Benny Wenda stands down as head of West Papuan liberation group


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RNZ Pacific

The United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) has declared it will now base itself in the Pacific region after years of partial exile.

At a conference in Port Vila late last month — coinciding with the Melanesian Spearhead Group Leaders’ Summit — UK-based Benny Wenda stood down as interim president.

Menase Tabuni is now president.

More than 50 representatives from West Papua and across the world attended the summit in Vanuatu. It was only the second summit since ULMWP was formed in 2014.

The movement has an office in Vanuatu, a representative to the EU and some senior officials based in West Papua.

Tabuni will now lead the ULMWP from within West Papua, thereby, it said, maintaining its presence and solidarity with the Papuan people on the ground.

“I am honoured to be appointed as the new ULMWP president and I will do everything I can to continue our legitimate struggle for independence, Tabuni told Jubi News.

Working ‘from within West Papua’
“We must do this from within West Papua as well as campaigning in the international community.

“I will remain in Papua with the people while continuing to fight for human rights and my own determination.”

New ULMWP president Menas Tabuni
New ULMWP president Menas Tabuni . . . he says he will be based in West Papua to continue the struggle with his people from the inside. Image: Ben Bohane

Octovianus Mote is the new vice-president, Markus Haluk its secretary, Benny Wenda its foreign affairs spokesperson, Buchtar Tabuni is chair of the Legislative Council and Apollos Sroyer as chair of the Judicial Council.

The ULMWP is the umbrella organisation representing the main pro-independence organisations in West Papua, including the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL), the Federal Republic of West Papua (NFRPB) and the West Papua National Parliament (PNWP).

“ULMWP also wants to clarify that there is no ‘interim government’ and ULMWP is a representative body for all Papuans,” Tabuni said.

Markus Haluk said the movement welcomed the decision of the MSG leaders to encourage Indonesia to allow the visit of the UN Human Rights Commissioner to West Papua, together with the Pacific Delegation.

The ULMWP, he said, continues to demand access for international media to be able to visit West Papua and report freely.

Indonesia ‘hiding’ its largest province
“Indonesia cannot call itself a democratic country if Indonesia continues to hide its largest province from the world,” Tabuni said.

ULMWP also expressed its “deepest gratitude” to the Vanuatu government for hosting the MSG Summit and the ULMWP group, and also to the people of Vanuatu for their continued support.

At the MSG meeting in Port Vila, the leaders of five Melanesian countries and territories avoided a definitive update on the status of the ULMWP’s application for full membership.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ and Asia Pacific Report.

The West Papua delegation flying the Morning Star flag at the opening of the 7th Melanesian Arts & Culture Festival in Port Vila on 19 July 2023.
The West Papua delegation flying the Morning Star flag at the opening of the 7th Melanesian Arts & Culture Festival in Port Vila in July. Image: Secretariat/RNZ Pacific
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Cafe Pacific Publisher
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