and I also heard him speak at the Green party Spring conference - Stroud was very fortunate to have the chance again to hear this extraordinary man talk about his extraordinary fight.
As I was writing this post I was sent this - Indonesia has made the transition from dictatorship to democracy, but without justice for millions of victims of President Suharto's tyranny. See Peter Tatchell interview Indonesian human rights campaigners, Carmel Budiardjo and Adriana Siti Adhiati. Watch the interview here and see his comment below:
President Suharto ruled Indonesia with an iron fist for 30 long, dark years, from 1967 to 1998. During this period, millions of Indonesians were massacred, jailed, tortured or forced to flee their homes to escape murderous rampages of the armed forces. President Suharto's bloody rule was backed by the West. The UK and US sold him the weapons that he used to repress his own people. We colluded with his human rights abuses.
In 1998, economic downturn and mass protests forced Suharto from office. Since then, Indonesia has embraced democracy, holding largely free and fair elections. Democracy has not, however, bought justice for the millions of victims of Suharto's tyranny. They have no redress. The government and military officials who authorised or committed murder and torture live openly and freely; never called to account.
Colonel Burhanuddin Siagian, for example, was responsible for many of the worst atrocities after Indonesia invaded and occupied East Timor. He was recently rewarded with the post of district military commander
n the city of Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian-annexed West Papua.
During the period of Indonesian occupation of East Timor, nearly 200,000 people - around a third of the population - died. In West Papua, an estimated 100,000 people have been killed. East Timor is now independent. But West Papua is a nation that still suffers Indonesian oppression and exploitation, with the collusion of western oil and mining companies. They are looting West Papua's immense natural riches.
Suharto and his cronies embezzled billions of taxpayers' money. Hardly any of it has been recovered; depriving the government of desperately needed funds for economic development and education and health facilities to uplift Indonesia's impoverished people. New democratic Indonesia has failed to bring Suharto to justice. Instead of being tried for crimes against humanity, he is allowed to live out his days in luxury, enjoying the fabulous wealth plundered by him and his family during the thirty years he terrorised the country.
Anyhow if you have the time join Benny and the Free West Papua campaign on the 30th November for the Independence Day Demo at the Indonesian Embassy 12noon-2pm and 'March for Justice' to the offices of BP and Rio Tinto 2pm-3pm. See www.freewestpapua.org for further details - on 1st December 1961 West Papua’s national symbols, the Morning Star flag, the national anthem "Hai Tanahku Papua" [“O My Land Papua”] and the national coat of arms, the Mambruk bird, were officially approved and recognised by the Dutch government. Indeed I would urge people to join Free West Papua Campaign. Here's a quotation from their website:
"Ever since the Indonesians set foot on Papuan soil, human rights abuses have been the rule of the day. In antiquity, or the dream time, the Indonesian quest had been Papuan slaves and the birds of paradise. Since 1962, however, the quest has been the vast mineral deposits (gold, copper, nickel, oil, etc.), the vast virgin forest with its timber and the 'empty' land. The West Papuans have had to be removed from their land by hook or by crook We have struggled for more than 30 years and the World has ignored our cause You can help end this evil. Imagine for a moment swapping lives with relatives of the survivors and the dead? How long could you endure the terror? Wouldn't you desperately pray for help? Help from anywhere, from anyone? Do you want to know the really frightening truth? These people's last and only hope is you. Governments don't want to know or care."
Moses Werror: West Papuan independence leader