MEDIA RELEASE:FWPC (UK): Papuans will hold ceremony of remembrance on Westminster Bridge this Saturdy
FREE WEST PAPUA CAMPAIGN
OXFORD, ENGLAND, 2nd July 2008: For immediate release
West Papuans to hold traditional ceremony on Westminster Bridge to remember
1998 ‘Bloody Biak’ massacre by Indonesian military
AS BIG BEN strikes 12 Noon on Saturday 5th July, West Papuans will drop flowers
into the River Thames from Westminster Bridge in an ancient Papuan ceremony to
remember their fellow countrymen massacred by the Indonesian military 10 years
Former political prisoner and West Papuan independence leader, BENNY WENDA,
will be joined by the Green Party’s Principal Male Speaker, DEREK WALL, and
supporters of the UK based Free West Papua Campaign. Each flower will represent
the 150 West Papuans massacred by the Indonesian military on the island of Biak
in July 1998 for peacefully raising their independence flag and all the 100,000
plus West Papuans murdered by Indonesian security forces during 45 years of the
And as a symbol of resistance and hope for a future independent West Papua,
Benny Wenda and Derek Wall will together raise the banned West Papuan flag on
Westminster Bridge, an action which would land them both in jail for 15 years
if they repeated it in Indonesian-occupied West Papua.
Derek Wall will also be bringing a message of support from HUGO BLANCO, the
Latin American indigenous leader and editor of Lucha Indigna (Indigenous
BACKGROUND: 10 years ago, in July 1998, West Papuans on the island of Biak
heard a rumour that President Clinton had recognised West Papua’s
independence from Indonesia. Amidst scenes of overwhelming joy and celebration,
the people of Biak sang hymns of thanksgiving and raised the Morning Star flag,
the symbol of Papuan freedom, from top of the town’s huge water tower.
Tragically, the rumour was false. Within days, the Biak people felt the full
brutal vengeance of the Indonesian state. 150 West Papuan men, women & children
were slaughtered. The Morning Star flags were again hidden away - at least for
To the shame of successive Indonesian governments, since Biak 1998 not a single
member of the Indonesian Army, Navy or Police has been brought to justice for
their part in this crime against humanity. Both the ordinary Indonesian
foot-soldiers who pulled the triggers and the Generals in Jakarta & Jayapura
who gave them the orders have got away with murder - at least for now.
TEN YEARS LATER, the hope of “Papua Merdeka” (Free West Papua) lives on in
the hearts of the people of Biak and all West Papuans.
Here’s what Papuan eye-witnesses told Australian writer Kel Dummett about the
events of that terrible day:
“The details of the 1998 massacre are overwhelming… At 5am the [Indonesian]
army opened fire on a crowd of sleeping young people at the harbour, who had
been guarding their Morning Star flag, raised a few days earlier [killing about
The entire population of Biak town was rounded up at gunpoint and forced to the
harbour area, where for the whole day they were subjected to physical and
sexual abuses, including the young children.
More than 100 people—mostly women, some with babies and young children—were
rounded up and forced on board two [Indonesian] naval vessels, where they were
stripped, killed and their bodies mutilated and dumped at sea.”
Dr Derek Wall, Principal Male Speaker of the Green Party of England & Wales,
“West Papuans are fighting for freedom. They are the true ecologists, the
protectors of the rainforests of Papua. Yet the Indonesian occupation of West
Papua has led to the death of many people, the destruction of the forests and
the repression of civil liberties.
I am proud to be able to speak, once again, in support of Benny Wenda and the
rest of the Free West Papua movement in their brave and vital struggle for
independence and democracy.”
To mark the anniversary, Benny Wenda says: “In our own homeland, we Papuans
are not free even to remember our dead, but here right in the middle of London,
we can honour all our people killed by Indonesia and raise our freedom flag.”
Following the ceremony on Westminster Bridge (12 noon to 1.00pm) at 2.00pm,
Benny Wenda, Derek Wall and supporters of Free West Papua (UK) will lay a
WREATH outside the Indonesian Embassy, 38, Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 2HW
For interviews, please contact Richard Samuelson,
Co-Director, Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK.
Tel: 07891 235112
WEST PAPUA (previously named Netherlands New Guinea by the Dutch and Irian Jaya
by Indonesia) is the western half of the island of New Guinea, bordering the
independent nation of Papua New Guinea. West Papua has been illegally occupied
by the Indonesian military since it was handed over, against the will of the
indigenous population, by the Netherlands to Indonesia in1963.
For the past 45 years, successive Indonesian regimes have used extreme violence
against the people of West Papua as the only possible way of terrorising them
into submitting to rule by Indonesia.
Since 1963, at least 100,000 West Papuans have died at the hands of the
Indonesian occupying forces, representing approximately 10% of the population.
Countless others have been tortured, raped, intimidated and imprisoned.
Working alongside exiled West Papuan independence leader and former political
prisoner, Benny Wenda, the Free West Papua Campaign is working to raise
awareness of the plight of the West Papuans under Indonesian military
occupation and to build support for an internationally-mediated West Papua
peace process leading to a peaceful resolution to the conflict in accordance
with the democratic will of the indigenous West Papuan people.
Free West Papua Campaign, Oxford, UK.